The smack-dab middle of November usually has a chill in the air, and Thanksgiving’s approach signifies the wind-down of the racing calendar. That wrap-up time, however, has produced true classic moments and milestones during NASCAR’s 75 years, including one of its all-time greatest races.
November 15th stands out as one of the foremost dates in NASCAR history, with the 1992 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway holding center stage for its significance. The event has entered stock-car racing lore for Alan Kulwicki’s triumph in the multi-layered championship battle and the changing of the guard with Richard Petty’s final Cup Series start coinciding with Jeff Gordon’s first.
Dale Earnhardt claimed his first Cup Series title on this date, edging out Cale Yarborough to top the standings in the 1980 finale at Ontario (California) Motor Speedway. Eighteen years to the day later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. became an Xfinity Series champion, sealing the first of two consecutive titles in the 1998 season-ending event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, won by Jeff Burton, now his colleague at NBC Sports.
Clint Bowyer edged out Carl Edwards for his lone national series championship in the Xfinity finale at Homestead on Nov. 15, 2008. One year later, Jimmie Johnson landed a knockout in the next-to-last race of the year, winning at Phoenix Raceway to pave the way for the fourth of his record-tying seven titles.
And eight years ago today, the last of Earnhardt Jr.’s 26 Cup Series victories came at Phoenix in, of all things, a rain-shortened event in the arid Arizona desert. That Southwestern weather oddity and the final win of a Hall of Fame career also remain preserved for posterity, another fall moment to be thankful for.
Article/Photo courtesy of NASCAR