FORT WORTH (105.3 THE FAN) – Once again it’s that time of the year. Cooler temperatures are in the air, the Cowboys are floundering at .500, and the NASCAR season is winding down with a late season visit to Texas Motor Speedway.
And believe it or not, the ‘Great American Speedway’ is about to wrap up its 17th season of racing competition.
How 17 years have flown by so quickly, I will never know.
As the AAA Texas 500 weekend approaches, now is a good time to sit back and think about this track’s history. Even at 17 years old this track is still a baby compared to the long history and tradition of other tracks on the tour. That however doesn’t mean TMS is lacking a bit of memorable moments.
With a sure fire drama filled Chase Race #8 on tap this Sunday, what you say we count down the top 10 biggest NASCAR moments in TMS history.
10. Lap 1, Turn 1 (1997) – Just seconds into the first ever Cup race at TMS…there was chaos. A huge crash in turn 1 of lap 1 took out at least a dozen cars and numerous contenders. CBS TV’s Mike Joy was in shock as he called the mayhem. The incident left the fans making 50 shades of different noises too. Inside the garage the drivers weren’t exactly proclaiming their love for the new Texas track.
9. Gordon Conquers (2007) – For whatever reason NASCAR great Jeff Gordon just couldn’t wrap his head around TMS. Crashes, mechanical failures, all-around pathetic runs plagued him for the longest time…until 2007. In his 17th attempt Gordon finally found victory lane. No it wasn’t a door slamming photo finish win, but it was a win that many were captivated by.
8. Texas Terry (1999) – Call me a homer all you want but this was a cool moment. Year 3 of the speedway and a Texas boy is in Victory Lane. Two-time NASCAR Champ Terry Labonte, one of the nicest most humble men in the sport, was king of the castle for a day. There wasn’t a fan sitting their butt down when Terry took his victory lap. Terry is still the only native Texan to win a Cup race at TMS.
7. Jeff vs Jeff (2010) – I never ever could have predicted this bout: Jeff Gordon vs. Jeff Burton. A bizarre incident saw Burton wreck Gordon incidentally under caution and leave both cars badly damaged and done for the day. Both drivers climbed out of the cars, with one angry and one confused. Gordon walked the length of the backstretch and approached Burton where the fireworks then began. Gordon out of nowhere pushes and swings at Burton as the medics quickly intervened. All of this unfolded right in front of the fans on the backstretch and on the big screens along the front stretch. The crowd was going nuts. Somewhere, perched above it all in his suite, Eddie Gossage was a happy man.
6. Head Over Heels (2008) – A qualifying run has made my top 10. Why? This wasn’t your typical hot lap. When youngster Michael McDowell hit the track in the #00 Aarons Toyota there is no way he could have ever predicted what was about to unfold. While tackling turns 1 and 2, McDowell lost control of his car and slammed the outside wall. HARD. So hard that his car went tumbling over and over in one of the wildest crashes you will ever see. Somehow he was ok. His car, not so much.
5. Dale Does It (2000) – Well that didn’t take long. In his 12th career start Dale Earnhardt Jr. found victory lane in the Cup Series, and it just happened to be at TMS. The race itself was far from dramatic, but the excitement over those lap few laps as Jr’s red #8 moved closer and closer to victory was still pretty cool. Even cooler? Dale Sr holding a beer in victory lane waiting to bear-hug his son.
4. Bad Bad Kyle (2011) – A truck series race makes the list here. Kyle Busch was pulling triple duty beginning with the Truck race on a Friday night at TMS. Little did he know this would be his only race. Early on, Busch and Ron Hornaday were locked in a tight battle for position that resulted Busch just scrapping the wall as a caution came out. Busch apparently was just a little angered by this. Inexplicably, Busch rammed and crashed Hornaday under that same caution. Ruining not only Hornaday’s truck but his truck too. The fans were ANGRY and shocked. NASCAR parked Busch for the entire weekend.
3. Last Lap Pass (2007) – TMS was thirsting for a dramatic last lap pass for the lead and Jeff Burton delivered. The 1997 inaugural race winner was closing in, lap after lap, on then leader Matt Kenseth until finally making his move on the very last lap. The crowd at TMS that Spring day was on their feet for the last 11 laps as one of the sports nice guys delivered the moment fans paid big money to see. Burton held off Kenseth by 0.41 seconds and also became the track’s first repeat winner.
2. Title Tilt (2012) – Before the Fall 2012 race at TMS, if you would have told me the top two drivers in the Chase would be battling it for the win in the final closing laps, I would have screamed “hell yeah” really loud. That’s exactly what happened as Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski went at it in as intense of battle as you’ll ever see. Door to door, sliding sideways, and just all-around close racing was on display over the last few laps under the lights that Sunday night. How close was the battle? Close enough TMS uses a picture of their battle as a marketing image. Jimmie won the battle by winning the race, but Brad won the war by taking the title 2 weeks later.
1. By A Hair (2004) – In my opinion one moment stands alone atop the TMS mountain. In 2004 the fans were treated to the closest finish in TMS history. Elliot Sadler’s lead over rookie hot shot Kasey Kahne was dwindling lap by lap, and Sadler looked doomed for 2nd. With 2 laps to go Kahne was almost there, with 1 lap to go, Kahne was really there. With the fans literally jumping up and down, Kahne went high and made his move in turns 3 and 4, pulling alongside Sadler as they raced to the checkered flag. Somehow Sadler held off Kahne by 0.028 seconds. This currently ranks as the 21st closest finish in NASCAR history.
Allright folks that’s my top 10. What do you think? Hate it? Love it? Let me know on twitter at @fallatheleader
Cheers to hopefully another top 10 moment this weekend at TMS!
For weekend race information, tickets and more visit TexasMotorSpeedway.com
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