Awesome: NASCAR

  • The Daytona 500 in 1979. On the last lap Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison collided and then got into a fight, with Donnie's brother Bobby quickly jumping in, as Richard Petty took his sixth Daytona 500. It was the first NASCAR race to be broadcast live with flag to flag coverage — and with a blizzard slamming the Northeast, a huge number of people had nothing better to do that Presidents' Day weekend, translating to hordes of new fans.
    • The 1976 Daytona 500 with a very similar situation, except that no other drivers come past to pick up the win. Two of the sports legendary drivers (Petty and Pearson) inadvertently wreck each other coming out of the last turn and both end up in the infield grass before the start line. Petty oh-so-nearly makes it across the line but slides to a halt, engine stalled. In a CMOA for Pearson he has the presence of mind to press in his clutch pedal while spinning around at about 120+ mph so he doesn't kill the engine, trundles across the line and takes a wrecked car to victory lane.
  • The 2010 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, in every single way. It shattered previous NASCAR racing records thanks to a rules package that gave a record 29 different leaders and 88 lead changes. With a last lap pass on Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag and broke a 115 race winless streak stretching back to the 2007 Daytona 500. Not to mention that like that 500, Harvick won in a photo finish drag race to the finish line (this time, outracing Jamie McMurray by mere inches; in the Daytona 500, it had been Mark Martin).
    • The 2011 running managed to top this, by reaching the same number of lead changes, but within regulation (the previous race ran over by 12 laps due to three green-white-checkered attempts). And this time, the top eight were four-wide at the start finish line, with Jimmie Johnson having gone from fifth to first in the space between turn four and the start-finish line, with a drafting push from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. allowing Jimmie to beat Clint Bowyer by a record-tying 2/1000ths (0.002) of a second.
  • The 2011 Daytona 500: in his second Sprint Cup startnote  and only racing a partial schedule to focus on NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series, 20-years-and-one-day-old Trevor Bayne (whose best Nationwide Series finish prior was only third) wins the "Super Bowl of NASCAR" for his first career Cup victory. In doing so, he demolished Jeff Gordon's record as the youngest Daytona 500 winner (by five years) and brought the famed Wood Brothers #21 (with the throwback paint scheme) back into the winner's circle for the first time since Elliott Sadler drove the car to victory lane in 2001. A reminder that this is the biggest event in stock car racing.
    • The 2011 season's end could be Tony Stewart's best drive ever. He went from being winless in the first 26 races and barely made the Chase, then something with him and crew chief Darian Grubb sparked that caused him to win four of the first nine Chase races. A slight stumble by Stewart was enough for Carl Edwards (who finished no worse than 11th in those latter nine races) to take a three point lead over Stewart into Homestead. With Edwards on the pole and dominating early, Stewart roared from the back of the lead lap twice due to grill damage. Stewart won the race, Edwards led the most laps and finished second, and they were tied for the point lead, but Stewart claimed the championship on a 5 to 1 race wins tiebreaker—the first time a Sprint Cup season ended with a tie at the top of the standings. A.J. Foyt (whose number Stewart's carried since he owned his own car) later called it Stewart's greatest drive.
  • The 1994 Daytona 500, when Sterling Marlin, making his first start with a new ownership team, gambled on fuel mileage and won his first Daytona 500 and also his first race in 279 starts, holding off a fueled up Ernie Irvan. Marlin had come close to victory many times, including in the 500 in 1991, but had never gotten over the second place finish hump. Made all the sweeter when EVERY PIT CREW came to high-five him as he drove to victory lane and the very same driver he held off, Irvan, had been the one to beat him in the 1991 500.
    • They did the same greeting to Dale Earnhardt after he won the 1998 Daytona 500 in his 20th try.
  • And for another Daytona example, the 2001 Pepsi 400. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. clearly had the best car all race, leading 116 out of 160 laps, but a late caution and five other drivers gambling on pit road with two tires pushed him back to sixth with six laps to go when the green flag waved. Even then, he would not be denied. By the time the race was down to four laps left, Junior had taken the lead off turn 4. He was quickly followed by then-teammate Michael Waltrip, who had restarted in fifteenth, and settled into the second spot. Junior won the race with a performance worthy of his late father, in the first race back at Daytona after Dale Earnhardt's death in February of that same year. You can watch his triumph here.
    Allen Bestwick: Here they come, turn 4, final lap of the Pepsi 400! Michael Waltrip in second, but it's going to be Dale Earnhardt, Jr., using lessons learned from his father to go from sixth to first and score the victory in the Pepsi 400!
    Benny Parsons: Yesss! YESSS!
  • And for another Dale Earnhardt, Jr. example at Daytona, you have the 2014 Daytona 500. A six hour 22 minute rain delay forced the last 402.5 miles (161 laps) to be run under the lights, and fans were treated to an ultra-competitive race, with many drivers able to power their way past others.note  While Earnhardt led the most laps (54 of 200), he hadn't done much until 70 laps to go, but he could shuffle his way to the front and defend his position better than anyone else who led beforehand, holding off just about every charge thrown at him from the cream of the crop: Carl Edwards? Check. Greg Biffle? Check. Jimmie Johnson? Check. Jeff Gordon? Check. Brad Keselowski? Check. Denny Hamlin, going for the never-done-before Speedweeks sweep (winning the Sprint Unlimited, a Budweiser Duel, and the Daytona 500) and trying to steal the show on the last lap? Check and mate. Earnhardt's second 500 was in the books.
    • And all of this with the spectacular backdrop of a wreck behind the leaders, after Kevin Harvick got into Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray and all three of them loose, either slamming into the wall or spinning down the banking.
    • For another Dale Earnhardt, Jr. example from 2014, Martinsville in October. One week after a crash at Talladega eliminated him from contending for the Chase, he was fifth on a restart with five laps to go after pit stops. With speed, he managed to bump Tony Stewart aside for the lead and score an emotional "spoiler" victory for Hendrick Motorsportsnote 
    • For another two examples of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. doing this at Daytona, Speedweeks 2015: he started in the very back of the Sprint Unlimited field and made it to the front in 27 laps. He finished ninth. Then, in Daytona 500 qualifying, his time was disallowed when his car failed inspection due to low ride height, meaning he had to start dead last in 25th place for the Budweiser Duel. In spite of this, he had an ultra-fast car and carried out a perfectly executed slingshot pass on Matt Kenseth on lap 46, then got blocking assistance from teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne to win the race. And all of this was with new crew chief Greg Ives, who had just won the 2014 Xfinity Series title with Chase Elliott for Earnhardt's team JR Motorsportsnote .
  • Road racing in general has delivered awesome race after awesome race in recent years. The two annual road course races were generally considered yawnfests by most of the NASCAR fanbase, with few drivers excelling in them and the tendency to bring in road racers to fill in. Nowadays, though, they're often considered as entertaining as short track races, and considering that short track racing is the most beloved part of NASCAR competition, that's a hell of a compliment. That there have been ten different winners at the last ten Sonoma races, including surprise wins by Juan Pablo Montoya and Martin Truex Jr., has something to do with it; as does the presence of a three year winning streak for foreign drivers at Watkins Glen with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2010 and Marcos Ambrose in 2011 and 2012.
  • With the shortening of Auto Club Speedway races from 500 miles to 400 miles, and the removal of the fall date, the races have become known for dramatic finishes, with the race-winning pass being made on the last lap in three of the last four races.note 
    • In 2011, Kevin Harvick overtook Jimmie Johnson on the last lap. It was the only lap Harvick led in the entire race.
    • In 2013, Kyle Busch dominated the race and led 125 of 200 laps, or 62.5% of the race. After the last restart, Busch was in third place while a side-by-side battle for the lead happened between bitter ex-teammates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. On the last lap, going into turn 3, Busch went to the high side and as the cars of Logano and Hamlin wrecked, Busch took the checkered flag and gave Joe Gibbs Racing their first Auto Club Speedway victory.note 
    • In 2014, Kyle Busch backed up his win in dramatic fashion: A spin by Clint Bowyer with two laps to go, due to a tire failure, set up a green-white-checkered finish. The field fanned out on the ensuing restart, with Kurt Busch gaining the lead. He was still leading as the white flag waved. Heading into turn 1, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson passed Kurt. A tense last-lap battle for the lead unfolded between the two Kyles. In turn 4, Larson got momentarily loose, and Busch slid in front of him to take his second straight win at the track. Larson finished second, denied an opportunity to do a weekend sweep after winning the Nationwide race, and Kurt finished third. The top ten was jumbled greatly by the restart, with finishing positions 4-10 being (in order) Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards.note 
  • The 2014 STP 500 was one for Kurt Busch. After an accident early in the race on pit road where Kurt's car clipped Brad Keselowski's after the White Deuce got into Kasey Kahne's rear end, and then having to deal with an irate Keselowski after his car went to the garage and sent him back out 38 laps down, he managed to work his way to the front and get around eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson to win the race. It was his first win with Stewart-Haas Racing, the first time that a car bearing Gene Haas's automation company sat in Victory Lane, and broke an 80+ winless streak for Kurt.
  • Jeremy Mayfield hoisting no less than Dale Earnhardt by his own petard at Pocono in 2000, even saying he "just wanted to rattle his cage a little bit", stealing a phrase Earnhardt used to describe a similar last lap move he put on Terry Labonte at Bristol the year before (which did not end so cleanly).
  • The 2000 Winston 500 at Talledega. In the last five laps, Dale Earnhardt made his way to the race lead from eighteenth place and won the entire thing. It ended up being Dale's 76th and final career win, and boy what a high note to end it on!
  • Any time a car has won a race or finished in the top 10 despite taking serious damage in a wreck count as this:
    • 2003 Aaron's 499 at Talladega: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started dead last in 43rd place. He then got caught up in the Big One on lap 4note  and took some damage to the nose of his car from getting into the back of Jeff Green while slowing up. Despite driving around with his front splitter all taped up, and at some points running half a lap down, he assumed the lead on lap 107 and led 34 of the last 71 laps to win, assuming the lead from Matt Kenseth with five laps to go.
    • 2014 400: A restrictor-plate style Big One unfolded on lap 117 after a restart when Denny Hamlin got sucked around by the air off of Clint Bowyer's car, and a number of cars piled up trying to avoid him. Kevin Harvick got sent into the inside wall and banged up the left side of his car pretty severely. His crew did a lot of work to repair the car, and Harvick was in the lead just 17 laps later. In fact, his car handled just as well post-wreck as it did pre-wreck, and even through the last lap he was challenging Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the win before finishing second.note