The 1979 Daytona 500 was a turning point for NASCAR.
What is your favorite story from the Gold Era of NASCAR? What about NASCAR's modern era? Do you ever wonder what such a story would look like on the big screen?
Let's face it, there have been some pretty big stories in NASCAR that need to be shared with the rest of the world. These stories have inspired, broken hearts, made us laugh and left us breathless.
While there have been numerous Hollywood-worthy stories, here are five that should be made into great movies. The only question is who should be cast into what role.
While we're familiar with the story of Dale Earnhardt, not as many people are familiar with the story of NASCAR Hall of Famer Glenn "Fireball" Roberts.
In drawing comparisons between the two, both were huge in their respective times, but unfortunately also shared tragic ends in racing accidents. While Earnhardt was a seven-time champion, Roberts never won a series title. However, he did win 33 races, including the 1962 Daytona 500.
The University of Florida graduate was one of the most popular drivers on the circuit and was known for his colorful personality and wild escapades off the track. But Roberts was also a temporary president of the Federation of Professional Athletes, a labor union mired in a dispute with NASCAR. Nevertheless, he did return and race in NASCAR until his fateful accident in the 1964 World 600.
Those who witnessed the 1992 Hooters 500 live didn't know it at the time, but that race was going to go down as one of the most memorable races in NASCAR history.
Filled with more drama than The Real World (or any MTV production for that matter), the day saw six drivers in contention for the 1992 Winston Cup Championship. Davey Allison led the points, with Bill Elliott in second and Alan Kulwicki in third. Harry Gant sat fourth, Kyle Petty sat fifth and Mark Martin was in sixth.
Also, while "The King" Richard Petty made his final start, newcomer Jeff Gordon made his debut that day. While Petty would be involved in a fiery crash (he did come back to finish the race), the championship leaders were systematically eliminated from contention, including point leader Davey Allison.
In the end, it came down to Elliott and Kulwicki. While Elliott won the race, Kulwicki managed to lead for one more lap and clinch the most laps led, winning the title by 10 points. What made this more impressive was that Kulwicki won the championship with his own equipment and team. He was the last owner/driver to win the Cup championship until Tony Stewart in 2011.
Ernie Irvan won the 1991 Daytona 500.
Up until a day of testing at Michigan International Speedway in August 1994, Ernie Irvan's career had been pretty good. He had a Daytona 500 win under his belt among others and was managing to keep up with Dale Earnhardt for the 1994 Winston Cup trophy.
Then came the accident.
Irvan was severely injured when a blown tire sent him into the wall. He was diagnosed with only a 10 percent chance of survival initially. Despite the odds, not only did he survive, he got back in the race car and managed to win three more times before retiring in 1999.
His last win was perhaps the sweetest. In June of 1997 he notched his 15th and final Cup win at Michigan, taking out a bit of revenge on the venue where he almost lost his life.
Although he never won a championship, his grit and determination made him a champion to the fans.
When a NASCAR fan says "The Fight," there is a good chance you know what they're talking about. What NASCAR fan doesn't know about the 1979 Daytona 500?
The events of February 18, 1979 made for a perfect storm for NASCAR, both figuratively and literally speaking. For one, CBS was going to be broadcasting the race live flag-to-flag. Also, with the President's Day snowstorm keeping much of the country indoors, the live audience was maximized.
What those who watched the race saw was the fire and passion that each driver worth their salt possessed. They saw the race that put NASCAR on the map. Would NASCAR have grown even if Cale Yarborough didn't duke it out with the Allison brothers? Sure, but probably at a much slower pace.
I picture a film regarding this moment in sports history covering not only the race, but also the events such as the boardroom meetings with CBS as well as the viewpoints of the meteorologists studying the snowstorm that blanketed much of the audience.
This was a perfect storm in many ways.
Henry "Smokey" Yunick was one of the greatest storytellers not only in NASCAR or IndyCar, but in the entire American automotive industry.
From his boyhood in Pennsylvania and his time as a pilot in World War II to his attempts at racing superiority in NASCAR and at the Indianapolis 500, a movie based on Yunick's autobiography would do well to chronicle his growth into becoming a racer.
Considering that there was never a dull moment with Yunick, a movie based on the man's life would be absolutely entertaining and no doubt informative. Yunick held nothing back in any aspect of life, be it personal or professional. He wasn't politically correct, but that only served to make him more of a folk hero to race fans everywhere. He was a common man who stood for what racing was truly all about.
It isn't a question or a matter of debate. Movie producers would have a winning situation if they made a film focusing on the life and times of the automotive equivalent to Albert Einstein.