Best Races Of The Decade

Misan AkuyaCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2009

DARLINGTON, SC - MARCH 16:  Eventual winner Ricky Craven, driver of the #32 Tide Pontiac, passes Kurt Busch, driver of the #97 Rubbermain Ford, on the final lap of the NASCAR Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 on March 16, 2003 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There have been many races from 2000 to 2009 that have been spectacular to watch.  Some more than others.  That is why I once again boldy make a list of the top ten races of the decade from NASCAR, Indy racing league, and Grand Am series.  Here we go.

10.The 2009 IRL season finale at Homestead

This race was one of the best races of the decade for multiple reasons.  First off going into the race Scott Dixon was leading the points over Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe in a very close championship battle.  All started 1-2-3 in that order and raced hard and close in the opening laps.  It came down to fuel mileage and thanks to pitting a little early Dixon and Briscoe had to stay out while Franchitti made all the way on fumes not only winning the race but the championship.  It also marked the first ever race in the IRL to have no cautions.  Correct zero yellow flags, the sanctioning body could have thrown some phantom cautions as some other series like to do to prevent only 3 cars on the lead lap, but they let the drivers race it out with interruption and showing that strategy is more important in racing than most would believe.

9.The 2002 Daytona 500

Rookie Jimmie Johnson and sophomore drive Kevin Harvick led the filed to the start of the 2002 Daytona 500.  The race was filled with dram from top to bottom.  On Lap 147 Harvick put a block on Jeff Gordon, Gordon ran into him causing a melee of at least 15 cars.  Then Gordon held everyone up on a restart with 5 to go as the leader causing Mark Martin to spin Michael Waltrip (who ended up finishing 5th still) and then cutoff Sterling Marlin spinning, and Marlin raced Ward Burton back to the caution flag.  The race went under red flag because of excessive damage and Marlin had a tire rub.  So he exited his racecar to pull it out.  NASCAR penalized him sending him to the back and cost himself a 3rd Daytona 500 win.  This gave the lead to Burton who witha  push from Elliott Sadler went on to win the 500 in only his 9th try at the great american race and won it for Bill Davis racing one of the ultimate underdogs in racing.  This race also the start of careers for superstar drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman.  It also was the race that Kurt Busch established himself as a contender in the cup series. 

8.The 2009 24 Hours of Daytona

Everyone knew that Chip Ganassi racing was going to be the team to beat in the 24 hours.  They were on sa streak of 3 straight wins in this race, and 2 straight with Pruett , Rojas, and Montoya behind the wheel.  This year Montoya was going to be "the closer" and finish the race.  But the Brumos Porsches were strong.  David Donohue passed Montoya with 39 minutes to go and never looked back and won the 24 Hours of Daytona on the 40th anniversary of his father, Mark Donohue’s, victory in the 1969 event.  It was also Brumos racing's first win since 2003.  They showed that the underdogs can still succeed in modern day racing.

7.The 2001 Aaron's 499

Caution free race at Talladega?  Indeed.  The 2001 Aaron's 499 at Talaldega may have been caution free but never lacked action.  All day driver raced hard for the lead 2 wide, 3 wide and even 4 wide.  At the end of the race Tony Stewart was in the leader, but with a push from Joe Nemecheck, Bobby Hamilton was able to get by Stewart and win his 4th and final career victory.  This also marked the first win for Andy Petree as a car owner. 

6.2001 Golden Corral 500

The Golden Corral 500 was a special and emotional race.  Within 10 laps to go Jerry Neadu was in the race lead with Dale Jarret in 2nd, Jeff Gordon 3rd, Kevin Harvick 4th and Dale Earnhardt Jr 5th.  All under a blanket and contending hard for the race win.  Jr then cuts a  tire which ends his bid for the race win.  Harvick made a wide pass on Neadu and Jarret with 3 to go which would turnout to be the winning pass.  Gordon then got by Neadu and Jarret and was hunting down Harvick.  Harvick would barely hang on by .006 of a second to win his first career race in only his 3rd career start.  There wasn't a fan or driver upset with the outcome as even though the number and color were different that was Dale Earnhardt car.  It felt as if someone was looking down on the racing world that day from above.

5.The 2000 Winston 500

3 laps to go and Dale Earnhardt Jr was in the lead.  His father 7 time champion Dale Earnhardt was 18th.  And Earnhardt was destined to win the race.  But which one?  Well Earnhardt Sr in typical spectacular style made his way through the field with Kenny Wallace behind and with 2 laps to go took the lead from teammate Mike Skinner winning his 76th and final career race.  It was fitting that Sr's last win came at Talladega and in that fashion.  It showed how truly special of a driver he was and how much god given talent he owned and the things he could do with a racecar.  That was his 10th win at Talladega and 42nd plate race win overall. 

4.The 2006 Indianapolis 500

Late in the race Michael Andertti had the lead with his son Marco Andertti in 2nd and Sam Hornish Jr in 3rd.  The elder Andertti was trying to win his first 500 after years of trying while the younger Andertti only 19 was just a rookie.  Youth had appeared to be served when the 19 year old schooled his father by passing him for the win.  But the young veteran Hornish Jr had a plan and was catching Andertti.  It still looked however that Andertti had the win locked but Hornish Jr would make a daring move on the last lap to take his first and only Indianapolis win becoming the first and only driver to overtake on the last lap of the Indianapolis 500. 

3.The 2007 Pepsi 400

The race started by points with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth on the front row.  Early on it was teammates Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart in the lead.  But that wouldn't last for long as Hamlin would slow yup then consequently Stewart would get into the back of Hamlin causing them to crash and invlove Dale Earnhardt Jr and Reed Sorenson.  Jamie McMurray would lead early on only to have to do a pass thru penalty for making a pass below the yellow line.  But McMurray persevered and with 7 to go found himself in 3rd.  He then made a move to the outside and zinged to the inside and grabbed the lead from Jeff Gordon.  But Kyle Busch would be the one he would have to contend with Kyle Busch.  McMurray made the last lap exciting as it looked that Busch had it won but nipped Busch at the finish line by .005 of a second scoring his 2nd career victory in spectacular fashion.

2.The 2003 Delphi Indy 300

At a track that no long races in the IRL, Chicagoland produced one of the best races of the decade and perhaps the best race in the history of the IRL.  AL Usner Jr was leading by would have to contend with Sam Hornish Jr who had contested him all day.  The field was die by side the who race and it ended just like that.  Hornish Jr would beat Unser Jr by just .0024 of a second the closest race in the IRL's history.

1.The 2003 Dodge Dealers 400

It's late in race Kurt Busch is leading after making a 3 wide pass on Jeff Gordon and  Elliot Sadler, but has lost his power steering.  Ricky Craven in his 32 tide machine is 2nd with hot pursuit and quickly gaining on the 97 Rubbermaind car of Busch.  With 2 laps to go he is there and tired to making a daring pass for the lead entering turn 3 which put Busch in the wall.  Busch bumped Craven and got the lead back.  Craven knew he had made a mistake and decade to instead of trying to pass him to just try to beat him to the start/finish line.  So on the last lap exiting 4 he and Busch came to together and he would barely beat Busch to line by .002 of a second the closest in NASCAR's history and perhaps the most exciting one.  This was Scott Miller's first win as a crew chief, Cal Wells firts and only win with his engine program, and the last win for a single car team until Brad Keselowski won for Phoenix racing at Talladega in 2009.  Craven that day beat the racing giant of Roush being the under dog and in spectacular beating and banging style.  Which is why it was the best race of the decade.