NASCAR and the 50 Most Embarrassing Moments in the Sport's History
NASCAR has a lot of history in its 63 years.
Most of it has been a grand ride.
There's been spectacular wins, amazing stories behind the wins and a colorful cast of characters from the sport's inception in 1948 to today.
Along the way, the sport has also been peppered with some moments that NASCAR would like to forget.
Some of the moments and stories in this list are embarrassing for different reasons.
A handful of them are funny, but cringe-worthy. They're like the moments in a comedy film where you're looking around the theater wondering if it's OK to laugh.
Some are moments when someone got the better of NASCAR by outsmarting the sport (although ultimately almost always being caught).
Others are just a black eye on the sport.
Some are even not necessarily embarrassing to the sport, but they were embarrassing, cringe-worthy, or ill-advised moments inside the sport.
All of them are moments that left some part of the sport uncomfortable or some part of its fans wishing they could look away.
Here's a look (in no particular order) at some of those moments that while embarrassing give the sport even more character as it works on its seventh decade.
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Curses in Victory at Talladega
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won $305,000 for winning the fall race at Talladega in 2004, but he gave $10,000 back following his slip of the tongue after the race.
In an interview following his win on NBC, Earnhardt was asked about winning at Talladega, a track that his late father had so utterly dominated.
"It don't mean sh*t," was Junior's reply.
Not only did he get his with a fine, he was also docked 25 championship points, which knocked him out of the points lead.
2. Chad Knaus Caught Cheating, Jimmie Johnson Wins 500
In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won his first Sprint Cup championship.
The season had an auspicious beginning for the 48 team on the track, but it was more dubious off it.
In qualifying prior to the race, Knaus was caught making an illegal adjustment to the rear window of the race car, causing his suspension for the race.
Darian Grubb filled in for Knaus on the pit box, and captured a Daytona 500 victory.
Knaus was suspended until March 22 of 2006, but it didn't hurt Johnson. He won two of the first three races of the season.
3. Michael Watrip Racing Debuts in Scandal at Daytona
In 2007, Michael Waltrip Racing was poised to steward Toyota's first foray into the Sprint Cup Series.
It ended up being a black eye for Waltrip and an embarrassing start for the manufacturer.
Waltrip's team was caught allegedly having an additive in the fuel for their debut at Daytona.
"I'm ready to bear all responsibility for what happened. You can't hurt me any worse than I am right now," said Waltrip after finding out his car had failed inspection.
NASCAR suspended two members of Waltrip's team, and they almost didn't even stay at Speedweeks until Waltrip's wife talked him into staying.
4. Days of Thunder Released
In 1990 it was about time that Hollywood capitalized on the growing popularity of NASCAR.
It repackaged the movie Top Gun, but without the F-14s.
The finished product was the Tom Cruise film Days of Thunder.
Based loosely on the life of Tim Richmond, the movie does put NASCAR on the big screen, but at the same time perpetuates some myths about it.
The year 1990 was a long time ago, but even then nobody was building Daytona 500 winning cars in their barn.
The sport ultimately probably benefited from the exposure, but from those on the inside it was easy to see all of the half-truths in the film.
Maybe not the most embarrassing thing that could have happened, but if you've ever cringed at parts of that movie, you're not alone.
5. NASCAR Romance Novels Abound
In 2006, NASCAR found yet another part of the media landscape it hadn't yet penetrated, and it pounced.
NASCAR in partnership with the publishing company Harlequin began to produce a series of NASCAR themed romance novels.
With titles like Into the Corner, Banking on Hope, Speed Dating and Crossing the Line, the series is well versed with the language of NASCAR.
As it turns out, the authors have adapted that language to include the language of love as well.
Read one and make your own assessment of their literary value.
6. Smokey Yunick's Downsized Car in 1966
Cheating is always in the eye of the beholder.
It's always breaking the rules, but it sometimes has such a beauty to it that it deserves to be celebrated.
1966 was a good year for that.
In '66, Yunick prepared a Chevrolet Chevelle for Curtis Turner at Atlanta.
The practice times for the car were light years ahead of the field, and other competitors assumed it must have been a subtle aerodynamic tweak responsible for the added speed.
There was nothing visibly different about the car, except it's overall size.
Yunick had essentially built a smaller scale model of the Chevelle that cut a smaller hole through the air.
The innovation forced NASCAR to alter its specifications on cars for the future, including using stock hoods, roofs and deck lids.
Score one for the innovators.
7. Pothole at Daytona 500
It's the biggest race of the year for NASCAR, with the biggest television audience along for the ride.
It all came to a halt last year at the Daytona 500.
The race was forced into an embarrassing red flag after the asphalt started coming up in turns one and two during the race.
NASCAR ultimately got the race finished later that evening, forcing folks to delay their Valentine's Day plans.
The July race went off without a hitch, but the hole was partly the big hint that the track needed a new surface.
The entire track was repaved in time for the 2011 Daytona 500.
8. Mark Martin Loses Race by a Miscount
Mark Martin is the all time win leader in the Nationwide Series.
He'd have one more if not for a dark day in 1994.
In April of 1994, Martin had the Busch (Nationwide) race won when a late race caution slowed the field in the final laps.
He saw other drivers pulling alongside and waving to him, and he assumed it was in celebration of his win.
He pulled down pit road headed for victory lane.
It was lap 249 of 250.
Martin was scored 11th for the miscount, and it cost him $18,000 in prize money.
9. Roush Racing Fumbles Title with Yates Car in 1990
The 1990 championship went down to the wire with Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin, and Ford was prepared to do just about anything to stop the Intimidator from winning his fourth championship.
As the final race at Atlanta loomed, Roush Racing took six different cars to the track to test in order to find the best bullet for Mark Martin to use for that last effort to win the title.
When none of the cars proved fast enough, the Ford camp pooled its resources and came up with an alternative.
Roush repainted and ran a Robert Yates Thunderbird previously driven by Davey Allison for the race.
The decision proved to be the wrong one, as Roush fumbled about trying to get a handle on the unfamiliar car and posting a sixth place finish while Earnhardt finished third and collected his title.
Instead of going to Robert Yates for help, perhaps they should have gone to another Robert: Robert Burns.
Burns was a poet who wrote a well worn piece of wisdom in his work "To a Mouse".
The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.
10. 2001 All Star Race Marred by Wet Track Crash
The 2001 Winston was the night that Jeff Gordon tied Dale Earnhardt for three Winston wins, but that's not what people remember.
A rainy day in Charlotte had caused an incident in the qualifying race, and the mayhem crept into the main even as well.
As the cars barrelled off into turn one for the race, the wet track took away all the grip and caused a multiple car pileup that stopped the race.
The eventual winner, Jeff Gordon, was among the casualties.
In a rare move, NASCAR allowed the teams to go to backup cars for a restart.
Despite the questionable decision to start the race with a less than dry surface, Gordon drove his backup car to victory.
11. Jeremy Mayfield Scandal
The Jeremy Mayfield saga has dogged NASCAR for nearly two years, with a nearly revolving series of lawsuits and countersuits.
It all started back in 2009 when NASCAR announced that Mayfield was suspended after allegedly testing positive for methamphetamine.
From there, the sordid tale moved the courtroom when Mayfield challenged the accuracy of the test.
Over the past two years, the case has moved to the federal courts and even includes a murder allegation from Mayfield directed at his stepmother.
He recently withdrew that claim and was forced to apologize.
As the case drags through the legal system, this case has been a messy ordeal for NASCAR and its dubious drug testing policy.
It's also left Mayfield nearly broke and a pariah in the sport, and allegations of drug use continue to swirl to this day.
For many years, moonshining was like the ugly piece of furniture in your house that you hide from guests.
It was just embarrassing for NASCAR.
The sport would at times avoid its rum running past, except Junior Johnson was a problem.
Johnson actually did time in prison for moonshining, and received a pardon from President Reagan.
Now, the sport is doing a better job of embracing all of its history, since its early days are such a rich mine for great personalities and stories.
13. Professional Drivers Association Forms, Then Disbans
Richard Petty will always be The King, but in 1969, the King was briefly president.
In September 1969, NASCAR was prepared to unleash Talladega Superspeedway on the drivers, and not all of them were happy about it.
Practice prior to the race had revealed that the tire was quick to burn up at the high speeds and many drivers complained of blurry vision on the new racetrack.
During that race, the Professional Drivers Association went public.
Earlier that year, Petty was made president of the newly formed PDA which was the drivers second attempt at unionizing. Drivers felt that making Petty the president would give the organization an aura of legitimacy.
It didn't scare Bill France Sr..
When the PDA threatened to boycott the race, France made a statement of his own by strapping into a race car and turning laps on the track to show that it was safe.
After that, France announced that drivers who were planning to boycott the race needed to leave the speedway.
France was forced to cobble together a field that included several lesser known drivers and even included cars from the Grand-Am Series in the race, which was won by Richard Brickhouse.
It was his lone win in NASCAR's top division.
When the show went on, NASCAR's stars saw the realities of the situation, and it's a reality that remains today. It's NASCAR's sandbox.
Petty came back the following race, and within a couple of weeks most of the drivers made their return as well.
However, the PDA didn't come back with them.
The organization was soon dissolved.
14. Curtis Turner Suspended over First Attempt at a Union
The PDA wasn't NASCAR's first attempt at a union.
That distinction falls to Curtis Turner.
In 1961, Turner attempted to form the Federation of Professional Athletes.
His demands seem oddly familiar even today.
More money from purses and better benefits for drivers were at the top of his list.
When NASCAR officials didn't like the idea of the union, they did what they did later in 1969. They banned Turner for life.
The ban was lifted in 1965 when NASCAR needed his name back in the sport after losing Richard Petty to drag racing and Fireball Roberts to an accident.
It didn't take Turner long to find his winning ways that year.
He returned to victory lane at Rockingham in October 1965.
15. Hemi Outlawed in NASCAR
The Dodge brand, and by proxy the Chrysler Corporation, has had an on again, off again relationship with NASCAR over the sport's history.
The Hemi, or hemispherical combustion engine, was their masterpiece.
In 1964, the Hemis had dominated NASCAR, including a 1-2-3 sweep at Daytona.
As always, NASCAR moved to level the playing field.
For 1965, the Hemi was out, along with an overhead cam Ford engine that NASCAR felt were purpose built and didn't fall into the spirit of the sport.
Ford soldiered on with a more conventional powerplant, and Chrysler left the sport.
In 1966, the Hemi was available in production cars and it came back to the sport, but it showed the lengths NASCAR would go to in order to keep teams from building a better mousetrap.
16. Richard Petty Leaves in Protest
If you look closely at Richard Petty's belt buckle in that picture, you'll see the distinctive blue oval that is a badge of allegiance to Ford.
Back in 1965, Petty was a Chrysler man.
So much so that he left the sport when NASCAR banned Chrysler's Hemi powerplant in 1965.
Petty decided to go drag racing.
His team built a Plymouth Barracuda and decided to abandon turning left for running times in the quarter mile.
The drag racing experiment didn't come without a heavy cost though.
While racing in Dallas, Petty had an accident that sent the car into a crowd of spectators, injuring seven people and killing an eight-year-old boy.
When the Hemi was reinstated later in the 1965 season, Petty returned to NASCAR.
The tragedy of the drag racing accident certainly wasn't embarrassing, it was just a horrific racing accident. However, NASCAR losing its biggest star over a rules change probably is a moment the sport would like to forget.
17. Wendell Scott Win Delayed
When Wendell Scott became the first African American to win a NASCAR race, it didn't happen with a lot of fanfare.
In fact, it happened after most of the crowd had left the track.
Buck Baker was declared the winner of the race at Jacksonville Speedway in December 1963, and it took NASCAR a while to determine that Scott was the winner even after he apparently hadn't been scored for all of his laps.
Scott ultimately was given the win, but he didn't receive the usual accolades since the race was long over by the time he was declared the winner.
To this day, he's the only African American driver to win in NASCAR's top division, and he was just recently honored with a commemorative sticker on the Sprint Cup cars at Las Vegas Speedway.
You can read more about Wendell Scott and his contributions to racing here.
18. Gordon Pelted with Beer Cans
In 2004, just like today, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the most popular driver in the sport.
Fans didn't take too kindly to the idea of Jeff Gordon beating Junior at Talladega.
In a race that ended in a caution, Gordon was able to beat Junior in a door to door battle when the flag flew.
After the race, Gordon's car was pelted with beer cans in protest of the win.
NASCAR has tried desperately to move away from its rough and tumble image, but a competitor getting bombed by beer cans wasn't the best way to advance that cause.
19. Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr Killed at Same Speedweeks
Neil Bonnett's first attempt at a comeback, after his near fatal accident at Darlington in 1990, came in 1993 at Talladega.
A wild flip took him out of contention, and he returned to the CBS broadcast booth where he had spent most of the last couple of years working as a commentator for the network.
In 1994, Bonnett was set to drive a few races for Phoenix Racing, and the season got off to a tragic start.
Bonnett was killed practicing for the Daytona 500 when his car hit the wall head on in turns three and four.
Just three days later, a young driver named Rodney Orr was also killed practicing for the 500 in a car that had begun to raise eyebrows with its fast practice times.
In just 72 hours, NASCAR lost one of its most beloved drivers and another who was just beginning to make a name for himself in the sport.
While a death in racing is always a terrible tragedy, the fact that they came so closely together was a black mark on the sport at the start of the 1994 season.
20. Each National Touring Series Loses a Driver in 2000
NASCAR has always had death as an unfortunate reality.
Racing is a dangerous profession and it takes a special individual to not only do it well, but do it at all.
Look yourself in the mirror and ask if you really have the courage to do what these folks do.
In 2000, we saw just how dangerous auto racing can be.
In one season, all three of NASCAR's top divisions had a fatal accident.
Adam Petty was killed in a Nationwide practice session at New Hampshire in May, Kenny Irwin Jr. died in almost the exact same spot in a Sprint Cup car in July, and Tony Roper lost his life in a truck race at Texas in October.
The rash of fatal accidents cast a pall over the 2000 season, and NASCAR was looking forward to getting past it for the 2001 season.
21. Ed Hinton Investigative Piece in 2001
In light of the deadly 2000 season, Tribune newspapers motorsports writer Ed Hinton made a close examination of the safety practices across the board in racing.
The pieces were published in the run up to the 2001 season, and outlined the causes of some of the deaths in 2000 and what might have been done to prevent them.
Among the recommendations in the piece: further studies into soft wall technology and the use of head and neck restraints for drivers.
The two part series (read it here) was a blueprint for ways that racing could be made safer in light of the recent tragedies.
Just a week after the piece went to press, NASCAR lost Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500, the fourth fatal accident in NASCAR's top three divisions in nine months.
Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper and Dale Earnhardt all died from similar injuries that may have been preventable.
Their deaths weren't embarrassing, but in light of the information available at the time about neck injuries in race cars, Ed Hinton's pieces seemed oddly prophetic.
The 2000 season, along with the pieces, were the tap on the shoulder that NASCAR seemingly brushed off.
22. Japanese Exhibitions
Sometimes a good idea at the time looks a little odd in hindsight.
The Japanese exhibitions were a good example of that.
In 1997 on a road course and in 1998 on an oval, NASCAR made its debut in the Far East.
The races were held in the offseason, and aired late at night in the United States.
The events were also terribly cost prohibitive because of the expense that comes with sending cars, equipment and teams half way around the world.
While they were a novelty at the time, the races in hindsight seem like a ham-handed attempt at taking NASCAR global.
23. NASCAR High Speed Chase
The network news organizations know that a high speed chase generally makes good television, but with the added hook of the chasee being a former NASCAR driver, the story is gold.
In May of 2010, Jimmy Neal led police on a high speed chase through California in his Corvette.
Neal had been a local NASCAR driver out west, but to the uninitiated there's no distinction between a local racer and the guys who run on Sunday afternoon.
Neal led police on a 50 mile romp before his engine expired and he was taken into custody.
It was definitely not a "racing deal."
24. Aaron Fike Drug Bust
Aaron Fike was a driver in the truck series until he was arrested in the parking lot of an Ohio amusement park for heroin possession in 2007.
The arrest and later revelations from Fike that he had used heroin on race days brought attention to NASCAR's hit and miss drug testing policy.
At the time, NASCAR had a more nebulous policy that didn't catch as many drug abusers, and at the time Kevin Harvick was quick to point out that NASCAR never caught Fike, the cops did.
Fike's 2008 admission that he'd been high on the race track opened eyes inside the industry and started NASCAR on a path that ended with a more rigorous testing policy.
25. Battle for Control at DEI
By 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was well established as perhaps the biggest name in American motorsports.
He believed it was time for a piece of the ownership pie at the company that carried his name.
His stepmother Teresa didn't agree.
The result was an ugly power struggle over DEI that ultimately resulted in Dale Jr. leaving the organization for Hendrick Motorsports in the 2008 season.
He took his sister as his manager and also his uncle and cousin along to HMS.
The NASCAR family feud left the sport with some bitter feelings in the garage area over the way the whole episode was handled, and resulted in the severe crippling of DEI that forced a merger with Chip Ganassi Racing.
26. Humble Beginnings at Texas
Texas Motor Speedway joined the NASCAR world in 1997, but not without controversy.
Prior to the race, several drivers had complained about the abrupt and tight transitions into and out of the corners, prompting the production of t-shirts that said "shut up and drive."
When the race went green, a huge crash took out several cars in the first corner ever navigated in Sprint Cup competition at the speedway.
To the credit of track officials and Speedway Motorsports, the track got a face-lift and the transitions were improved.
Things are much better now, but it was an embarrassing start for a track that arrived on the landscape with so much fanfare.
27. Confederate Flag Flies Prominently at Events
In many parts of the country, the Confederate flag is viewed as a reminder of the Civil War, but in parts of the South, it's viewed as a sentimental symbol.
NASCAR has tried over the years to seem not only more inclusive, but more worldly. It's tried to distance itself from its primarily Southern roots in an attempt to gain more national acceptance.
For many Americans, the flag is a painful reminder of a part of our history that they'd like to forget.
Despite that sentiment, it's difficult to go to a NASCAR race and not see it flying somewhere in the infield.
While this country ensures that freedom of speech and expression are parts of who we are as a people, the flag remains a deeply divisive banner most anywhere it's flown.
28. Bridge Collapse at the Winston in 2000
Charlotte Motor Speedway has long been regarded as one of the finest facilities in the country for auto racing.
In 2000, the track revealed a tragic flaw.
Following Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s thrilling win in the all star race, fans headed for their cars over a pedestrian bridge which fell when the structure collapsed.
Fortunately, no one was killed but more than 100 people were injured.
An investigation found that the company that built the bridge used chemicals in the concrete that weakened the steel in the structure and caused the collapse.
Racing is an incredibly dangerous endeavor, but it shouldn't be for fans on their way out of the track.
29. Kyle Busch Flips Officals the Bird
In Kyle's case, a bird in the hand was worth 25 grand for the Busch.
Kyle Busch was fined $25,000 for flipping off an official during the fall race in 2010 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The incident was captured on national television, and was at least addressed by the ESPN team of Marty Reid, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett.
Everyone knows that in the heat of a race, there's a lot of off color chatter on the radios and undoubtedly gestures from car to car.
It just would have made everyone's life a little easier if it hadn't been caught by the in-car camera.
30. Britney Spears NASCAR Movie Rumors
Back in 2003, there were probably more than a few fans running for cover when the news broke that Britney Spears was going to star in a NASCAR themed film.
The film was to be a collaborative effort between Spears' production company and NASCAR, and luckily cooler heads prevailed.
The movie never happened.
If you're curious though, she was to be the daughter of a car owner who helps a driver recapture his past glory.
Since then, Britney's career has rebounded and NASCAR is doing okay, so this breakup went a lot better than the Britney/Justin thing.
At least nobody shaved their head when the project went on the shelf.
31. Stroker Ace
Burt Reynolds has enjoyed a long and illustrious film career, but Stoker Ace wasn't one of his better outings.
Along with Reynolds, the film starred Parker Stevenson, Ned Betty and Loni Anderson.
It also included a virtual who's who of NASCAR at the time, including Harry Gant, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt in a room service cart race.
The 1983 film wasn't the best representation of NASCAR, and stands alongside Days of Thunder as a shining example of how Hollywood views NASCAR.
32. Gimmick Cars in the Pace Laps
For the life of me, I can't figure out why NASCAR uses the race itself to promote a product or a movie.
The latest attempt is the Transformer cars at the beginning of the 2011 Daytona 500.
Recently, NASCAR also featured the Green Hornet car on a parade lap.
The sport seemingly will never balk at an opportunity to cross promote, but putting the cars on the track prior to the race can often be cringe-worthy.
33. Inspected Car Drives off with No Fuel Cell
Here's another example of someone getting over on NASCAR, courtesy again of the great Smokey Yunick.
Smokey knew in his day how important it was to get every drop of fuel out of the car and to the engine. He also figured out to have more drops to play with.
He once wound extra wide fuel line through the car to get a few more gallons of gas between the fuel tank and the engine, which would give his cars extra range once the race started.
During inspection, NASCAR had removed the fuel tank from the car and practically tore it apart searching for Smokey's innovations.
The inspector informed Smokey that there were nine things that had to be fixed on the car before it could compete.
With the fuel tank still on the ground and disconnected from the car, Smokey told him "you'd better make it ten."
He then got in, started it and drove away with no fuel tank attached.
34. Brickyard 400 Tire Fiasco
The 2008 Brickyard 400 was won from the pole by Jimmie Johnson, but that's not what most people remember about the race.
The event was marred by a rash of tire failures that led NASCAR and Goodyear officials to the conclusion that the tire couldn't last more than ten or fifteen laps under green flag racing.
As a result, the 400 mile race was essentially divided into a series of short sprints separated by competition cautions so that teams could constantly keep new tires on the cars.
Considering that Indianapolis is arguably the second most prestigious race of the season next to the Daytona 500, the event was ruined by a rare day when Goodyear didn't bring the right shoe to the dance.
35. Single File Racing at Talladega
In 2009, the teams were getting more and more comfortable with the two car drafts that now are the norm at both Daytona and Talladega.
Two years ago, Talladega had the new surface and high grip that makes that type of racing possible, and the spring race was marked by a spectacular crash coming to the finish involving Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.
As a result of the spring incident, the drivers were warned the morning of the fall race that the two car drafting would not be tolerated.
The result was single file racing uncharacteristic of Talladega.
For most of the day the cars rode nose to tail and gave each other enough room so that NASCAR could clearly see daylight between the cars.
Eventually, the race turned ugly as the laps wound down, with Ryan Newman taking a nasty flight near turn three.
The race received widespread criticism from observers for handcuffing the drivers ability to make their own decisions as to how they would run the race.
36. I'd Like to Thank the Academy, or My Sponsors
As with the exhibition races in Japan, NASCAR will every now and then go way outside of its comfort zone with an event that in hindsight seems ill advised.
Such was the case in 2009, when the sport elected to race in Southern California on Academy Awards Sunday.
The theory of racing in Southern California was two-fold.
First, it was important for NASCAR to create a presence in the region that contains the country's second largest television market.
Secondly, there was an underlying belief that a race there would attract the shiny people from Tinseltown.
That may be true, but not on Oscar night.
The biggest night in Los Angeles is a tough act to compete against for attention in a city that already has a lot of stuff to do.
37. Jeff Gordon's Divorce
Jeff Gordon was really the first NASCAR driver to attract tabloid attention, and it wasn't for the best reasons.
His 2003 divorce from former Miss Winston Brooke Sealey made the rounds in the tabloids, and the settlement even found its way onto public document clearinghouse thesmokinggun.com.
In a bizarre twist, Gordon's ex-wife has been back in the news again recently.
She was sued by the father of her newborn child because the father wanted the child to have his last name instead of the Gordon surname.
Brooke claims she gave the baby that name at birth due to the tenuous nature of her relationship to the father.
The father of the child also sued for his piece of the reported $15 million dollar pie that Sealey received in the divorce.
He was asking the courts to award $10,000 a month, a home valued at one million dollars and a Mercedes Benz.
38. Tim Richmond
Tim Richmond has received a lot of attention in the last couple of years thanks to his appearance in several documentaries about NASCAR, but for many years he was swept under the rug.
Richmond died of complications related to AIDS in 1989.
He had enjoyed a spectacular run in 1986 and was poised to make a title run in 1987 when the illness took him out of the race car for several weeks.
In 1988, NASCAR suspended him for failing a drug test and he as never able to make it back to the races.
He died in South Florida.
In the 1980s, the stigma attached to the disease caused NASCAR and many of its drivers to distance themselves from Richmond, and it's taken 20 years for him to be truly remembered for his astonishing natural talent.
His disease could have actually been an enormous opportunity for NASCAR if the sport and the driver had been more open about it.
It might have raised awareness about the disease through a high profile victim.
Regardless, the way Richmond was shunned in the last year of his life was not one of NASCAR's finer moments.
39. Sterling Marlin Death Threats
Sterling Marlin was driving one of the last cars to make contact with Dale Earnhardt before his fatal crash at the 2001 Daytona 500, and it made him a target.
In the days following the accident, Marlin received menacing e-mails and even got death threats via phone to his own race shop.
It took a statement from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to finally end the threats.
For the entire NASCAR community, the death of Dale Earnhardt was an emotional time, especially for those who competed against him on a weekly basis.
Marlin was one of many living victims of the Dale Earnhardt tragedy.
40. Digger on FOX
Digger is FOX's mascot for NASCAR.
He's purely for fun, and his embarrassment level is in the eye of the beholder.
You be the judge: he's either cute and cuddly, or an annoying gimmick.
I vote the latter.
41. NASCAR Lacks Hall of Fame for Too Long
NASCAR is a sport with a rich history.
Since its inception on 1948, the sport has been producing legends in every era.
It wasn't until 2010 when NASCAR finally opened the doors to its Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.
The sport just waited too long, and many of its early pioneers didn't even get to enjoy the recognition they so richly deserved.
The long years with no Hall of Fame has left the sport with an interesting dilemma.
So many of the early pioneers who have been lost to time deserve to be enshrined, but the sport has to feel some compulsion to induct people that the modern fans know.
It will take several years for the sport's early heroes to all find their way into the shrine, and it's tragic that so many of them never lived to see it.
42. Buck Baker Enjoys a Beer in the Car
This is another instance where time has bared out that what appeared to be a great idea at the time probably wasn't so grand after all.
Years ago, Buck Baker decided it would be a refreshing treat to have a beer during the race.
He rigged a douche full of beer to a long tube that hung in front of him in the cockpit so he could sip his way around the race track.
Unfortunately, the vibration in the car turned the beer almost to pure foam, and Baker only got a few sips during the cautions.
I'm not sure why this is embarrassing.
It may be due to the fact that a driver was actually drinking beer in the car.
Then again, it could be that with all the creative engineering going on in those days, nobody had a way to suppress the vibration and keep Buck's beer fresh.
43. Curtis Turner Sticks It to the Man Again
In 1966, Curtis Turner was back from his ban from NASCAR after attempting to form a union.
He came back in style.
In August 1966 the schedule went to Columbia, SC for a race that David Pearson won.
The race is just as memorable for what Turner wore to the race.
He came in a suit and tie.
Turner said that his sponsors wanted him to wear a suit, and he didn't know what kind so he just wore his best.
He finished third, but on the style scale that's a winner.
Just one more example of how the guys from the past were far more creative when it came to getting over on their handlers.
44. David Hobbs Interviews Bobby Allison
In 1994, Bobby Allison was in the midst of one of the most painful periods any father could go through.
His own career ended by a near fatal accident, he had seen both of his sons killed in the previous 18 months.
Clifford Allison was killed in August of 1992 practicing for a race at Michigan, and then Davey Allison was killed in 1993 in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.
Courageously, the patriarch of the Allison racing dynasty soldiered on and was on hand for the 1994 Daytona 500.
It was the first Daytona 500 since the death of both of his sons.
During the race, CBS pit road reporter David Hobbs managed to interview Bobby, and asked him about the strange nature of not having any Allisons in the race.
It remains probably one of the most tasteless interviews in the broadcast history of the sport, and a quick google search of David Hobbs and Bobby Allison will undoubtedly turn up something about it.
You can find it at 3:12 into the video.
45. Tiger Tom Pistone Wears a Life Vest
Everyone knows that driving a race car requires a certain amount of courage.
That doesn't necessarily mean that that courage extends beyond the race car.
On the inside of the backstretch at Daytona, Lake Lloyd provides a great place to boat on a race weekend.
It was also a source of intense fear for Tiger Tom Pistone.
Pistone carried a life vest and oxygen tank in his race car because he feared that he would crash in the lake and he couldn't swim.
Drivers never leave any stone unturned.
46. Bill Weber the Great!
For most of the last decade, Bill Weber was one of the most recognizable broadcast personalities in NASCAR.
First with NBC and then with TNT, Weber became the traffic cop for the network coverage of the races.
In 2009, it all came to an end at New Hampshire.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Weber was involved in some sort of loud confrontation at his hotel prior to the New Hampshire race in June 2009.
He was initially suspended for the remainder of the season, but never again returned to the air.
After his own disappearing act, he's embarked on a new career, presumably making things other than himself disappear.
He's a magician.
47. Michael Annett DUI Charge
NASCAR prides itself on the fact that as a general rule, its athletes don't get in trouble on the scale that other athletes do.
When drivers do go bad, it makes the headlines.
Just prior to the start of the season, Rusty Wallace Racing Nationwide driver Michael Annett was arrested and charged with DUI in North Carolina.
Annett was allowed to compete despite the charge, and he's got a court date looming this month.
He also faced sanctions from NASCAR and his team.
It wasn't the way Annett wanted to start his run for the Nationwide title.
48. Kurt Busch Police Confrontation
According to police in Arizona, back in 2005 the normally genial Kurt Busch wasn't that way when he was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving.
Busch was pulled over after police say he ran a stop sign near Phoenix International Raceway the Friday before the November race.
Police say he was confrontational and argumentative with officers, and he was taken into custody for a breathalyzer test.
The machine was broken, and Busch was cited for reckless driving.
By that point, car owner Jack Roush had essentially washed his hands of the driver, who was on his way to Penske Racing for the 2006 season.
49. Tony Stewart Grapples in Australia
Tony Stewart is, by just about any estimation, a pure racer.
While other drivers may spend their offseason time going on elaborate vacations that some of us may not ever dream of, Stewart hops a plane and finds a race.
He's widely respected for that very reason. There's a purity to his craft that never escapes him.
Back in January, Stewart was involved in a physical confrontation with a track owner in Sydney, Australia.
Stewart reportedly clubbed the owner with a helmet and the owner retaliated.
Police were involved, and it was the topic of conversation during the preseason test at Daytona.
As a general rule, Stewart has toned down his outbursts in recent years. In 2002 he had a run in with a photographer and in 2008 he had some sort of confrontation with a USAC official.
This time, the more mature Stewart is repentant.
"I've lost a lot of sleep over it. I'm very embarrassed. I'm not the least bit proud of it. I'm ashamed of it."
50. Jocko Flocko
Racing is an entertainment business.
The rule is, never work with children or animals.
As the drivers are getting younger, they're approaching children so that's out.
Still, it's a good idea not to work with animals.
Wait, that's happened too.
Back in 1953, the great Tim Flock ran eight races with a monkey named Jocko Flocko as a co-pilot.
The monkey even made it to victory lane at Hickory in May of that year.
Jocko had his own seat and firesuit.
At Raleigh, Jocko was checking tire wear through a trap door when a pebble from the track hit him in the head.
The monkey panicked, climbed on Flock's head, and he was forced to pit and get the monkey off his back.
Jocko cost Flock a second place finish and $600 that day, and after that Jocko's days in the cockpit were over.
Maybe Jocko wasn't embarrassing, but he was embarrassingly bad at handling himself in the cockpit.