NASCAR has provided us with some seriously intense and memorable moments in racing over the years. For example, there was the time Dale Earnhardt Sr. spun out Terry Labonte at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1999. The wreck happened on the final lap of the short track race and goes down in NASCAR history as an extremely controversial win for Earnhardt. Tensions and emotions were high for the drivers as the long race neared the end. Adrenaline was flowing and the drivers were giving it everything they had to take home the win.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame driver was known for racing hard, but claims that he didn’t mean to spin Labonte. Certain NASCAR fans choose to believe that, but others don’t buy the story. Regardless if it was purposeful or not, it was action-packed as hell, and the crowds roared like never before from the grandstands. The 1999 Bristol night race was a huge moment, but to really understand the whole story, we need to start from the beginning.
Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte: 1995 Bristol Race
So, here’s where it all starts. During the 1995 race at Bristol, Terry Labonte managed to squeeze into first place on lap 432. Dale Sr., who was sent to the back of the pack for spinning Rusty Wallace on lap 32, did everything he could to make his way back to the front. Amazingly, as the racers come up to the white flag, Earnhardt charged his way up toward the front. He managed to pass lapped drivers and, eventually, ended up right on Labonte’s rear bumper. Labonte had nowhere to go as he stuck to the inside lane and got stuck behind the lapped racers. Earnhardt charged hard in an attempt to overtake and tried to squeeze into the far inside lane.
As they turned the last corner, Earnhardt didn’t have enough room to make the move and bumped Labonte’s bumper, sending him crashing into the wall as they crossed the finish line. Luckily for Terry Labonte, he wasn’t hurt, and he still managed to see that checkered flag and take home the win in the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy race car.
Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte: 1999 Bristol Race
Now, we get to the really good stuff. During the ’99 Bristol race, Labonte made his way into first position, where he claims that his brother blew his engine and spilled some oil on the race track. As the caution came out, Labonte slowed his race car and decideed not to pass the lapped racers on the track. Well, Darrell Waltrip was right behind him and came in a little too hot, hitting the rear bumper of Labonte’s race car just enough to spin him out.
After a long race, he surprisingly made his way back near the front of the pack. Again, as the white flag came out, it was The Intimidator versus Labonte. With some aggressive driving, Terry managed to sneak to the inside of Dale, as the two went side-by-side around the turn, trading some paint in the process. The crowd roared as Terry got around the Goodwrench Chevrolet to take the lead position. Just moments later in the lap, Earnhardt positioned himself right behind Labonte and hit his rear bumper, causing him to spin out. Earnhardt continued past the wreckage to win the race that night.
Obviously frustrated, Labonte explains that he had intentions to T-bone Earnhardt’s race car when he came back around the track. He sat on the back straightaway and waited, then threw his car into gear, gave it some gas, and dropped the clutch to go for the pit maneuver. Well, the car broke its reverse gear when he did that, so the car only moved about half an inch. Although Labonte didn’t get his frustration out by spinning Earnhardt back, he claims his anger subsided after the car broke. He came to conclusion that it was better that the gear broke, because it could have been turned into a much worse situation.
As Earnhardt entered victory lane, the crowd was louder than any race before. There were a lot of fans cheering, but also a large portion were booing the driver for winning that way. The boos were undoubtedly noticeable, so it really showed how many people disagreed with the outcome of that race. I’ll let you form your own opinion about how everything played out, but either way, there’s no denying that this was a classic motorsports moment.
This post was originally published on April 30, 2020.