75 years on the track is something worth celebrating. All season long, NBC will be recognizing NASCAR’s 75th anniversary and counting down some of the most iconic moments in the sport’s history.
Since 1948, the roar of engines and thrill of high speeds has captivated those around the world. Now, many years later, the excitement remains as the next generation sets another electrifying season in motion.
Whether it’s the first NASCAR Championship victory from Red Byron in 1949 or Ross Chastain’s unforgettable “video game move” in 2022, there are countless memories to relive from the track that will stand the test of time.
We’ll take a look at some of the most incredible moments in NASCAR history, updating regularly throughout the season. Stay tuned to NBC Sports for memories and moments from over seven decades of competition.
RELATED: Click here for the full 2023 NASCAR schedule
Atlanta 2001: Kevin Harvick wins after replacing Dale Earnhardt
NASCAR was changed forever on Feb. 18, 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
Richard Childress, Earnhardt’s car owner and his best friend, considered leaving the sport in the aftermath of Earnhardt’s death but remembered a conversation in which Earnhardt had told him to carry on if anything happened to him. Childress promoted Xfinity Series driver Kevin Harvick to Cup, changing the number of the car from Earnhardt’s iconic 3 to 29.
Harvick finished 14th at North Carolina Speedway in his Cup debut, then scored an eighth at Las Vegas.
The tour moved on to Atlanta Motor Speedway, which would see one of the sport’s magical finishes. Jeff Gordon and Harvick wrestled for the win on the final lap, Harvick edging Gordon by inches at the start-finish line.
The RCR crew celebrated wildly on pit road, and Harvick’s breakthrough win contributed to the healing process as NASCAR recovered from the loss of Earnhardt.
Bristol 1995/1999: The Dale Earnhardt/Terry Labonte Show
Bristol Motor Speedway in the 1990s will be remembered mostly for two races that matched Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte, two of the sport’s giants, on the high ground.
In the track’s 1995 night race, Earnhardt recovered from a long line of issues — an early-race encounter with Rusty Wallace, a spinout and a damaged oil cooler — to challenge Labonte for the win in the closing laps. On the last lap, Earnhardt sent Labonte crashing into the wall, but Labonte held on to win the race, his crippled race car finding its way to Victory Lane. Earnhardt finished second.
Four years later, the same pair was in the late-night spotlight at Bristol. They swapped the lead before Earnhardt hit Labonte on the final lap, causing the Texas driver to lose control. Earnhardt swept past him to win the race.
After the race, Earnhardt said he didn’t mean to crash Labonte. “I meant to rattle his cage,” Earnhardt said. Labonte, a hunting buddy of Earnhardt’s, said Earnhardt “never has any intention of taking anybody out. It just happens that way.”
Charlotte 2002: Jamie McMurray wins in second Cup start
It’s safe to say that Jamie McMurray’s arrival in Cup Series racing was more spectacular than most.
McMurray won in only his second Cup race, outrunning a raft of top drivers to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 13, 2002.
Chip Ganassi Racing called on McMurray to fill the seat in its No. 40 cars after Sterling Marlin suffered a serious injury in a race accident and missed the final weeks of the season. McMurray made his first start in the No. 40 at Talladega Superspeedway, finishing 26th.
The 500-mile fall race at Charlotte was next on the schedule, and the event would mark McMurray’s first Cup run on a 1.5-mile track.
McMurray took the lead after late-race pit stops and outran Bobby Labonte by .350 of a second to win. Following McMurray and Labonte was a group of talent-rich drivers: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Jimmie Johnson.
McMurray, 26, scored seven Cup wins before he retired.
Talladega 2004: Jeff Gordon edges Dale Earnhardt Jr. in controversial finish
The Earnhardt name is magic at Talladega Superspeedway, where Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. enjoyed success after success. But it was Jeff Gordon who rode to victory in a controversial finish at the 2.66-mile track in 2004.
Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. were battling for the lead with five laps to go when Brian Vickers crashed, causing a caution flag. Green-white-checkered overtime rules had not gone into effect at that time, and NASCAR decided the winner — in this case Gordon — based on which driver was in front at the time of the flag. Gordon appeared to be about a half-car-length in front, and he took the caution and checkered flags for the win.
The ruling did not go over well with many in the Talladega grandstands. Drink cans, seat cushions and other debris — some hitting Gordon’s car — were thrown onto the track by fans as Gordon took a victory lap.
Gordon led the race’s final six laps, including the last four under caution.
2013 Daytona 500: Danica Patrick scores first pole win by woman
Danica Patrick’s decision to leave IndyCar racing for NASCAR brought a wave of publicity to stock car racing’s top level, and she rode the crest to headlines in qualifying for the 2013 Daytona 500 at the start of her first full season in Cup racing.
Patrick, driving for Stewart Haas Racing, ran a lap at 196.434 mph to win the 500 pole, becoming the first woman to do so. Jeff Gordon qualified second. Patrick finished eighth in the race.
Patrick’s hopes to have a successful career in NASCAR faded. She didn’t win another pole after the Daytona run in 2013, and she never won a race.
In five-plus seasons in Cup, she had no top-five finishes and seven finishes in the top 10.
2020 The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington: Back to racing
The NASCAR Cup Series had run its first four races of the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in early March.
It would be more than two months before drivers and teams hit the track again. The start of a dramatically reconfigured 2020 Cup schedule took place May 17 at Darlington Raceway.
With strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place, the Real Heroes 400 ran behind closed doors. Only essential personnel were present at Darlington for the race, which was among the first major professional sporting events in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
Kevin Harvick reached a milestone with his 50th career Cup Series win and celebrated by doing donuts at the start/finish line. When he climbed out of his Ford, he was only met with silence.
“The weirdest part of the day for me was getting out of the car and not hearing anybody cheering,” Harvick said.
It was a day unlike any other in NASCAR history. But the sport’s mission had been accomplished. Racing was back.
1959 Daytona 500: Photo finish determines inaugural winner
For years, cars raced on the Daytona Beach, Florida, shores, but Bill France Sr. had another idea — building a high-banked 2.5-mile speedway a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
NASCAR’s first race there was 1959. Johnny Beauchamp was declared the winner, crossing the finish line three-wide with Lee Petty and the lapped car of Joe Weatherly.
Petty claimed he won the race, but it wasn’t until three days later that photographic evidence was found that showed Petty beating Beauchamp to the finish line. The photo was taken by T. Taylor Warrne, who was selected as the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence and honored at the 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
The father of Richard Petty went on to win his third series title, going with crowns in 1954 and ’58.
2020 GEICO 500 at Talladega: NASCAR stands united for Bubba Wallace
During the June 2020 race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, a member of Bubba Wallace’s team reported to NASCAR that a noose had been placed in Wallace’s garage stall.
On the day of the race, drivers and crew members pushed Wallace’s car to the front of pit road in a show of solidarity. Wallace went on to finish 14th in the race.
An FBI investigation later ruled that there was no hate crime because the garage rope had been like that since the previous October and there was no way to know Wallace’s team would have that garage several months later.
After the FBI’s findings were revealed, Wallace said he was “relieved” that he had not been specifically targeted, but also frustrated over the ensuing reaction – which saw some on social media question his integrity and accuse him of perpetrating a hoax.
Since the incident, Wallace has gone on to become a winning driver at the Cup Series level.
In October 2021, he claimed his first career Cup Series win at Talladega, becoming the first Black driver to win a race in NASCAR’s premier division in nearly 58 years.
A second Cup win followed in September 2022 at Kansas Speedway.
2011 Daytona 500: Trevor Bayne adds to Daytona’s legacy of surprise winners
The Daytona 500 is not only NASCAR’s biggest race, but also one of its most unpredictable.
Nine drivers have earned their first NASCAR Cup Series win in the Daytona 500. In fact, it happened in both 2021 and 2022 (Austin Cindric – 2022, Michael McDowell – 2021).
Before then, the most recent driver to pull this feat off was Trevor Bayne.
The Tennessee native captured the 2011 Daytona 500 driving for Wood Brothers Racing, a team that’s competed in NASCAR since 1950 but was running only part-time in 2011 (the team returned to full-time status in 2016).
Making this an even bigger upset: Bayne won in just his second career Cup Series start, which matched a standing Cup record set by Jamie McMurray during the 2002 season.
As Bayne took the checkered flag in overtime, his yell over the No. 21 team’s radio summed it all up not just for himself, but everybody watching: “Are you kidding me?!? What?!?”
1993 Daytona 500: ‘The Dale and Dale Show’
The 1993 Daytona 500 was winding down, and a mother and father could only wonder what fate had in store for their son.
As Dale Jarrett raced for the win, his mother, Martha, watched from a van inside the track, while his father, Ned, helped cover the race for CBS Sports.
The final laps came, and Dale Jarrett had a chance. But could he beat the dominant Dale Earnhardt?
Opportunity presented itself coming to the white flag, and Dale Jarrett made his move. He eventually cleared Earnhardt for first place.
CBS producer Bob Stenner then had lead announcer Ken Squier go silent – and told Ned Jarrett to “call your son home and be a Daddy.”
Ned’s ensuing call has echoed through NASCAR history ever since:
“…It’s the “Dale and Dale Show” as we come off Turn 4! You know who I’m pulling for, it’s Dale Jarrett. Bring her to the inside, Dale! Don’t let him get down there! He’s gonna make it! Dale Jarrett’s gonna win the Daytona 500!”
Moments after Dale Jarrett had won, CBS cameras cut to an awestruck Martha Jarrett in the van.
After a moment, she closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in prayer.
Visit NASCAR on NBC for for more memorable moments and historic tracks all season long, and stay tuned to NBC, USA and Peacock for coverage of the 2023 season.