To be honest, across the world of racing, typically there really are just a few barn burning championship finales to give fans something to chat about during the long winter months. Sometimes though, those championship deciders become something more. They transcend the season battle into the stuff of racing legend. To my mind, there are four races that jump out after years of viewing that exemplify what I am talking about.
- The 1976 Formula 1 season was so epic that it inspired the movie RUSH. The 1976 F1 Japanese Grand Prix at the Fuji Circuit, where James Hunt beat out Niki Lauda to win the World Championship. Controversy over LIVE television, darkness, rain took the drama over the top. It’s still one of the most nail biting deciders in F1 history.
- Nigel Mansell’s spectacular rear puncture at the 1986 Australian GP decided the title in favor of the underdog McLaren driver, Alain Prost.
- The 1992 Hooters 500 where three drivers all had a shot at the NASCAR championship, King Richard Petty drove his final race and rookie, Jeff Gordon ran his first race.
- However, the race that still resonates to me top to bottom, green to checkered flag is the 2002 Imola World Superbike Championship round. For over half the season Troy Bayliss was leading the Championship. Once the series got to Laguna Seca 13 rounds in, Colin Edwards RC51 Honda really came into it’s own. So much so, that he ended up winning every round to set up a last race battle between himself and Bayliss at Imola. The final laps of that round show of the finest racing heroics ever seen. It is what a season’s racing should be about: Everything on the line and may the best racer win!
What are some of the season ending races that come to your mind when thinking about barn burning, remember for the rest of your life type of epic battles?
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