It’s Speedweeks in Daytona, with a week of festivities and racing leading up to the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, this Sunday.
So in honor of the Daytona 500 and the start of another NASCAR season, this week we’re taking a look back at some of the greatest moments in the history of NASCAR’s biggest race.
Yesterday we brought you the wild moment when Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer and set the track ablaze during the 2012 race.
And today, we’re going back to this day in 1993.
It was the first Daytona 500 since Richard Petty – a 7-time Daytona 500 winner himself – decided to hang up his helmet.
And it was also the first Daytona 500 for an up-and-coming young rookie named Jeff Gordon, who was making only his second start in the then-Winston Cup Series.
Meanwhile, veteran Dale Earnhardt, who had already won 5 Cup Series championships, was trying to win his first Daytona 500, a victory that had so far eluded him in his previous 14 tries.
But on Valentine’s Day 1993, it was another Dale who would get the checkered flag and score his first Daytona 500 win – all while his dad called him to victory on live television.
Dale Jarrett was in his 5th full season in the Cup Series. In 1992, he had joined a brand new team started by Washington Redskins football coach Joe Gibbs – a decision that many questioned when he left the storied Wood Brothers car for an unknown and unproven team.
Dale explained more about his decision to go to Gibbs during an appearance on The Dale Jr. Download:
“Joe Gibbs is a very persuasive person. He’s successful at whatever he does…
Even though this is a brand new team that was going to start out, I said ‘This is my chance to win the Daytona 500.'”
The Move To Joe Gibbs Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing had struggled in its inaugural season, with Jarrett in the #18 Interstate Batteries car finishing a disappointing 19th in the final standings and only scoring two top-10 finishes all season.
But Jarrett had a solid Speedweeks in 1993 – even telling his wife and his dad that he was going to win the Daytona 500.
He qualified second for the race, and ran near the front of the pack for much of the day, managing to avoid a series of big wrecks in the closing laps of the race.
With 3 to go, Earnhardt was in the lead, no doubt hungry for his first Daytona 500 win in his 15th try. Rookie Jeff Gordon was turning heads running just behind the Intimidator, with Jarrett close behind in his bright green #18 car.
On the next lap, Jarrett went to the high side and got by Gordon, setting his sights on Earnhardt leading the field.
Coming to the start/finish line to take the white flag, Jarrett had managed to work his way up to Earnhardt’s inside, and the Dales crossed the line side by side to begin the final lap.
And up in the broadcast booth, Dale Jarrett’s dad, former Cup Series Champion Ned Jarrett, was watching his son fight to win NASCAR’s biggest race.
As the white flag waved, CBS producers told Ned Jarrett’s broadcast partners, Ken Squier and Neil Bonnett, to let Jarrett make the call to bring his son home to victory. So that’s what they did, with Dale seemingly following his dad’s instructions as he directed his son around the racetrack in what has now become an iconic call in Daytona 500 history:
“Come on, Dale. Go, baby, go! All right, come on. I know he’s got it to the floorboard, he can’t do anymore.
Come on, take ‘er to the inside. Don’t let him get on the inside of you comin’ around this turn. Here he comes, Earnhardt. 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!”
Dale recently reminisced on the moment and what it meant to have his dad calling the race on TV:
“It is enough in itself to be a tremendous thrill. I’d always dreamed of winning the Daytona 500. But having your dad in the booth…was something that was even more special for us.
Obviously I didn’t know what was going on there, but everyone else was told to lay out and let my dad bring me home to victory, so to speak. And to have that moment as a father and son was just incredible, to rewatch that and to understand everything that was taking place there.”
It would be Jarrett’s only win that season, but a strong start to the season propelled Jarrett and his second-year Joe Gibbs team to a top 5 finish in the final points standings – with Dale Earnhardt going on to win his 6th Cup Series championship.
Jarrett would win two more Daytona 500s in his career, and won the series championship in 1999 before ultimately being inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014.
And Joe Gibbs Racing, obviously, has gone on to become one of the most successful teams in NASCAR, with 200 Cup Series victories and 5 championships going into the 2023 season.
But it all started with that first Daytona 500 win for Dale Jarrett, back in 1993.