DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2010) — The 1993 Daytona 500 provided a photo-finish fit for a family album, provided that family was the Jarretts.
In the record book, the result reads cold and concise — a .16-second margin of victory by Dale Jarrett over Dale Earnhardt. But this was a result with ramifications beyond the checkered flag, as it became one of NASCAR’s signature moments, memorable to say the least.
On the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval, the competition evolved into a fantastic “Dale vs. Dale” battle, with Jarrett chasing down Earnhardt in the closing laps. Jarrett was trying to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Earnhardt was trying to finally win the Daytona 500 on what was then his 15th attempt.
Up in the television booth, Ned Jarrett had his own battle ongoing — to keep his composure. The invariably unflappable CBS commentator found himself torn between doing his job and cheering his son down the stretch. CBS’s Bob Stenner black-flagged protocol in deciding to see if the father could somehow do both. Stenner told play-by-play man Ken Squier to “lay out,” television lingo for basically getting out of the way and letting a situation develop naturally.
And develop it did.
Jarrett, a 36-year-old driver with the then-fledgling Joe Gibbs Racing organization, had the audacity to horn in on another late-race duel, that one involving Earnhardt and a heralded rookie named Jeff Gordon. Using an aerodynamic boost from longtime Earnhardt adversary Geoff Bodine, Jarrett went from third to first, getting past Earnhardt after their cars bumped in Turn 3.
Coming out of Turn 4, entering the DIS tri-oval and finish line, the nation’s television viewers heard Ned Jarrett at his finest.
“Come on Dale! Go, baby go! He’s gonna make it … Dale Jarrett’s gonna win the Daytona 500!”
Moments after that memorable call, the cameras found Martha Jarrett, Dale’s mother, crying her eyes out, happily. As for Ned, he was having the same experience, and became the welcome recipient of a box of tissues in the booth.
Dale Jarrett had delivered car owner Joe Gibbs his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win — in the sport’s biggest race, no less. There was serendipity at work; Ned Jarrett won two series championships in the 1960s but never won the Daytona 500. Interviewed post-race, Dale dedicated the victory to Ned and the rest of his family.
The 1993 Daytona 500 finish was NASCAR at its finest.