Earnhardt’s rattle of Labonte’s cage ranked Bristol’s best moment

To commemorate its 50th anniversary, Bristol Motor Speedway has compiled the top moments in the track’s esteemed history. (Well, not the track itself. Fans voted on it. But you know what we mean.) Number one on that list? What else could it be but Dale Earnhardt rattling Terry Labonte‘s cage?

The year was 1999, and Earnhardt and Labonte battled for the lead. On lap 499 of the 500-lap race, Labonte grabbed the lead briefly, but Earnhardt seized command by tipping and turning Labonte. The stands rained down both boos and cheers. And Earnhardt offered up a quote for the ages when he said he simply meant to “rattle his cage” … even as his grin said otherwise.

Below, via Bristol Motor Speedway itself, are the other top moments in the track’s history:

• A reversal of the above. It was 1995 Night Race, and Labonte, who had not led, but had stayed among the top five, finally overtook leader Dale Jarrett on lap 432. But Earnhardt, who had led on and off throughout the race, was coming quickly. And with just a few laps remaining he was on Labonte’s bumper. He finally got into him hard enough on the last lap to send Labonte spinning but the Texan was able to stay out front and, despite fishtailing across the stripe, beat Earnhardt to the line. It was as the checkered was flying that Labonte lost control of his car, slammed the outside wall and skid backward toward Turn 1. Labonte gingerly drove his mangled ride to victory lane for his second win, and Earnhardt, who finished a mere .10-second behind, had to settle for the runner-up position.

• After leading for 415 of the first 469 laps during the 2008 race, Kyle Busch was nudged out of the lead by Carl Edwards, who managed to stay out front the rest of the way to capture his second straight August race win. Busch, however, wasn’t pleased with Edwards’ move earlier in the race and on the cool down lap, the pair got into a bumping contest, spinning each other out. The pair continued the squabble over the BMS public address system in post-race interviews, much to the delight of fans.

• Last year, after winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 Camping World Truck Series race and the Food City 250 Nationwide event, Kyle Busch made NASCAR history when he completed the three-race sweep with his IRWIN Tools Night Race victory. Before Busch’s feat, no driver had ever won in all three national series in the same weekend.

• In 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr., made it two in a row, becoming, at that time, the only driver to sweep the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. led the final 85 laps and cruised to a four-second win over Ryan Newman to his first Cup win at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

• Much like the 1997 scuffle in the spring race when Jeff Gordon nudged Rusty Wallace on the final lap to take the win, it happened again in August of 2002. Gordon tapped Wallace, who was leading, with just three circuits remaining, moved him out of the way and went on to score his fifth Cup win at BMS.

• The date was Aug. 25, 1984 when Darrell Waltrip’s amazing streak of seven straight Cup wins at Bristol came to an end as Terry Labonte grabbed his first win at the half-mile oval. Waltrip, who led 144 laps early in the race before having problems, finished 21st.

• The historic Night Race was born on Aug. 25, 1978 and won by Cale Yarborough. Yarborough and Benny Parsons were the only two cars on the lead lap — and Yarbrough beat him to the line by 16 seconds.

• Morgan-McClure Motorsports, from nearby Abingdon, Va., won its first ever Cup race in the 1990 Night Race with Ernie Irvan at the wheel. It was Irvan’s first career Cup win as well. On the team’s 165th start, Irvan, who started sixth, led the final 90 laps and beat runner-up Rusty Wallace to the checkers by .21-second.

• No yellows at Bristol? That was the case July 11, 1971 when Charlie Glotzbach drove his new Junior Johnson-owned ride to the win in the only race ever contested at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile that was caution-free.

The eagle-eyed among you will note that only two of those moments came from after the controversial 2007 repave. Make of that what you will.

Earnhardt’s rattle of Labonte’s cage ranked Bristol’s best moment

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