NASCAR is about speed, excitement and adrenaline, but it is also about epic rivalries.
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“That’s what NASCAR was built on,” said NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon to FOXBusiness’ Dagen McDowell on Friday. "And that’s what really put them on the map was that 1979 Daytona 500, 40 years ago.”
The 1979 Daytona 500 is thought to be one of the most memorable and momentous races of all time. It not only marked the first time in history that CBS Sports broadcasted the entire race on live television, but it also produced an infamous fist fight between frontrunners Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison in the final leg of the race.
“Those kind of moments are crucial,” Gordon added.
But perhaps one of the greatest rivalries known to the sport was between Gordon and Dale Earnhardt. A new documentary, Unrivaled: Earnhardt vs. Gordon, looks at the racers’ relationships on and off the speedway.
“I was fortunate to be able to live through some similar moments to that with my rivalry with Dale Earnhardt,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t as much our rivalry as it was our fans. Our fans were up there battling it out, sitting at home, and going at it over who they wanted to pull for.”
NASCAR viewership has dwindled over the last few seasons. Its top series, The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hit a record low for TV viewership in 2018, averaging 3.3 million viewers across 33 races shown on Fox, NBC, FS1 and NBCSN, according to ESPN. It was down from 4.1 million viewers in 2017 and down from 4.5 million viewers in 2016. And Gordon is putting the onus on current racers to ignite the next generation of great competitions.
“We’ve got some amazing talent that’s out there right now but we need more rivalries,” he said. “It’s important to engage the fans in that way.”