The three things that excite me most about NASCAR are gnarly crashes, last lap fender-banging battles and first-time winners. Watching the victory celebration of a first-time winner allows fans to share the driver’s joy. It’s just like watching laughing baby videos on Break – you can’t help but smile.
10. Lake Speed: Darlington 1988
I was really surprised when I saw that Speed remained dry-eyed through the entire victory lane celebration – especially after he got so emotional over his 1985 second-place finish at Daytona. Sadly, this was his only Sprint Cup win.
9. Greg Sacks: 1985 Firecracker 400 at Daytona
This one is pretty cool. Greg Sacks scored his first and only Sprint Cup win while driving an unsponsored research and development car. An unsponsored car usually doesn’t even make it to the track today.
8. Juan Pablo Montoya: Sonoma 2007
7. Dale Jarrett: Michigan 1991
This has always been one of my favorites. Ned Jarrett was in the booth calling the race as his own son hunted down his first Sprint Cup victory by going wheel-to-wheel with the late Davey Allison.
6. Sterling Marlin: 1994 Daytona 500
What better race to gain your first victory than the Daytona 500? That’s got to feel better than winning the lottery and losing your virginity on Christmas day. Marlin had come close so many times before this race (eight 2nd-place finishes) in his 279 starts, but he won his first time out with the formidable Morgan-McClure team in 1994.
5. Alan Kulwicki: Phoenix 1988
Kulwicki is the grandfather of post-race victory antics. He started it all with the backwards victory lap in 1988. He died in a plane crash five years later, just months after winning the Cup.
4. Davey Allison: 1987 Winston 500
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Texas 2000
2. Kevin Harvick: Atlanta 2001
1. Michael Waltrip: 2001 Daytona 500
Some might think it’s distasteful to feature Michael Waltrip’s Daytona 500 victory as No. 1 on this list. Watching Darrell Waltrip cheer on his little brother from the booth is almost enough to make me forgive him for the "boogity-boogity" thing. Michael Waltrip’s first victory has been overshadowed and overlooked in the midst of the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. The senior Earnhardt would have wanted Waltrip to have his moment.
Be sure to watch the entire video above. It’s the only one online from that day that hasn’t been cut up, edited and overlaid with sad music. I’d like to thank YouTuber RRaquello for providing this clean version of those last laps and the post-race celebration.