1994 was the young driver Jeff Gordon's first year on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, and Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace held their usual season-long battle for the 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt ended the season far, far ahead in the points battle -- even though Wallace won twice as many races.
Recall the highlights of the season with the pictures and 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup chronology that follows:
February 11, 1994
Veteran driver Neil Bonnett loses his life in a practice crash at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the upcoming Daytona 500. Bonnett's Chevrolet breaks loose in the fourth turn and slaps the wall nearly head-on.
February 20, 1994: Daytona 500
Sterling Marlin holds Ernie Irvan at bay in the final laps to record his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory in the Daytona 500. Marlin's first triumph comes in his 279th start, the longest it has ever taken a driver to post his first win.
Sterling Marlin outruns Ernie Irvan by two car lengths to win the Feb. 20 Daytona 500. Ironically, Irvan won the 1991 Daytona 500 in the #4 Morgan-McClure/Kodak Chevrolet and enjoyed a successful three-year run with the Virginia-based team. This victory was Marlin's first -- and his 279th career start in 18 years of NASCAR Winston Cup competition. See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 27, 1994: Goodwrench 500
In Rusty Wallace's second start in a Ford, he rides to victory in the Goodwrench 500 at Rockingham. Wallace and the Roger Penske team switched from Pontiacs to Fords during the off-season.
March 27, 1994: TranSouth 400
Dale Earnhardt enjoys a resounding victory in Darlington's TranSouth 400. The 7.4-second triumph over runner-up Mark Martin is Earnhardt's ninth career win on the venerable Darlington track, one shy of David Pearson's all-time mark of 10 wins on the 1.366-mile oval.
Geoff Bodine's #7 Ford runs inches ahead of #43 John Andretti and #4 Sterling Marlin in the Oct. 2 Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Despite starting in 18th position, Bodine moved through the field and dominated the event, leading 335 of 400 laps. He finished a lap in front of Terry Labonte. It marked the last time a driver lapped the field in a NASCAR Cup Series event.
May 1, 1994
Dale Earnhardt gallops past Jimmy Spencer with five laps to go and racks up his seventh career win at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt's Chevrolet finishes .06 second ahead of runner-up Ernie Irvan, who currently holds the championship points lead.
May 29, 1994: Coca-Cola 600
Youthful Jeff Gordon hustles past Ricky Rudd with nine laps to go and goes on to win the Coca-Cola 600. It is the first career NASCAR Winston Cup win for the 22-year-old.
Rival pit crews stand at the edge of pit road to congratulate Sterling Marlin after his first career NASCAR Winston Cup win in the 1994 Daytona 500. Marlin took the lead 21 laps from the finish and kept runner-up Ernie Irvan at bay for the final 50 miles. It was the final win for the Chevrolet Lumina model in NASCAR's biggest annual event. The popular Monte Carlo would return in '95.
June 12, 1994
Rusty Wallace charges past Dale Earnhardt on the final lap and holds on to win at Pocono. A late caution flag sets up the final one-lap dash.
July 2, 1994: Pepsi 400
Jimmy Spencer nabs Ernie Irvan a few feet short of the finish line and prevails in a photo finish, scoring the first NASCAR Winston Cup win of his career in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Spencer leads only the final lap and beats Irvan by .08 second.
July 10, 1994: Slick 50 300
Ricky Rudd, in his first season as owner/driver, runs down Dale Earnhardt and scores a close win in the Slick 50 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. It is Rudd's 15th career victory, marking the 12th consecutive season he has won at least one race.
Bobby Hamilton, Dale Earnhardt, Ernie Irvan, and Ward Burton speed down the frontstretch at Bristol International Raceway during the April 10 Food City 500. Earnhardt came from the 24th starting position to outdistance the 37-car field. He led the final 183 laps for his first short-track victory since October 1991.
August 6, 1994: Brickyard 400
Sophomore Jeff Gordon leads the final five laps and holds off Brett Bodine to win the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. More than 340,000 trackside spectators watch Gordon claim his second career victory.
August 21, 1994: Champion Spark Plug 400
Geoff Bodine starts on the pole and dominates the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Ernie Irvan is critically hurt in a practice crash the day before the race.
September 4, 1994: Mountain Dew Southern 500
Bill Elliott ends a 52-race winless skid with a victory in Darlington's Mountain Dew Southern 500. Elliott overcomes heating problems to score his 40th career victory.
Dale Earnhardt runs a length ahead of rookie Jeff Burton in the early stages of the Slick 50 300. Burton signed up with Bill and Mickey Stavola's Ford team in 1994, and the freshman driver performed remarkably. He recorded a pair of top-five finishes and won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award despite formidable competition from brother Ward Burton, Joe Nemechek, and Steve Grissom.
September 25, 1994
Rusty Wallace scores a one-car-length victory over Dale Earnhardt at Martinsville. Despite eight wins to Earnhardt's three, Wallace trails by 222 points and is effectively out of the championship hunt.
October 23, 1994
With a narrow victory over Rick Mast in the 500-miler at Rockingham, Dale Earnhardt locks up a record-tying seventh NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
Learn more about Earnhardt's victory and the 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup season's final standings on the next page.