In 1996, NASCAR became a big enough operation to command a New York City office, and Jeff Gordon had his best season ever on the tracks, winning 10 races. However, he was outmaneuvered for the Winston Cup, which went to fellow Chevrolet driver Terry Labonte instead.
Get the play-by-play on the NASCAR season, and see highlight pictures, with this 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup chronology:
February 18, 1996: Daytona 500
Dale Jarrett passes Dale Earnhardt with 24 laps remaining and scores his second win in the Daytona 500. Jarrett blocks Earnhardt's final-lap moves to post a .12-second victory.
February 25, 1996: Goodwrench 400
Dale Earnhardt swats erstwhile leader Bobby Hamilton out of the way with 50 miles to go and sprints to a controversial win in the Goodwrench 400 at Rockingham.
Sterling Marlin, trying to become the first man in history to post a three-peat in The Great American Race, forged to the front in his #4 Kodak Chevrolet on the 77th lap of the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. After biding his time through the first 190 miles, Marlin seemed poised to etch his name into the history books. But three laps after he took the lead, his engine soured, leaving him with a disappointing 40th-place finish. See more pictures of NASCAR.
April 14, 1996: First Union 400
Terry Labonte ties Richard Petty's streak of 513 consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup starts, capping a perfect weekend by winning the First Union 400 from the pole. Chevrolets finish 1-2-3-4-5 in the race.
April 28, 1996: Winston Select 500
Sterling Marlin holds on for a narrow victory in the Winston Select 500 at Talladega, an event that sends Ricky Craven and Bill Elliott to the hospital. Craven is only bruised, but Elliott suffers a broken leg in a single-car crash.
May 26, 1996: Coca-Cola 600
Dale Jarrett starts deep in the field but runs away for an easy triumph in Charlotte's Coca-Cola 600.
Dale Jarrett guns his #88 Ford into the lead to start the Sept. 1 Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Jarrett had a shot at the Winston Million bonus, having won at Daytona and Charlotte earlier in the season and was in first place when a blown tire sent his car into the wall. He lost a couple of laps in the pits, then returned to the race and finished 14th. Jeff Gordon, who started second, went on to win
June 16, 1996
Jeff Gordon rolls to his fifth win of the season at Pocono. Dale Earnhardt finishes 32nd, but still leads the championship race by 52 points over Terry Labonte.
July 14, 1996: Jiffy Lube 300
Ernie Irvan caps his miraculous comeback from life-threatening injuries by winning the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
July 28, 1996: DieHard 500
Jeff Gordon surges past a thinned-out field to win the shortened DieHard 500 at Talladega for his sixth win of the season. Dale Earnhardt escapes with a broken sternum and a fractured collarbone after a 20-car crash.
In the late stages of the Feb. 25 Goodwrench 400 at Rockingham, Bobby Hamilton appeared to be in for his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. Then a caution flag interrupted his bid for a convincing win. On the restart, Hamilton dashed to the front, but as he assumed command, Earnhardt flicked the quarter panel of his Pontiac, sending it out of control and into the wall. Hamilton blew a tire and crashed two laps later as Earnhardt drove to a controversial victory.
August 3, 1996: Brickyard 400
Dale Jarrett passes Ernie Irvan with seven laps to go and wins the Brickyard 400. Rookie Johnny Benson, Jr., leads the most laps but drops back in a pit-stop shuffle and finishes eighth.
August 11, 1996
Geoff Bodine ends a two-year drought by winning on his hometown track in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Dale Earnhardt, driving with painful injuries, wins the pole and finishes sixth.
September 1, 1996
Jeff Gordon scores his third straight victory at Darlington and seventh of the season, thwarting Hut Stricklin's upset bid. Stricklin leads the most laps, but overheating problems knock him off the pace in the final laps.
Sterling Marlin keeps his yellow Kodak Chevrolet Monte Carlo at the head of the line in the waning laps of Talladega's spring 500-miler. Marlin led the final 22 laps and sped to his fifth career NASCAR Winston Cup win. He beat runner-up Dale Jarrett by .22 second.
September 29, 1996: Tyson Holly Farms 400
Jeff Gordon racks up his 10th win of the year in the Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. It is the final event in the colorful history of the 5/8-mile oval. New owners Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre will move future North Wilkesboro race dates to Texas and New Hampshire, respectively.
October 6, 1996
Terry Labonte moves to within one point of NASCAR Winston Cup standings leader Jeff Gordon with a win at Charlotte. Gordon has won 10 races to Labonte's two, but the points race is the closest in NASCAR history.
Number 5 Terry Labonte and #43 Bobby Hamilton battle side-by-side on Dover Downs' "Monster Mile" during the June 2 Miller Genuine Draft 500. Labonte finished second to teammate Jeff Gordon and maintained second place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Labonte trailed Dale Earnhardt by 136 points at the time, but the tough Texan began a summer charge that would put him atop the standings by July.
October 27, 1996: Dura Lube 500
Bobby Hamilton drives the Petty Enterprises Pontiac to victory in the Dura Lube 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. It is the first NASCAR Winston Cup victory for Petty Enterprises since 1983.
November 10, 1996
Bobby Labonte holds off Dale Jarrett in a spirited duel to win the season finale at Atlanta, as his brother Terry finishes fifth and wraps up his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship. The elder Labonte finishes 37 points ahead of Jeff Gordon to nail down the title.
There were battles for points and battles for victories on the track throughout the 1996 NASCAR season. See how the final standings stacked up on the next page.
1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings
1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Terry Labonte
Labonte took the lead in the standings with a third-place finish at Rockingham in late October. Top-five finishes in the final two events were enough to capture the title by 37 points over Gordon.
Gordon won 10 races, while Labonte won twice. Both Chevrolet drivers had 21 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 efforts. Gordon led 2,314 laps as Labonte led 973 laps. Gordon seemed to have a better year, but Labonte was able to come out on top of the points race thanks to fewer DNFs.
Four-time winner Dale Jarrett placed third in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings and two-time winner Dale Earnhardt finished fourth. See how the rest of the field lined up in the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup standings that follow.
1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings
|Rank||Driver ||Points ||Wins ||Earnings|
|1|| Terry Labonte||4,657||2||$4,030,648|
|2|| Jeff Gordon||4,620||10||3,428,485|
|3|| Dale Jarrett||4,568||4||2,985,418|
|4|| Dale Earnhardt||4,327||2||2,285,926|
|5|| Mark Martin||4,278||0||1,887,396|
|6|| Ricky Rudd||3,845||1||1,503,025|
|7|| Rusty Wallace||3,717||5||1,665,315|
|8|| Sterling Marlin||3,682||2||1,588,425|
|9|| Bobby Hamilton||3,639||1||1,151,235|
|10|| Ernie Irvan||3,632||2||1,683,313|
|11|| Bobby Labonte||3,590||1||1,475,196|
|12|| Ken Schrader||3,540||0||1,089,603|
|13|| Jeff Burton||3,538||0||884,303|
|14|| Michael Waltrip||3,535||0||1,182,811|
|15|| Jimmy Spencer||3,476||0||1,090,876|
|16|| Ted Musgrave||3,466||0||961,512|
|17|| Geoff Bodine||3,218||1||1,031,762|
|18|| Rick Mast||3,190||0||924,559|
|19|| Morgan Shepherd||3,133||0||719,059|
|20|| Ricky Craven||3,078||0||941,959|
|21|| Johnny Benson||3,004||0||947,080|
|22|| Hut Stricklin||2,854||0||631,055|
|23|| Lake Speed||2,834||0||817,175|
|24|| Brett Bodine||2,814||0||767,716|
|25|| Wally Dallenbach, Jr.||2,786||0||837,001|
|26|| Jeremy Mayfield||2,721||0||592,853|
|27|| Kyle Petty||2,696||0||689,041|
|28|| Kenny Wallace||2,694||0||457,665|
|29|| Darrell Waltrip||2,657||0||740,185|
|30|| Bill Elliott||2,627||0||716,506|
|31|| John Andretti||2,621||0||688,511|
|32|| Robert Pressley||2,485||0||690,465|
|33|| Ward Burton||2,411||0||873,619|
|34|| Joe Nemechek||2,391||0||666,247|
|35|| Derrike Cope||2,374||0||675,781|
|36|| Dick Trickle||2,131||0||404,927|
|37|| Bobby Hillin, Jr. ||2,128||0||395,224|
|38|| Dave Marcis||2,047||0||435,177|
|39|| Steve Grissom||1,188||0||314,983|
|40|| Todd Bodine||991||0||198,525|
|41|| Mike Wallace||799||0||169,082|
|42|| Greg Sacks||710||0||207,755|
|43|| Elton Sawyer||705||0||129,618|
|44|| Chad Little||627||0||164,752|
|45|| Loy Allen, Jr.||603||0||130,667|
|46|| Gary Bradberry||591||0||155,785|
|47|| Mike Skinner||529||0||65,850|
|48|| Jeff Purvis||328||0||91,127|
|49|| Jeff Green||247||0||46,875|
|50|| Randy MacDonald||228||0||33,910|
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