When NASCAR decided to do an exhibition event for drivers that had won races the previous season and up to the current race in the current season, it was clear this race would be different than any other run on the season. No points were at stake, no risk of falling in the standings, and no worries about a championship. Simply put, go out, win the race, and win the money.
That has given this race many unique moments, and unique instances to remember.
The first race in 1985 was won by Darrell Waltrip, it was a 70-lap race and his owner, Junior Johnson, built a car and engine that would work well for that race. Waltrip would get the win by a good distance, but right after taking the checkered flag, white smoke came right out the exhaust, as the engine blew. Johnson built an engine that would be good for 70 laps, just not 71.
We all remember the “Pass in the Grass” from 1987 between Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, a race won by Earnhardt and one that got Elliott angry. Two years later, the spin by Rusty Wallace on Darrell Waltrip caused the crews to fight, and Waltrip giving two of his famous lines from his career, both “That’s what happens when greed overcomes speed,” and his direct line to Wallace, “I hope he chokes on that $200,000.”
When this race went under the lights in 1992, things changed in an instant. That first night was described as “One Hot Night,” thanks to the night atmosphere, and the battle at the line with Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. Allison couldn’t even make it to victory lane as he wrecked across the line, and was cut out of the car to be taken to the hospital.
Probably the most notable moment in the history of this race, and one that made NASCAR change procedures, was in 1997 when the team of Jeff Gordon brought out the infamous “T-Rex” car, named not for the Jurassic Park look, but team engineer Rex Stump. At that time, the rule book was not as big as it is now, so the grey area was a bit more clear, and the Hendrick engineers used that to their advantage, and built a car that was unlike not just any car they had, but any car that was on the track. Yet, it was a legal car by the rules, yet teams knew it was different, and began complaining.
That night, Gordon would blow away the competition in a car that was different, yet legal. However, NASCAR took the car, and agreed that it was legal, but wouldn’t be for long. They told then-crew chief Ray Evernham that he better not bring the car back, and when asked why since it was legal, NASCAR officials simply said, “It won’t be next week.” The rule book was changed, and that grey area shrank for the first time, and has since gotten even smaller.
In this race you’ll see NASCAR do things that won’t happen in other races. In 2001 part of the field wrecked on the first lap, because it was raining, and NASCAR never waved off the start. Under the red flag teams were working on their cars to try and get back out, but those that were beyond repair didn’t know what to do. Then, in one insane decision, NASCAR told the teams that they could roll out their backup cars, change into their original engine, and they would do it again.
Jeff Gordon won that race, in a backup car, something we’d never see on a normal race weekend.
Everything about the All-Star Race is different, both in how you’re eligible, how it is run, and even down to how qualifying is done. It’s a weekend where teams can push the limits on the rules, and their equipment, without fear of losing position in the standings, or being penalized, although NASCAR will penalize for not being within guidelines. Just ask Carl Long about his over-powered engine penalty that pretty much has put his career at a stand-still.
It’s the All-Star Race, a chance for the brightest and best to just race for bragging rights and a big check. That’s what makes it fun for everyone.
SPRINT SHOOTOUT WINNER: Clint Bowyer
SPRINT SHOOTOUT RUNNER-UP: A.J. Allmendinger
FAN VOTE WINNER: Josh Wise
SEGMENT 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
SEGMENT 2 WINNER: Kasey Kahne
SEGMENT 3 WINNER: Kasey Kahne
SEGMENT 4 WINNER: Kevin Harvick
RESULTS: 1-McMurray 2-Harvick 3-Kenseth 4-Earnhardt Jr. 5-Edwards 6-Johnson 7-Bowyer 8-Vickers 9-Hamlin 10-Keselowski
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Stewart 14-Kahne 17-Gordon 21-Kyle Busch
CAUTIONS: 7 for 16 laps. Lap 20-20 (Competition), 27-30 (#18, 15, 22 accident-T3), 32-33 (#47 accident-BS),40-40 (Competition), 60-60 (Competition), 62-67 (#24, 78, 16 accident-T3), 80-80 (Competition).
LEAD CHANGES: 9 among 6 drivers. Edwards 1-11, Kyle Busch 12-20, Hamlin 21-29, Edwards 30-34, Kahne 35-40, McMurray 41-46, Kahne 47-60, McMurray 61-75, Harvick 76-80, McMurray 81-90.
TIME OF RACE: 1 Hr, 20 Mins, 35 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 100.517 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.696 Seconds