If you are old enough to remember when RJ Reynolds announced The Winston prior to the 1985 season you will likely be flooded with thoughts of how prestigious that race was going to be. The race was going to be held Saturday, May 25th which was the day before the Coca-Cola 600. To be eligible for the event you had to be a previous race winner in 1984 or 1985. The race was going to be 70 laps among 12 drivers and pay $200,000 to the winner. Now, $200,000 may not sound like an astronomical amount in 2018, however that amount was unheard of in 1985. For comparison sake, Bill Elliott won $185,500 for winning the 1985 Daytona 500. Using an inflation calculator, a $200,000 check in 1985 would equal about $462,000 now.
The inaugural running of The Winston would be won by Darrell Waltrip in his Junior Johnson prepared Budweiser Chevrolet. Famously, Waltrip’s engine exploded as he crossed the start/finish line as he took the checkered flag.
The All-Star race was a big deal in NASCAR for years and felt special. Who can ever forget the “hold your lead in the grass” move by Dale Earnhardt in 1987 after contact with Bill Elliott? Ah, I guess “pass in the grass” does have a nicer ring to it so we’ll stick with that. What about the 1989 race where Rusty Wallace gave Darrell Waltrip the nudge in turn 3 propelling Wallace to victory and Waltrip to utter the famous quote, “I hope he chokes on that $200,000.” Then you have the 1992 running of the event in what was a landmark achievement at the time; running Charlotte Motor Speedway under the lights.
No matter which of these past All-Star races come to mind I’m sure you have great memories. However, these past few years have been pretty rough. NASCAR has tried several different things to spice up the competition in the All-Star event over these past few years but the races have been lacking that thing that made them must watch for many years. But this year just feels different.
You see, NASCAR announced they were going to be using a modified version of the package the Xfinity Series cars ran at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year. That race was by far the best Xfinity race at the track since they began running there in 2012. The 2017 running had 16 lead changes. The previous three events had a combined 19 lead changes. Slowing down the cars with restrictor plates as well as the tweaked aerodynamic package should keep the field tighter in the 2018 All-Star event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Whether this is a huge success or an epic failure you have to give NASCAR credit for trying this package out. It’s a non-points event so it won’t hurt anything and it gives the fans something we aren’t that used to anymore; a true element of the unknown. Will the cars in fact remain in packs? Will they be able to slingshot without assistance? Can this package greatly reduce the negative aero effects we have come to be accustomed to?
Only time will tell how this will actually play out. The fact remains that this 2018 version of the All-Star race will be intriguing from several different points of view. What happens if this package does in fact produce great racing? Is NASCAR going to feel the squeeze to implement a version of these rules into additional points races this season? Had this race been run under the current rules package it would be relatively easy to predict the favorites. With this great unknown it’s really wide open as to what may happen. Get your popcorn ready folks because I believe we are in for one heck of a ride Saturday night.
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