CONCORD, N.C. - The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and its Winston brand today announced the revised format for the 2002 running of The Winston, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' all-star event. It'll be "Survival of the Fastest". For the first time in the 17-year history of The Winston, drivers will be eliminated from the grid following both the first and second segments, leaving just the 10 fastest drivers to compete for the winner's share of a $3 million purse in the final 20-lap dash around Lowe's Motor Speedway.
This year's running of The Winston (Saturday, May 18) will consist of three segments totaling 90 laps, or 135 miles, around
the 1.5-mile surface of Lowe's Motor Speedway. The first segment will be 40 laps, after which the field will be trimmed to the top 20 finishers. Segment No. 2 runs a total of 30 laps, after which 10 more competitors will be eliminated to set up the dramatic final segment. Inversion, a staple of The Winston since 1992, will remain a part of the format for the 2002 event, but that process has been relocated and will now follow the second segment. A fan vote will determine whether four, six, eight or the entire field of 10 cars will be inverted for the final segment.
The field for The Winston, by rule, consists of a minimum of 18 drivers who have either won races or championships in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series or The Winston within the last five years, plus one driver who transfers by winning the Winston Open, the qualifier run immediately prior to The Winston, and one driver who wins the last-chance "suitcase race" known as the No Bull Sprint. Currently, there are a record 26 drivers eligible for this year's The Winston.
The Winston Open is composed of drivers and teams who participated in a NASCAR Winston Cup event in 2001 or this season and are not otherwise eligible for The Winston.
This year's Winston Open will be 30 laps in duration, with all laps counting toward the total. As is the case with the first two
segments of The Winston, should the Winston Open encounter a late-race caution, every effort will be made to ensure a
The No Bull Sprint will be 16-laps and features all teams that finished The Winston Open, but did not win the race. Qualifying procedures for The Winston continue to focus on team performance. A four-tire pit stop on the Lowe's Motor
Speedway pit road will begin a driver's qualifying effort, followed by three laps. There is no speed limit exiting pit
road. The total elapsed time of the pit stop and laps will determine the pole position for The Winston, which awards the winning team $50,000. Qualifying will take place on Friday, May 17.
Adaptation and modification have been constants throughout The Winston history. The event has evolved greatly from its
original one-segment, 10-car minimum format in 1985. Some of the most notable changes include:
* First running of The Winston (1985) paid $200,000 to the winner and featured a total purse of $500,000.
* The Winston made its only appearance outside the Charlotte, N.C. area when it was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.
* The Winston, 1987, became a three-segment event with a total purse of $600,000. The Winston Open, a qualifying race for all drivers not already guaranteed a slot in The Winston, was first held.
* In 1989, teams became a more integral part of establishing the race lineup as the pit stop became a required element in The
Winston qualifying. Total purse topped $1 million for the first time.
* The Winston featured a two-segment format in 1990 and 1991.
* Fans attending The Winston became part of the race strategy in 1992 when they were asked to vote whether or not to invert
the entire field following the first of three segments. The answer was a resounding yes.
* The Winston became known as The Winston Select from 1994-96.
* In 1997, The Winston became truly a winners-only event when its eligibility rules changed and reserved guaranteed slots in
the starting grid only for those drivers who had won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series event during the current or preceding year, a NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship and any active driver who had won The Winston within the preceding five years.
* Starting in 1998, only green flag laps counted toward the completion of The Winston. Driver inversion could be as many as 12 cars or as few a three, as decided at random.
* As The Winston moved into a new century in 2000, the purse escalated to a total of $2 million, with the winner pocketing
Throughout the various renditions of The Winston, one thing has remained constant - The Winston is the richest race per mile on the
NASCAR Winston Cup calendar. This year's winner will earn $750,000, or $37,500 per lap over the climactic final 20-lap segment.
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