The Winston, NASCAR’s annual all-star race, will return to Lowe’s Motor Speedway Saturday night, May 19, for the 17th edition of the winners-only special event. Since its inception in 1985, the unique format of The Winston has produced some of the sport’s most exciting racing, and has generated some of the most interesting and entertaining quotes in stock car racing history. A selection of the highlights follows:
1987: Dale Earnhardt posted a controversial victory after bumping incidents with Bill Elliott and Geoff Bodine. The contact with Elliott sent Earnhardt through the infield grass at Lowe’s Motor Speedway without losing the lead. Tempers flared after the race.
“Ernie (Elliott) walked right up to me and said, ‘That’s really chicken****,’” said Earnhardt’s car owner Richard Childress. “I told him if he wanted to keep his face looking the way it did now, he better get the hell out of my pit stall.”
Bill Elliott was less pleased. “A lot of things were going on when the green flag dropped,” Elliott said of a restart with a few laps remaining. “Earnhardt cut me off there, and he cut me off again. Then he ends up almost running me into the wall. That ended up knocking the fender in and cutting the tire down. He hit me several times. If a man has to run over you to beat you, it’s time for this stuff to stop. What he did wasn’t right. When a man pulls over and lets you by and then tries to run you into the wall, I’d say that was done deliberately. I’ve been beat on at Watkins Glen, Talladega and here by one car, Earnhardt’s. If somebody doesn’t do something about this, we’re coming back next week and we’ll see what happens.”
1989: Rusty Wallace nudged leader Darrell Waltrip as the pair raced to the white flag, sending Waltrip spinning and Wallace to victory lane. “It was an ugly, ugly win,” Waltrip chirped. “I hope he chokes on the $200,000, that’s all I can tell him. He knocked the hell out of me.”
“We just ran out of room,” Wallace replied. “I got under him and we touched. I backed out of the throttle and he spun. I didn’t intentionally hit him.” Waltrip, however, wasn’t finished talking. “A lot of guys let greed overcome speed, and that’s what happened today. I got spun out. A guy drove down underneath me and drove up into me and spun me out. It was blatant. I had him pretty well covered. I just didn’t want to make a mistake, but I guess I made one, letting him get up there.”
1992: Davey Allison won by a few feet as he and Kyle Petty crashed their way to the checkered flag, with Allison spending the night in the hospital with a concussion.
“The wreck at the end was just as much my fault as it was his,” Petty said. “We were leaning on each other. I tried to chop him off, but if I had cut across in front of him, I would have ended up in the infield. At the end, he cut on me as I would have on him. We clipped when we came across the line.” Dale Earnhardt was also involved in the wild racing, which led to the last-lap crash.
“I can’t wait until next year,” Earnhardt said. “I ran Kyle down to where he was dragging and sparking. He went into the corner and tried to take what was his. That’s all there was to it—good, hard racing. That’s what it’s all about. It was the last lap.”
1993: Dale Earnhardt prevailed following a controversial restart with just two laps remaining. Officials said Earnhardt jumped the start, which was then called back, giving him a second chance to pass Mark Martin for the victory.
“I feel sorry for Mark,” said Darrell Waltrip. “We were told in the drivers ’ meeting before the race that all normal race procedures would be in effect. But they have to have a controversial finish, even if they have to make one.”
“Ask Ernie Irvan what they do when you jump the restart,” Martin said. “I thought it was over when I received the yellow and white flag, but I don’t make the rules.”
“Dale Earnhardt came in here with a gun and stole $200,000. When I jumped the field at Sears Point, they sent me to the back,” Irvan complained. “It wasn’t any of this ‘if you do it again.’ When did they start giving second chances?”
“It really gets me that somebody can get away with all this stuff and nothing ever gets done about it. “If anybody else flinches they get their hand slapped.”
1995: Jeff Gordon avoided a multi-car accident and won The Winston; however, tempers flared among those not as lucky as the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet.
“We drove into turn one hard and Darrell (Waltrip) kind of took the air off me,” Gordon said. “Then Dale came on strong and they both went by me. I was caught in the middle and it wasn’t looking good going down the backstretch. After they wrecked, I had to worry about Sterling.”
“I got clear of Jeff,” Waltrip said. “And Dale came up and he just kept coming and coming and coming and finally it broke loose. Then bam! He was going to run me out of room and I guess he thought I would lift. Guess what? He was wrong. Maybe I should have backed off and let Dale dive up in front of me, but you can’t do that in the Winston.” Jimmy Spencer and Ken Schrader were involved in an accident early in the race. “I appreciate all R.J. Reynolds does for racing,” said Schrader. “But those people have got to wake up and look at that idiot they have in their car.” Replied Spencer, “You mess with the bull and you get the horns. They may say you can’t win it on the first lap, but that’s bull, too. Get me to the front and let me try to win the race.”
1998: Jeff Gordon ran out of gas on the final lap and Mark Martin drove to victory.
“I’m afraid to say it, but we ran out of gas,” Gordon said. “It’s embarrassing. I don’t know exactly how, but we ran out of fuel. We had an awesome car tonight. At the white flag it started sputtering and I saw Mark (Martin) coming and I pulled over and said, ‘here you go, Mark.’”
2000: Dale Earnhardt Jr. rose from the shadows with a late charge from mid-pack to win The Winston in his rookie effort in the race at the wheel of the No. 8 owned by his father.
“This is really a special night for me,” the young Earnhardt said. “I’ll never forget tonight and I’ll never forget how proud I am of the team and ourselves as a team. You get up there on stage with your dad and a lot of realizations come into play and come into mind, a lot of flashbacks of old times.”
Tickets for The Winston, which also includes the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 100 event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series along with The Winston Open and the No Bull Sprint, start at just $20. Tickets can be obtained by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.gospeedway.com.
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