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NASCAR's 12 Greatest All-Star Races

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12. 2010: Why you mad, bro?

The 2011 Sprint All-Star Race came down to Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin battling for the win. Denny fades high exiting Turn 2 as DW says, “Put ‘em een the wawll!!!” Kyle’s post-race reaction was succinct (ear muffs!) and complete with memorable radio wire yank from. I understand him being mad for getting run up into the wall, but did he really have it won? Busch never even got along side Hamlin …

by Vito Pugliese

11. 2004: With friends like this...

Kurt Busch offers a hand to Roush teammate Greg Biffle here in 2004. Unfortunately, you can’t really bump draft with Gen 4 cars. And not at Charlotte. And not through the quad-oval. What results when one does is a 195 mph debacle, taking out the two team cars, nearly a third, as well as Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and others. It also helped set the stage for Biffle’s then-girlfriend (now wife) Nicole getting into it with Busch’s then-wife (now ex) Eva at Texas two years later after a similar incident. By the way, check out Junior driving through that, managing to miss everything.

by Vito Pugliese

10. 2007: Oh Brother, Why Art Thou … Wrecking Me

Witness Kyle Busch attempt to execute a move that I once tried in my fourth career season in NASCAR Thunder 2003. There’s no way in hell it’s going to stick, but it’s the All-Star Race and it was for the win. Mike Joy’s summation isn’t much different than what we’d hear over the next five years or so. This incident in part also helped set the stage for Busch’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing a year later. Kurt. Meanwhile, gives a great interview around the 3:00 mark. Joy’s comment following is even better. “So much ...”

by Vito Pugliese
 

9. 2001: Why NASCAR doesn’t race in the rain

Picking up the action at 3:33, the race gets going just as it gets going raining, with cars sideways out of Turn 4 and into Turn 1 as the sky opens. NASCAR made the, uh, "unprecedented" decision to let those involved in the wreck go to back up cars since it was a non-points paying exhibition race. One of those involved, Jeff Gordon, rebounds to win in the replacement ride.

by Vito Pugliese  

8. 2000: The rookie rules the roost

Fresh off his first career win at Texas Motor Speedway just a month earlier, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pits while running second for a couple of adjustments to get him a car capable of contending for the win in the 200 All-Star Race. He proceeds to mow down the veterans in front of him setting up a duel with defending Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett. Junior wins the battle, and I find myself missing that exuberant guy celebrating with his team as opposed to the quiet and corporate dude of 2013. I also miss the other guy coming into congratulate him by putting him in a headlock.

by Vito Pugliese

7. 2002: The Mayor’s politically correct observation

Sometimes the fastest car doesn’t win; the smartest team does. Jeff Burton’s No. 99 crew, led by crew chief Frankie Stoddard, did just that in the first segment of the 2002 running of The Winston. Burton’s pit stall was positioned just 50 yards from the start-finish line, so the required four-tire stop was able to be delayed until the last lap. Burton lapped the field as others pitted, then cruised to a runner-up finish in Segment 1.

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by Vito Pugliese

6. 1998: The well goes dry

In 1998, the new Ford Taurus was on a tear. Engineered from the get-go to make maximum downforce and excel on intermediate tracks like Charlotte, it was in a perfect position to continue its early season dominance. That is until Jeff Gordon and his Ray Evernham-engineered No. 24 showed up. Gordon and Mark Martin had dominated the event and the former was leading into the last lap of the final 10-lap segment with Martin and Bobby Labonte on new tires gobbling up his lead. As the 24 took the white flag, all went silent in the car. Later, Evernham would say they forgot to refuel it. Hmmm ... maybe. Or maybe they just didn’t want to call attention to something else. After all, Gordon would go on to win the 600 a week later.

by Vito Pugliese  

5. 1985: Ka-ching and Ka-boom

It’s been debated for nearly 30 years now. Did he or didn’t he? As Darrell Waltrip crosses the finish line in the inaugural Winston in 1985, the engine goes up in a thick cloud of smoke. Like, literally as he crosses the finish line. Did he clutch it? Or did car owner Junior Johnson build, as Mike Joy notes, a 105-mile hand grenade? Johnson is a legend and all, but what are the odds? Let the debate rage on.

by Vito Pugliese   

4. 1996: Mikey makes his move

Michael Waltrip had been racing for 10 years and made 309 career starts when he raced his way into The Winston in 1996. On the final lap, Dale Earnhardt rattles Terry Labonte’s cage, clearing the way for Mikey and the Wood Brothers Ford to cruise home to his first Cup win. As Waltrip would later recount, his first thoughts upon celebrating were, “It doesn’t count.” He would have to wait another five years for his first “official” Cup win.

by Vito Pugliese

3. 1987: The Pass in the Grass

Yeah, it’s kind of a misnomer. It’s not really “a pass in the grass” so much as a “block Bill, almost spin yourself out and save it while in the grass.” There was something special about that mid- to late-80s generation of cars and bias-ply tires that was a thing of beauty to watch. Sliding sideways, smoking the rear tires at 17 0mph, cars that legitimately looked “stock” … and “Woaaah, Nelly!” how about Keith Jackson calling the action?

by Vito Pugliese

2. 1989: “I hope he chokes on that money.”

While The Winston was first run in 1985, it wasn’t until ’89 that it really came of age with a watershed moment that “defined” what was to be expected forever more. Coming to take the white flag, Rusty Wallace makes ever-such-slight contact with a rejuvenated Darrell Waltrip — who had won three races already that season, including the Daytona 500. The contact sent DW’s Tide Ride sliding through the grass and triggered a fracas in the garage between the two teams. While the incident may have cost “Jaws” the $185,000 payday, it transformed him from heel to fan-favorite in an instant — propelling him to Most Popular Driver honors in ’89 and 1990.

by Vito Pugliese

1. 1992: One Hot Night

While the 1989 dust-up between Darrell and Rusty may have ruffled some feathers and bruised some egos, the 1992 running of The Winston went further: it sent Davey Allison to the hospital. Guys in cars do weird things when there’s big money on the line, and on the last lap they did just that in NASCAR’s first 1.5-mile night race. Kyle Petty’s Mello Yello Pontiac pulls down to pass Dale Earnhardt, and things get interesting. Of note, much like Kyle Busch and Kasey Kasey last week at Darlington, Petty never makes contact with Earnhardt. This also proves you don’t have to be going 200 mph on a 1.5-mile track for the racing to be exciting, and why SAFER Barriers should not be taken for granted.

by Vito Pugliese