The Winston explained

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 13, 2003) -- What separates The Winston from other professional sports' all-star events? Well, to start, $1 million. That's what the winner will receive Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, a reward that's part of...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 13, 2003) -- What separates The Winston from other professional sports' all-star events?

Well, to start, $1 million.

That's what the winner will receive Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, a reward that's part of an overall $3 million purse for an event that does what other all-star outings used to do: provide true excitement despite an exhibition format.

Twenty-four drivers will race a total of 90 laps around LMS' 1.5-mile oval, a distance to be divided into three segments of 40, 30 and 20 laps. And of course, in keeping with the event's history, there are twists at every turn. Only 20 cars advance from the first segment; only 14 advance from the second segment. And then, a vote by fans on NASCAR.com -- already under way -- will determine the number of cars inverted (four, six, eight or 10) for the final segment.

The Winston, in its 19th year, will start with a field of 24 this year. The race invites drivers/teams who won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series event in a previous or current season. Also eligible are winners of The Winston within the preceding five years or past NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions. And then there's the wild-card entry afforded the winner of The Winston Open, a race for all teams not already eligible for The Winston. The Winston Open will precede The Winston on Saturday. It will be 30 laps, divided into segments of 20 and 10 laps, with the 10-lap run having only 14 cars.

There's something else that makes The Winston, technically an exhibition, actually much more than that. Teams use the event as a guide for setups for next week's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600.

"If your car is driving well, you're running for a million dollars; but if your car isn't driving well, you're learning from that and applying it to the 600 instead," said reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart.

"I've always [thought that] however your car is driving in The Winston is relatively true to how your car is going to drive in the 600. I've always felt like it's a really good test because it's really the only time we have to run at night in race conditions [before the 600].

"It's as fun as Winston Cup racing can be, and I think that shows."

-nascar-

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart