Title preview? NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge winners tend to be series champions, too DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- Last season's inaugural "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" wound down to the final lap of the season finale ...
Title preview? NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge winners tend to be series champions, too
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- Last season's inaugural "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" wound down to the final lap of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And given the competitive twists of a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, it's difficult to predict who will hoist the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
But not if you follow the sport's all-star history.
Saturday's 21st annual NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway provides the latest crystal-ball opportunity: Beginning with the first all-star event in 1985, eight drivers who won all-star races also won the series championship in the same season.
They are: Darrell Waltrip (1985); Dale Earnhardt (1987, 1990, 1993); Rusty Wallace (1989) and Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997, 2001).
"Regardless of all the wins, top fives and top 10s, the poles and the money, that win in the 1989 all-star race at Charlotte -- the circumstances and all -- it was probably the single most monumental event in my career," Wallace said.
And although defending champion Matt Kenseth's (No. 7 DeWALT Power Tools Ford) first all-star victory came the year following his 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title, he's well aware of the boost and prestige generated by a NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge victory.
"Really, you're out to win the race and out to get the trophy and be on the list, you know, with the rest of the drivers who have won that race over the years," Kenseth said.
The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge isn't the only event on this weekend's all-star menu. The inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge presented by MOTOROLA on Thursday at the Charlotte Coliseum celebrates the sport's "team" aspect by spotlighting individuals -- the crews who work with their drivers. It also gives NASCAR a complete all-star event weekend by focusing on a skills competition.
A total of 24 teams are eligible: The teams qualified for Saturday's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, plus the team that won last year's NEXTEL Open, a preliminary race to the all-star challenge for teams without wins in the previous and current seasons; the team of the NEXTEL Open competitor last year who made the "big race" via a fan vote, and other teams eligible based on current owner points.