NO Bull Shootout heats up Charlotte weekend

CONCORD, N.C. (May 18, 2000) As if The Winston weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway wasn't raucous enough, officials of the 1.5-mile oval and event sponsor R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company have stepped up the excitement quotient in NASCAR 2000. ...

CONCORD, N.C. (May 18, 2000) As if The Winston weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway wasn't raucous enough, officials of the 1.5-mile oval and event sponsor R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company have stepped up the excitement quotient in NASCAR 2000. Saturday night's three-race package will include a pair of preliminary events that will establish the field of 20 drivers for the culmination of a $2 million night of racing. Event and series sponsor R.J. Reynolds in 2000 raised the winner's share of the purse to $500,000 for the 16th annual "all-star race."

While The Winston, with its three-segment format, has always delivered on unbridled thrills throughout its 70 green flag laps; this year's 30th anniversary of the partnership between R.J. Reynolds and NASCAR promises to deliver a few more.

Before The Winston comes to the post at about 9 p.m. ET (TV: TNN, 7 p.m. ET; MRN Radio, 7:15 p.m. ET), the 30-lap Winston Open and 16-lap No Bull Sprint will each deliver a winner that will complete the 20-driver field.

The common denominator that keeps participants, on-site fans and TV viewers on the edge of their seats is the risk-vs.-reward percentage involved in the event. Winning carries a heavy payoff -- anything else doesn't come close to measuring up.

"The Winston has always been a driver's race," said 15-year participant Ricky Rudd, who has to race his way into the show this year. "There are no points so it's just almost a 'winner takes all' deal and us drivers like that."

Practice for The Winston opens on Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET. Winston Open practice is held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1-1:55 p.m. The 55-minute practice's lap times will set the starting lineups for a pair of "No Bull 25" qualifying races that will set the starting lineup for the Winston Open.

Final practice for The Winston qualifying is scheduled from 2-3:55 p.m.

At 7 p.m. ET, The Winston's unique qualifying format takes center stage. Each car's three-lap total-elapsed-time run begins with a mandatory two-tire pit stop, followed by a no speed limit run off pit road. The pole winning driver and team will split a $50,000 payoff. Bobby Labonte's Interstate Batteries Pontiac team won the pole for the event a year ago.

At 8:45 p.m. ET, the No Bull 25 qualifiers are scheduled to form the 27-car field for the Winston Open. The finishing order of each race will set the inside and outside lines, respectively, for Saturday night's Winston Open.

On Saturday, two practice sessions are scheduled for each race. The Winston practice is from 1-1:40 and 2:30-3:10 p.m. ET. The Winston Open practice is from 1:45-2:25 and 3:15-4 p.m. ET.

The Winston Open is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and will immediately followed by the inaugural No Bull Sprint, which will consist of all the lead lap finishers from the Open save the race winner, who transfers to The Winston.

Rudd is faced with the unique task of having two opportunities to race in his 16th The Winston. Only three-time winner Dale Earnhardt and three-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, who won the event in 1985 are currently qualified for their 16th straight The Winston.

The Winston, 70 green flag laps run in segments of 30, 30 and 10 laps, has a $500,000-to-win payoff. The first two segments pay $50,000 each for first. It will be determined between the first two segments if 12 cars will be inverted.

Terry Labonte in the Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet is the defending champion of The Winston. The 18 drivers who are qualified heading into Saturday night's preliminary events include Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, the Labonte brothers, Earnhardt, Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Jeff and Ward Burton, Rusty Wallace, John Andretti, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart, Joe Nemechek, Jeremy Mayfield, Kenny Irwin and Bill Elliott.

Great seats are still available for The Winston and its preliminary events starting at just $15 each. Call the Speedway's ticket hotline at (800) 455-3267 to order tickets. Tickets will also be available at the gate the night of the event.

The Winston has resulted in exactly what you'd expect when at least 20 of the best NASCAR Winston Cup drivers go at it wide open with no holds barred on Lowe's 1.5-mile oval: Some pretty fantastic finishes and some of NASCAR's most exciting racing.

Since the race's inception in 1985 there have been quite a few breathtaking finishes. Following is the history of The Winston:

1985 - Darrell Waltrip, driving the Budweiser Chevrolet, wins the inaugural The Winston by overtaking Harry Gant on the white flag lap. Waltrip's engine blows as he takes the checkered flag. In its first running the 70-lap race is not broken down into segments. The field consists of 12 drivers.

1986 - The format of the race changes from 70 to 83 laps. Elliott, driving the Coors/Melling Ford, leads all but one of the laps, and easily takes the checkered flag. The field consists of just 10 drivers. Run at Atlanta Motor Speedway, this installment of The Winston is the only running of the all-star event not held at Charlotte.

1987 - The now familiar three-segment format is run for the first time and includes the most recent 19 winners on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit. The final spot in the expanded 20-car field is filled by the winner of The Winston Open. Early in the race Elliott spins Geoffrey Bodine. Later as Earnhardt and Elliott battle for the lead, Earnhardt makes a thrilling pass in the grass and goes on to win the 135-lap event, beating Terry Labonte and Tim Richmond.

1988 - Six different drivers exchange the lead eight times during the 135-lap event, but with eight laps to go, Terry Labonte passes Elliott for his first The Winston win. Only seven of the 19 drivers who started the race finish on the lead lap.

1989 - Wallace wins The Winston for the first time, after spinning Waltrip on the last lap. Much controversy arises from Wallace's "Tide slide" move, and tempers flare after the race. Ken Schrader finishes second and Earnhardt is third. Waltrip finishes seventh.

1990 - The race format is made more exciting by reducing the number of laps from 135 to 70. Earnhardt dominates the race by leading every lap and becomes the first two-time winner of The Winston. There are no caution flags.

1991 - Davey Allison duplicates Earnhardt's dominating performance from the year before, leading every lap of the race and beating Schrader by nearly three seconds. Again, there are no caution flags.

1992 - The Winston is run at night for the first time under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Three drivers swap the lead in the last 1/4-mile of the race. Kyle Petty spins Earnhardt out of the lead, then Allison overtakes Petty at the finish line. The two crash after they cross the line and the race winner spends the night in the hospital.

1993 - Despite a hand slap for jumping a restart, Earnhardt passes Martin for the lead with two laps to go and holds on to win his third The Winston by just .16 seconds.

1994 - Five caution flags for 18 laps slow the race's average speed to 115.561 mph. Bodine becomes another first-time winner of The Winston.

1995 - While battling for the lead, Earnhardt and Waltrip crash, making room for Gordon to win The Winston for the first time.

1996 - A battle between Labonte and Earnhardt gives The Winston Open transfer Michael Waltrip the chance to make a daring pass on the inside and capture his first victory in The Winston.

1997 - Gordon comes from the back of the pack in his controversial "T-Rex" car to record his second triumph in The Winston. The car became a show car.

1998 - Gordon runs out of gas as he takes the white flag, allowing Martin to capture his first The Winston win.

1999 - The field for the 15th running of The Winston is the largest ever. Two accidents during the first 30-lap segment take seven cars out of contention. Terry Labonte's gamble to pit for four fresh tires prior to the final 10-lap segment pays off and he earns his second victory in The Winston.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Geoffrey Bodine , Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Harry Gant , Tim Richmond , Mark Martin , Davey Allison