The 19th running of the NASCAR Winston Cup all-star event will be held on Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Lowe's Motor Speedway. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 14, 2003) -- The Winston has people talking. Drivers and fans alike are buzzing about the...
The 19th running of the NASCAR Winston Cup all-star event will be held on Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 14, 2003) -- The Winston has people talking. Drivers and fans alike are buzzing about the $1 million prize that comes with surviving the segmented march to the most meaningful of professional sports' all-star events.
Under the lights on Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., 24 NASCAR Winston Cup drivers will race a total of 90 laps around the 1.5-mile oval, a distance to be divided into three segments of 40, 30 and 20 laps. Only 20 cars advance from the first segment; only 14 advance from the second segment. And then, a vote by fans on NASCAR.com which is already under way, will determine the number of cars inverted (four, six, eight or 10) for the million-dollar final segment.
The 2003 edition of The Winston will mark the 19th running of the event. Its rich history is depicted in mind's eye memories such as Dale Earnhardt's famous "Pass in the Grass" en route to victory in 1987 and Michael Waltrip's improbable come-from-out-of-nowhere win in 1996.
Memories of The Winston linger. So do memorable quotes.
Following are comments -- past and present -- on NASCAR's all-star event.
NASCAR President Mike Helton on the evolution of The Winston: "We knew it (The Winston) was a good idea back then and something the sport needed to have, and we knew that we just had to build and establish a tradition. Now it has become a spectacle that has history with all the great finishes and moments."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) 2000 winner of The Winston: "I think more races should be like The Winston. It has such a rock-and-roll energy about it -- the fans are excited, the teams are excited and the drivers are excited. It's like the old Saturday night racing -- you have to be aggressive and drive like a madman for the whole race. No holding back, no messing around. ..."
Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) who has qualified for the 2003 Winston via his 2002 win at Las Vegas: "I'll tell you, we've never won The Winston but of any year, this is the year to do it. Having that $1 million dollar purse is pretty cool. I'm just hoping that we can stay out of trouble. We got caught in a wreck last year and lost our good car. It's going to get pretty exciting out there at the end. I just hope everyone stays patient until that point. You don't want to have a big wreck at the beginning of the race and lose your chance for the win. I just want to be out front at the end. Let all of them dice behind me."
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) who qualified for the 2003 Winston due to his win at Chicagoland last year on his favorite part of The Winston: "That it doesn't mean anything points-wise. You can bring your trickiest motor and your newest car. There are special paint schemes and a different buzz in the air from your normal race. It's not just 'I'm here to get as many points as I can get and go on.' It's, 'I'm here to win the race and everything else doesn't matter.' That's pretty cool."
Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) on his memories of participation in 18 editions of The Winston; he won in 1986: "There are so many things that went on throughout the years. I guess I'd have to say that '86 was a pretty good one. I won it that year. I've sat on the pole umpteen times. It's been a good qualifying event for me. I do remember that Earnhardt and I got into it in '87. The caution flag came out and I think he was on the outside and I was on the pole. We got to beatin' and bangin' and I got pretty mad because he took me out. I ran into him after the race. I was mad. He cost me the win. What would you do?"
Darrell Waltrip on his 1985 win and subsequent defense over competitors clamoring that he intentionally blew his engine at the finish: "Junior (Johnson) and I were good friends with Ralph Seagraves at RJR and Junior really wanted to win this. We built a new car (No. 11 Budweiser Chevrolet) with a new motor we tested four or five times. We even used computers during testing and in 1985 using computers was a big deal. We even went to the wind tunnel. It was the most effort I have ever seen for one race.
"When we won the race, we blew the engine coming across the finish line. After, they did inspect it and then everyone was saying that the engine disappeared. I said, 'It blew up. It didn't disappear.' Junior Johnson was good, but he couldn't make an engine disappear."
Michael Waltrip (No 15 NAPA Chevrolet) on his stunning win in 1996, coming from the fifth -- and last -- transfer spot in The Winston Open; Waltrip had yet to win a regular NASCAR Winston Cup race prior to this victory: "I know some people are going to say, 'Duh, he still hasn't won a (NASCAR Winston Cup) race.' Well, I've got a neat trophy and $211,000 and I'm ecstatic."
Then-rookie Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) following his 2002 victory, surviving out of The Winston Open: "This is unbelievable. I guess it's more of an ego thing, but for me, I don't get very emotional about things. It's just knowing that you were able to beat the best, and I did that tonight. That makes you feel really good. Just beating everybody tonight and knowing we were the best on this night is good enough for me."
Earnhardt Jr following his victory in 2000, the first for a NASCAR Winston Cup rookie in The Winston: "We didn't come here to run third. We came here to take all the money."
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) after running out of gas on the last lap of the 1998 Winston: "I'd rather run last than lose like this."
Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellog's/got milk? Chevrolet) winner in 1988 and '99, on running in The Winston: "The Winston has always been one of my favorite events. You're proud to be in it and all the teams put a lot of effort into this race because they're competing in Charlotte, before all of their friends and family members. Forget all the money and the trophies -- when you win it, you know you've beaten the best in the business and that's satisfaction enough."
Jimmy Spencer (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Dodge) who is entered in The Winston Open: "We're excited about this weekend. We really think we can win The Winston Open and race our way into The Winston, because we've shown how strong a team we are. Our finishes aren't indicative of how well we've run. We had a shot to win Bristol. And had a tire not cut down at Richmond, I honestly believe we could've won that race, too. Things just haven't gone our way so far this year, but that doesn't hide the fact we're certainly capable of winning The Winston Open, and then going after that $1 million in The Winston.
Elliott on the 1987 tangle with Earnhardt: "I went home that night and threw away all my Wrangler clothes. I couldn't sleep for two nights. To this day, I can say I've never been as mad as I was then."
Joe Nemechek (No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet) on being the 24th entry into The Winston: "We've had some tough luck the past four or five weeks and to finally get a win is cool. Ironically, The Winston is the first race I drove the 25 car for Hendrick Motorsports. Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) and I are really communicating well with each other. I can tell him what's wrong with the car and he knows how to make the adjustments to correct it. We're so excited about our win at Richmond and our entry into The Winston. I think it's just the beginning for this team."
Harvick on the importance of The Winston: "I think it's very important. It's our all-star event. It's something that you have to win to get in it, and it's the best of the best. That makes it a lot of fun for us and the fans."
Helton on running The Winston on Mother's Day "eve" in 1986 at Atlanta, the lone non-Charlotte event and one that drew only 20,000: "The idea was to have it operate as a stand-alone event and the date available was the Sunday of Mother's Day. We promoted it as a family event to take your mom to and each one received a rose. We had a great festival atmosphere and everything was the way it should be, [except] the day."