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2011 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Notes

Here are some notes of (possible) interest on Saturday's running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race, in no real order:

  • This marks the 27th running of the Sprint All-Star race. The event began life in 1985 as "The Winston," a name that held until R.J. Reynolds left the sport after 2003. The race was the "NEXTEL All-Star Challenge" from 2004-07, then became simply the Sprint All-Star Race in 2008.
  • Darrell Waltrip won the inaugural All-Star race but ignited a controversey when his engine blew just seconds after he crossed the finish line. Allegations persist to this day that Waltrip's Junior Johnson-owned Chevrolet was running an illegal motor and Waltrip intentionally blew it sky high when the race was over to destroy the evidence.
  • Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon are tied for most All-Star victories with three apiece. Jimmie Johnson or Mark Martin could equal that mark with a win Saturday. Terry Labonte, all but retired, and the late Davey Allison are the only other drivers to win the race more than once.
  • Chevrolet has 14 wins in the previous 26 All-Star races, the most recent coming in 2009 with Tony Stewart. Ford has nine wins, but none since Martin's second triumph in 2005. Dodge has won twice, including last year's event with Kurt Busch, while Pontiac won the 1989 event with Rusty Wallace. Toyota has never won the All-Star race, with its best finish being a second by Martin Truex Jr. last year.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has six All-Star victories - three by Gordon, two by Johnson, and Labonte's 1999 victory. Richard Childress Racing has four - three with Earnhardt and one by Kevin Harvick in 2007. The only other teams with multiple All-Star wins are Roush Racing with three (Martin in '98 and '05, Matt Kenseth in 2004), Penske Racing (Ryan Newman in 2002, Busch last year), and the defunct Robert Yates Racing (Allison in 1991 and '92) and Junior Johnson and Associates (Waltrip in '85, Labonte in '88).
  • Allison is the only driver to win the event in consecutive years. His 1992 victory is perhaps the most spectacular in stock car racing history, as he squeezed inside of Kyle Petty off the final corner and beat him by inches to the line. The two cars collided at the stripe, sending Allison driver's side first into the outside retaining wall. Rather than going to victory lane, he ended up going to the hospital.
  • Only three drivers have won the All-Star race after transferring from one of the preliminary qualifying events. Michael Waltrip recorded his first Cup Series win of any kind in the 1996 Winston after finishing fifth in the Winston Open. Ryan Newman won the No Bull Sprint in 2002, then became the second rookie to ever win the All-Star race by holding off the first - Dale Earnhardt Jr. - in a thrilling duel. In 2008, Kasey Kahne became the first and only driver to date to transfer to the All-Star race via the Sprint fan vote and parlay that into a win.
  • Georgia's Bill Elliott has only one All-Star victory, and it came in Georgia. The 1986 event was held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, but a poor crowd sent the race back to Charlotte where it has remained ever since.
  • Jeff Gordon's three victories have all been historically significant. He won the 1995 race after old foes Dale Earnhardt - driving the now-famous Silver Select race car that ignited the special paint scheme craze - and Darrell Waltrip tangled while dueling for the lead. Earnhardt banged his ankle in the crash, while Waltrip suffered broken ribs. Gordon's win made him the youngest-ever winner of the race and he remains the only man to win it before his 25th birthday. In 1997, Gordon's No. 24 team, noted for rewriting the record books, rewrote the rulebook with the imfamous "T-Rex" car which promoted the Jurassic Park film from that year. The car was so groundbreaking - and so borderline-illegal - that Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham were ordered to never bring it back to a race track. In 2001, Gordon was one of four drivers to crash in the first turn when a sudden rainshower fell on the track as the race started. Each driver was permitted to use his backup car, and with zero practice on his No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon won the race. All three of his victories came in seasons in which he won the Winston Cup title, as well.
  • Two owner-drivers - Geoff Bodine in 1994 and Tony Stewart in 2009 - have won the All-Star race. In both cases, it was each driver's first win with their respective team. Bodine, who purchased Alan Kulwicki's race team after the 1992 Winston Cup champion was killed in an April 1993 plane crash, brought the team its sixth victory. Stewart, meanwhile, was given 50%-ownership of the former Haas-CNC Racing team for signing with them for the '09 season. The organization had never won a Sprint Cup race prior to Stewart's victory.
  • The Earnhardts are the only father-son combination to win the All-Star race. The Waltrips are the only pair of brothers to win it.
  • Nine eventual series champions have won the All-Star race: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Dale Earnhardt (1987, '90, '93), Rusty Wallace (1989), Jeff Gordon (1995, '97, '01), and Jimmie Johnson (2006).
  • The ten previous winners of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race: 2001: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet); 2002: Ryan Newman (No. 12 Ford); 2003: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet); 2004: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford); 2005: Mark Martin (No. 6 Ford); 2006: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet); 2007: Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet); 2008: Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge); 2009: Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet); 2010: Kurt Busch (No. 2 Dodge)

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.