It went through a name change and a venue change, but Sunday’s All-Star Race delivered what was needed most: a power boost. North Wilkesboro Speedway, long abandoned by NASCAR and revamped at warp speed last year, was electric all weekend, even if Kyle Larson ran off the field and hid.
NASCAR needed a lift, just as it needed to move the Busch Light Clash away from Daytona Speedweeks to give it a new feel. The difference is that the novelty has already worn off in racing at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It wouldn’t happen nearly as quickly with the All-Star Race if it stayed in North Wilkesboro.
Sunday push for the event is identical to the lift introduced by Humpy Wheeler in 1992.
The Charlotte All-Star Race began in 1985
The decision to bring Darrell Waltrip to FS1 for FS1’s telecast of Sunday’s All-Star Race was no accident. “DW” won the inaugural edition in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when it was known as The Winston.
The following year, Bill Elliott was victorious at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He returned to Charlotte for 33 years before the pandemic caused a shift to Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020. Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney captured the 2021 and 22nd races, respectively, at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson is the standard by which All-Star Race drivers are measured. He won When It Was Known as The Winston (2003), the Nextel All-Star Challenge (2006), and the Sprint All-Star Race (2012 and ’13). It is now simply a NASCAR All-Star race.
Kyle Larson scored his third All-Star race win on Sunday, each at a different track.
“One Hot Night” broke new ground for the All-Star Race
The novelty of the All-Star race did not wear off after the first seven races, with Dale Earnhardt scoring two of his three wins. However, it needed a head start to create new interest in 1992, and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s czar Humpy Wheeler delivered by cranking the scene under the lights.
Aside from attracting a new audience, Wheeler’s idea of ”One Hot Night” ensured that Charlotte would stay in the running for another quarter-century. The first major NASCAR track race to be run at night was another turning point for the sport.
All it took was one of the most expensive light fixtures ever built for a sporting event. It drew over 100,000 fans and turned the All-Star Race into the primary Cup Series that lasted.
Davey Allison defended his title after a late crash
The legendary Dale Earnhardt was on his way to his third All-Star race victory that night in 1992 when he lost control of the backstretch as the white flag flew. Kyle passed Petty, but defending champion Davey Allison was close.
They raced side by side to the checkered flag, with Allison’s Robert Yates Racing Ford (with Larry McReynolds as crew chief) getting there first. However, the competitors crashed at the line, and the No. 22 car hit the outside wall.
Allison missed the Victory Lane celebration. He was flown to the district hospital by helicopter and treated for a concussion and a contused lung. A week later, Allison finished fourth at the Coca-Cola 600 behind Earnhardt, Ernie Irvan, and Petty.
The end of Sunday wasn’t nearly as exciting. Kyle Larson went to the back of the field after an early speeding penalty, made his way to the lead with less than 40 laps to go, and cruised to victory to close out the weekend celebrating North Wilkesboro’s return to NASCAR.
Have a question or comment about racing? John Moriello of Sportscasting does a column in the mailbag every Friday. Write to him on [email protected]