One Hot Night tops memorable NASCAR All-Star Race moments

The NASCAR All-Star Race, the annual opportunity for Cup drivers to compete for a $1 million payday, returns to North Wilkesboro Speedway this weekend.

While all-star events are viewed as an "off-week" in other sports, NASCAR's All-Star Race is anything but casual. Drivers go all out while slamming doors, blocking and racing for position.

The prize alone ups the intensity level throughout the field. So does the fact that the winner of the exhibition event has a guaranteed spot in future All-Star Races.

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying

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The result, as NASCAR history has shown, is that drivers are willing to do whatever it takes to win the All-Star Race and its prize.

Here are some of truly memorable moments in All-Star Race history.

One Hot Night

The year was 1992. NASCAR made a big change and decided to hold the All-Star Race under the lights for the first time. The result was one of the most memorable moments in NASCAR history.

Davey Allison and Kyle Petty combined to lead 57 of the 70 laps that fateful night at Charlotte Motor Speedway but it was Dale Earnhardt who put himself in the lead with six laps remaining. The Intimidator was in position to win his third All-Star Race but he first had to fend off a hard-charging Petty.

As Petty tried to make a move to the inside, Earnhardt went down and blocked. This forced Petty off the racing surface. Petty continued drawing closer to Earnhardt's bumper like a wild animal in pursuit. The No. 3 slid out of control.

It appeared that Petty would capture the win but the race was not over. Davey Allison, the winner of the 1991 All-Star Race, made a late charge and pulled up alongside Petty coming to the checkered flag. The two drivers made contact crossing the line and Allison won by mere feet.

Allison did not get to celebrate. The contact sent him spinning into the outside wall. Allison won the race but took a trip to a local hospital to receive treatment for a separated collarbone.

The 1992 All-Star Race — known as The Winston — did not disappoint. It had action. It had drama. It had the biggest stars racing for a big payday under the lights and slamming doors in the process.

There's a reason why fans still look back fondly on this race.

"I was alive and awake for One Hot Night," Brad Keselowski said. "And for me, that will always be the pinnacle of the All-Star Race."

Pass in the grass

1987 winston elliott and earnhardt.jpg
1987 winston elliott and earnhardt.jpg

It should not be a surprise that some of the best moments in All-Star Race history have featured Earnhardt. He won the exhibition event three times and made some jaw-dropping moves in the process.

Possibly the biggest of these moves took place in 1987, the year Earnhardt won his first All-Star Race.

Bill Elliott, who sought his second All-Star win, lost the advantage late in the race after spinning Geoff Bodine. Earnhardt dove to the bottom of the track and made the pass for the lead while Elliott checked up.

Elliott chased Earnhardt down once again and made numerous attempts to pass the No. 3. All were in vain.

One of these attempts actually led to contact with the rear of Earnhardt's car, which sent it sliding into the grass. However, Elliott never regained the lead as Earnhardt slid through the grass and maneuvered back onto the track ahead of Elliott. Earnhardt went on to win his first All-Star race after pulling off "The Pass in the Grass."

Granted, this wasn't actually a pass as Earnhardt remained ahead of Elliott the entire time. Regardless, it was still a wildly entertaining moment in NASCAR history.

Where there’s Smoke, there’s burnouts

Sprint All-Star Race
Sprint All-Star Race

Tony Stewart made a major move after the 2008 season. He left Joe Gibbs Racing after winning two championships and became the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. He continued racing while driving the No. 14 Chevrolet.

The early portion of the Cup season was relatively uneventful for Smoke. He posted five top-five finishes and eight top 10s in the first 11 races but remained winless heading into the All-Star Race.

This is the race that showed what Stewart could do in his own car.

An issue in qualifying buried Stewart near the back of the field for the start of the main event, but he worked his way toward the front while riding the bottom line at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He then moved into third place after a wreck sent Jeff Gordon into the outside wall.

A caution for debris set up a final five-lap run to the checkered flag. All Stewart had to do to claim the $1 million prize was pass Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

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NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 - Qualifying

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This was not an easy feat but Stewart accomplished it by working the bottom of the track. He passed Busch low to move into second place. He then worked his way past Kenseth with two laps remaining in the race. Once Stewart was in clean air, there was nothing keeping him from his first All-Star Race win.

This win marked Stewart's first trip to victory lane with his own team and it kicked off a successful stretch of the season.

Three weeks after winning the All-Star Race, Stewart won at Pocono. He then won the summer race at Daytona and the race at Watkins Glen. Stewart captured his fourth win of the season at Kansas in October.

Stewart ended his inaugural season at SHR with four point wins, an All-Star Race win and a sixth-place finish in the championship standings.

Sibling rivalry

What is powerful enough to make family members stop talking for over a year? There are many answers to this question but the Busch brothers provided one back in 2007.

Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch were both in the top five in the final segment of the 2007 All-Star Race. $1 million was within reach.

A family-altering incident occurred when Kyle made a move to the inside of his older brother on the frontstretch. The move worked initially but Kyle lost control after their two cars made contact multiple times.

Kyle began to slide up the track as the elder Busch brother moved wide to avoid any contact. He was unsuccessful. The rear of Kyle's No. 5 Chevrolet clipped the rear of Kurt's No. 2 Dodge. They both crashed while Kevin Harvick went on to win the All-Star Race.

The two brothers did not speak for several months after crashing each other in the All-Star Race. They couldn't agree who was at fault for the incident that took away a potential payday. Ultimately, it was their grandmother who sat them both down and ended the feud.

The conflict is long behind the Busch brothers but their All-Star Race incident lives on in infamy, serving as an example of the chaos that can unfold when drivers are racing for $1 million.

Choke on the money

The early days of the All-Star Race created expectations of drama between its drivers. The race in 1989 did not disappoint.

Darrell Waltrip was in the lead during the final segment of the All-Star Race, en route to a win and a big payday. The prize that year was $200,000. Rusty Wallace was behind Waltrip and in the hunt for an All-Star Race win of his own.


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Wallace achieved his goal of taking the lead, albeit after ruffling some feathers. He made contact with the rear of Waltrip's No. 17 and sent it spinning through the grass as the white flag waved.

Wallace went on to win the All-Star Race while Waltrip finished seventh. The drama was not over after the checkered flag, however, as members of the two crews fought each other in the pits.

Waltrip also succinctly showed his displeasure, saying that he hoped Wallace "choked" on the $200,000.