The GMS Racing driver’s No. 23 Chevrolet will look like the No. 23 Pontiac Waltrip drove in 1986 when he was sponsored by Hawaiian Punch.
“I am really excited about being a part of the throwback weekend at Darlington,” Gallagher said in a press release. “I have always looked up to Michael so getting the opportunity to honor him is an amazing feeling. He has done a lot for this sport and to be able to bring back some memories and history for him and the fans is really exciting.”
Now an analyst for Fox Sports, Waltrip drove in the Cup series from 1985-2017. He earned four wins, including two Daytona 500 victories. He made his last start in this season’s Daytona 500.
He also made 279 starts in the Xfinity Series earning 11 wins from 1988-2011. One of those was at Darlington in 1992.
“I love the throwback weekend at Darlington,” Waltrip said in a press release. “I’m honored that Spencer is racing my rookie year scheme. I came into NASCAR with a ton of energy, enthusiasm and appreciation for the sport and Spencer (Gallagher) is the same way. He will love every minute of racing at Darlington. Just like I did.”
Gallagher is currently 19th in the points standings after 20 races. His best finish so far is 10th at Richmond.
CONCORD, N.C. – Roughly 40 minutes after the 1992 Winston ended in smoke, sparks and battered sheet metal, at least 1,000 fans still occupied the stands.
They were still trying to wrap their minds around it all.
TNN pit reporter Glenn Jarrett was tasked with talking to Richard Petty after his final start in the All-Star Race.
When Jarrett found him, Petty was looking out at the fans, still drenched in the brand-new lights surrounding Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Petty turned to Jarrett and pointed.
“These people think we’re going to go back out there and do this again?” The King asked in disbelief.
In those stands was Kyle Petty. The SABCO Racing driver, along with unofficial bodyguard Eddie Gossage, was walking through enemy territory.
Without an elevator available, they had to walk all the way to the press box. They ascended the steps through verbal and physical projectiles, all so Petty could tell his side of the story that was the last lap.
Petty appeared to touch Earnhardt in Turn 3 (he didn’t), turning him sideways. Then his contact with Davey Allison at the finish line caused the first night race on a 1.5-mile speedway to end in a “shower of sparks” and with Allison in the hospital.
“Every freaking fan in the grandstands is teed off,” Kyle Petty says. “According to every fan, I wrecked Earnhardt going into Turn 3 and I wrecked Davey (at the start-finish line). That’s a fact. … I’m telling you, they were going to kill my butt. It was ugly. ”
In the garage, Larry McReynolds sat on a cooler next to the hauler for Allison’s No. 28 Ford.
The 33-year-old crew chief had just left the infield care center. Allison, after being taken there by ambulance, had left the track via helicopter to a hospital.
McReynolds just sat there, “trying to figure out what the hell just all happened.”
THE FORCES OF DARKNESS
When McReynolds watched the leaders of The Winston enter Turn 1 for the final time on May 16, 1992, he thought his car was going to finish third behind Earnhardt and Kyle Petty.
Had he been right, those gathered around a long table in Charlotte’s Speedway Club on a Tuesday night 25 years later might have had other plans.
Among the attendees are Petty, McReynolds, Michael Waltrip, announcer Mike Joy and former crew chief Robin Pemberton.
On a plasma TV at the far end of the table, the broadcast of the 1992 Winston, also known as “One Hot Night,” silently runs in all its standard definition glory.
The sounds of a Camping World Truck Series test session dominate the air outside the club’s windows.
Over the course of the evening, the familiar images shown every May play out in their natural context. At one point or another, everyone’s past peers out from the TV.
Joy, the lead announcer for TNN’s broadcast, doesn’t speak too much this night. But when he does, he makes it count.
“Being a full moon Saturday night, this race was completely unkind to white cars,” Joy says. “This is going to come down to three black cars in the end. The forces of darkness, whatever you want to call it.”
After an hour of conversation and jokes, everyone’s attention turns to the TV for the last segment and then the final lap. The final lap by which all final laps have been judged since.
For half of it, McReynolds lived vicariously through a crew member named Roman. The crew member had flipped a 55-gallon barrel over and stood atop it to watch the race’s conclusion.
“All of a sudden the crowd is going crazy,” says McReynolds, wearing a vintage Texaco/Havoline blazer. “Then I saw Roman, his eyes were as big as saucers. I was like, ‘What the f— are they doing back there?’”
When the leaders reappeared exiting Turn 4, Allison and Petty were door-to-door with Earnhardt nowhere in sight.
“When they came off (Turn) 4 like that, I said ‘I know who’s going to win that drag race, Robert Yates,’ ” McReynolds says proudly of his former car owner and engine builder.
What happened next was depicted on a painting sitting near the other end of the table. Allison’s car pointing backwards, about to impact the outside wall after taking the checkered flag and making contact with Petty. A spinning Earnhardt is shown in the background.
“It’s like two runners running for the (finish) line and you didn’t think about what was beyond that line,” McReynolds says.
“You just saw the line,” Petty says. “It’s like when you break that tape, you fall.”
The crash put Allison in the hospital until Monday, sent fans into frenzy and resulted in a rival’s car sitting in Allison’s hauler.
As McReynolds sat on his cooler processing the night’s events, he thought about the near future.
“Our team had been through so much,” McReynolds says. “We had an unbelievable start. We won the Daytona 500 … we won North Wilkesboro (and Talladega). But were kind of going through a pattern. Winning one week and wrecking one week. … Here we figured out how to do both in the same night. But we were out of cars.”
From the garage appeared Tim Brewer, crew chief for Bill Elliott’s Junior Johnson-owned car.
“I don’t even know what to say to you, I guess I want to say I’m sorry, but then I also need to say congratulations,” Brewer said.
“This is not good, Tim,” McReynolds responded. “We’re out of frickin’ race cars.”
McReynolds told Brewer he had a brand new intermediate car for the Coke 600, a road course car and two speedway cars. He needed a backup car.
“I’ll give you guys a car,” Brewer said. “You keep it as long as you want, use it if you want to.”
The whole month of June, Robert Yates Racing hauled a Budweiser car with Texaco/Havoline decals stuck in the window, just in case.
NO HARSH WORDS
Even as Petty walked through the angry grandstands, he was concerned for his friend, Allison. Petty would call Allison two days later.
“I talked to Davey on Monday, I think he was still at the hospital when I talked to him,” Petty says. “He had a Busch (Xfinity) car and I was going to drive it over here the next week just to shut everybody up. But we couldn’t work it out with Ford and Pontiac.”
While fans may have wanted or expected there to be bad feelings between Allison and Petty, they were disappointed.
“I can say by the time I got to the hospital, there was never a negative word toward Kyle, between the 42 and the 28, it never even crossed our minds,” McReynolds says. “Two months later at Pocono with (Darrell Waltrip), that’s a whole ‘nother story.”
Anyone wanting bad blood between the drivers wasn’t aware of the nature of the relationship between the men who came of age in NASCAR’s garages.
“Davey and I were competitors, but there was never a rivalry,” Petty says. “We grew up together. We grew up in the garage area when we were 10 years old and (NASCAR official) Bill Gazaway trying to throw us out and running him through the garage area.
“We grew up at the swimming pool at the Sea Dip in Daytona Beach, Florida, swimming together and playing together. … Then he started racing and I was working with my dad, we didn’t see each other in those years. Then all of a sudden you’re back at the race track racing against each other. We never had harsh words. I never in my whole life, in my whole career racing against Davey in any way shape or form ever remember having anything but respect and a good relationship. There was no base for that, even after that wreck, there was nothing there.”
What about Earnhardt?
“Earnhardt’s OK, he’s not mad,” Petty says. “He’s mad, but not mad at anybody.”
‘TIME HAS REALLY GOTTEN MESSED UP’
The passage of time has a weird way of reminding you it’s relative.
Just ask NASCAR drivers.
“You know what’s crazy to me? ’92 seems like a thousand years ago,” Waltrip says. “And nine years later was ‘01 when Dale died and that seems like yesterday.”
“I know, it does,” Petty agrees.
“Time had really gotten messed up for me,” says Waltrip, who won the Winston Open that preceded “One Hot Night” and later won the 1996 All-Star Race.
“I know … the same thing with Adam,” says Petty of his son who was killed in an accident during Busch Series practice in 2000 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Everything before Adam’s accident sounds like it was history. A million years ago.”
“It’s a blur?” someone asks.
“No, it’s just a long time ago,” Petty answers. ‘You know what I mean? … It feels like it was yesterday. It really does. Everything’s happened, like we were talking about how this years’ gone so fast, it’s like everything’s just sped up.”
Whether they’ve sped along or crept by, the 25 years since “One Hot Night” are punctuated by those who are not cutting it up with everyone in the Speedway Club.
Fourteen months after winning the race the helped define the sport for a generation, Allison died at 32 from injuries sustained in a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway. He would have turned 56 in February.
A week after “One Hot Night,” Earnhardt won the Coke 600 for the third time. Earnhardt raced eight more seasons and won two more championships before being killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 at 49.
“By Davey not being here and Dale not being here now, that adds to it,” Petty says, now 56 and a NBC Sports analyst nine years after leaving the cockpit. “That’s a moment for (them). That changes how you perceive this race as you look back at it. If we were all three sitting here laughing about it and complaining about it, you may view it different. You wouldn’t view it in that nostalgic tone as much as you do now.”
The weight of the race and its impact on the trajectory of NASCAR didn’t hit McReynolds until the race’s 20th anniversary. In 2012, he, Pemberton and Joy sat on an infield stage at Charlotte to discuss the race with fans. Instead of his blazer, McReynolds wore his old team uniform.
“Honestly, that’s when it really sunk in me that was something pretty big and special,” McReynolds says.
“One Hot Night” was an exhibition. The eighth of 31 times the All-Star Race has been run.
Petty admits in its immediate wake, he considered it “just another race.”
“It lived up to every bit of the hype, like few things in sports do,” Petty says. “Rarely do things ever live up to the hype that you throw at them. The funny part in this sport … We’ve witnessed … some really great races. Some incredible races. Everywhere. But they don’t stick with you the way this race sticks with you. For some reason this race sticks with fans different than other races stick with you.”
This year’s Monster Energy All-Star race format on May 20 will go back in time.
NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race held at night will be run with the same format as the first race that was held in 1992.
The “Silver Anniversary Gold Rush” of the iconic “One Hot Night” will once again have a $1 million prize to the winning team.
Here’s how this year’s format shapes up:
The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
The final 10-lap stage will feature just 10 cars/drivers who earned their way into the main event, particularly with how they finished collectively in the prior three 20-lap stages that evening.
All three stage winners will be locked into the 10-lap finale for the big prize, but with a caveat – they all must be on the lead lap at the end of the third stage.
The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
The 10 cars in the fourth and final stage will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.
“This new 70-lap format pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of ‘One Hot Night’ while pushing the drivers to the brink of insanity with the chances they’ll take to win $1 million,” Charlotte Motor Speedway president and general manager Marcus Smith said in a media release. “I’m as ready as our fans for a May 20 Saturday night shootout where only a daredevil behind the wheel truly has a shot at Victory Lane.”
There’s also one added bonus of sorts: each team will receive one set of “softer tires,” to be used at their discretion. Softer tires provide cars more grip and speed, but there’s one caveat: if a team holds off using its set of softer tires until the final stage, then its car will start the 10-car/10-lap finale at the back of the field.
According to Goodyear, “the Option set-up is projected to be three- to five-tenths of a second faster per lap, out of the box.” Also, instead of Goodyear’straditional yellow letters – which will remain on the Prime tires to be used in both the All-Star events and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 – the Option tires will featurebold,green lettering.
Several drivers have already clinched a starting spot in the All-Star Race based upon:
* Drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017.
* Drivers who have won a previous Monster Energy All-Star Race and are competing full-time in 2017
* Drivers who have won a past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and are competing fulltime in 2017.
“The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.”
Qualifying takes place on Friday, May 19, including the “no speed limit” four-tire pit stop.
According to the media release, “Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.”
There will be two other ways for drivers to advance to the All-Star Race:
1.) The traditional Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race earlier in the evening of May 20. The Open will feature three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps. The winner of each stage will advance to the All-Star Race, Qualifying for the Open will take place on Friday, May 19, where the field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.
2) By winning the popular Fan Vote.
Lastly, both the Monster Energy Open and Monster Energy All-Star Race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 starting at 6 p.m. ET on May 20. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 will carry the radio broadcasts of both events, as well.
Here’s a list of all winners of the All-Star Race, dating back to its inception in 1985:
1985 Darrell Waltrip
1986 Bill Elliott
1987 Dale Earnhardt
1988 Terry Labonte
1989 Rusty Wallace
1990 Dale Earnhardt
1991 Davey Allison
1992 Davey Allison (first night race)
1993 Dale Earnhardt
1994 Geoffrey Bodine
1995 Jeff Gordon
1996 Michael Waltrip
1997 Jeff Gordon
1998 Mark Martin
1999 Terry Labonte
2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2001 Jeff Gordon
2002 Ryan Newman
2003 Jimmie Johnson
2004 Matt Kenseth
2005 Mark Martin
2006 Jimmie Johnson
2007 Kevin Harvick
2008 Kasey Kahne
2009 Tony Stewart
2010 Kurt Busch
2011 Carl Edwards
2012 Jimmie Johnson
2013 Jimmie Johnson
2014 Jamie McMurray
2015 Denny Hamlin
2016 Joey Logano
Among those entered into the race are two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, who is making his final NASCAR start. He will drive the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports. Elliott Sadler, a veteran of 12 full-time Cup seasons, will attempt to make his first Cup start since 2013 and his first Daytona 500 start since 2012. He will drive the No. 7 owned by Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Daniel Suarez, the defending Xfinity Series champion, will make his Cup debut driving the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.