|Credit: commons.wikimedia.org user Nascar1996|
Like the legendary “pass in the grass.” A misnomer, since there was never a pass. In 1987, Dale Earnhardt was out in front in the blue and yellow No. 3 Wrangler Chevy. Seven laps to go. Bill Elliott in the No. 9 Coors Ford got all over Earnhardt's bumper and tried to take the lead. Earnhardt blocked, slid into the grass. Not only did he maintain control of his car, but Earnhardt held the lead and went on to win. Footage of that epic battle is played back each and every All-Star event. The excitement of the moment still lingers over a quarter of a century later.
Five years later, the lights went on at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The illuminated track allowed this spectacular event to become even more fabulous. During that contest in 1992 it looked like Earnhardt had sewed up another victory when Kyle Petty tapped him, sending The Intimidator out of contention on the last lap. But Petty wasn't coasting to victory, Davey Allison was right beside him and the two drivers crossed the finish line side-by-side bumping one another. Allison won the event by half a car-length but the contact found him hitting the outside wall hard. Allison had to forgo Victory Lane for the hospital, but the bragging-rights win and story were priceless and are a huge part of the All-Star lore.
Even ol’ Darrell Waltrip (DW) himself had an All-Star altercation that made the history books. In 1989 DW was leading Rusty Wallace in the final laps of the race. As the white flag fell signaling the last lap of, Wallace bumped DW’s left rear quarter-panel sending him spinning out into the grass. Wallace won the event and the $200,000 purse. The fans at the event weren't thrilled with Wallace’s move that led to his victory and let him know. One of Wallace’s crew members bumped one of DW’s crew post-race and a scuffle erupted. The once heavily-maligned DW had become the victim and the crowd sided with him. Wallace, rather popular to this point, earned a bunch of detractors. DW uttered the now-famous line, “I just hope he chokes on that $200,000!”
All these examples and more are part of the numerous reasons NASCAR loves its All-Star event. And like fans of our sport, I love them, too. I watch the replays excitedly every season and reminisce with the best of them.
But these drivers, crew chiefs, team owners, and sponsors are not the real all-stars to me. In this All-Star week it is important to remember every single person who makes a NASCAR race come to life. If not for them, NASCAR races would not happen. From flaggers to officials, gas attendants to security, firemen to concession workers, it takes a community to make one event go off, and a whole nation of citizens to make a season in NASCAR.
The support crews, the many organizations, volunteers - nameless, faceless, behind-the-scenes people- who work tirelessly to create NASCAR magic are the true All-Stars. They work days, weeks, and months before a NASCAR race comes to town. They plan, plot, and organize so the race weekend is flawless. Some travel with NASCAR whereas others are local to their venue, but all are vitally important.
We don’t know their names. Many of us don’t realize the scope of personnel involved to make one event let alone an entire race “weekend” happen, but these unsung heroes show up and add their magic to create NASCAR perfection.
So this week I thank each and every person who works to make NASCAR happen. These All-Stars are yet another very important reason why I love NASCAR.
Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™ Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.