By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has seen its fair share of fireworks over the years, but in the fifth edition of the annual exhibition race in 1989, those fireworks spilled off the track to create one of the more memorable moments in the event’s history.
Heading into “The Winston,” as the race was known in those days, both Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip had won three races each and it appeared that the two would be fighting it out over the course of the season for the championship.
Naturally, the two drivers wound up going head to head that day in an effort to take home the $200,000 prize for the winning driver.
Starting from third-place, Wallace got the early advantage on Waltrip, leading 64 of the first 75 laps of the race and crossing the line first when the first segment came to an end. After coming down pit road for adjustments, it was Waltrip who held the upper hand in the second segment, taking the lead four laps into the 50-lap stint and holding onto the top spot for the duration.
As it was discovered later, Wallace was hampered throughout that part of the race, fighting a loose handling race car, due to his crew improperly installing the tires and wheels on the wrong side of the car.
With the crew’s mistake rectified under the break before the final 10-lap shootout to the finish, Wallace was back in the game and ready to give Waltrip a run for the money down the stretch.
The two drivers separated themselves from the rest of the field and were fighting for the win as they came through Turns 3 and 4 coming to the white flag. Wallace touched Waltrip’s rear bumper, sending him for a long slide through the frontstretch grass.
Wallace would in turn inherit the lead and would go on to win the race and the money, but things were about to get even crazier as Wallace made his way toward Victory Lane.
Of course, Waltrip’s crew was not happy about what had just transpired, hell bent on letting Wallace and his crew know just how they felt. All they needed was a spark to ignite the flames. Just then, Todd Parrott, a member of Wallace’s crew who was following the car to victory lane laid his shoulder into one of the crew members from Waltrip’s crew and from there, the brawl was on.
Eventually the fight would break up, but in its aftermath, the reputations of the two drivers involved would be changed for several years afterwards.
Waltrip, who had been one of the most unpopular drivers on the circuit, gained widespread support from the fan base and the boos he had been used to hearing in the years prior instead turned into cheers and praise for the final decade of his career.
“I just hope he chokes on that $200,000. That’s all I can tell him,” Waltrip said after emerging from his car that afternoon.
“Some people, you know how they are so if you open the door, I guess you expect something like that. It was uncalled for. I could never walk through this garage area having done that to someone, but some people can and more power to them, I guess.”
Meanwhile, Wallace became the villain as a result of the incident and it took a while for his image to recover from it in the eyes of the fans.
“This 10 laps is a rough 10 laps, man. You have to drive hard,” Wallace said of the final segment. “Darrell was driving hard. I was driving hard. I got up underneath him coming up off of Turn 4 and we just got together. He came down, I tried to hold my groove, and we both just touched. That’s all there is to it.
“I would have rather finished the race with me winning it and nothing like that happening, but it happened this way in ’87 and I don’t think those guys were doing that on purpose either. I didn’t have anything to do with that purpose. It was a tough race. I’m sorry for Darrell. Glad we won.”