Photo: NASCAR Media Group

Throwback Thursday Theater – Looking Back at “One Hot Night” 25 Years Later

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

The All-Star Race, originally called “The Winston” when it began in 1985, was ran on Saturday afternoon in its inception, but when Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler decided to put lights up at the track in 1992 and move the race to the nighttime, business really picked up from there.

With the installation of the $1.7 million, 1.2 billion candlepower lighting system, ingeniously devised by Iowa lighting company Musco Lighting, Charlotte became the largest track to have lights installed, behind the short tracks of Bristol and Richmond.

Dubbed “One Hot Night”, the 70-lap race, which was broken down into three segments of 30 laps, 30 laps, and 10 laps, would pit the best of the best in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series against each other.

Davey Allison would start on the pole, leading the entire way through the first segment, but he would have to start at the rear of the field for the second segment as the fans voted to invert the field.

With the fastest cars from the first segment in the rear, Geoff Bodine and Kyle Petty would split the lead in the second segment as Petty crossed the finish line first at lap 60.

That set up the final 10 lap dash for all the marbles, with Petty still in command of the race. Just three laps in, Darrell Waltrip would spin his No. 17 car in Turn 1 to bring out the caution and stack the field back up for a restart with seven laps to go.

On the restart, Dale Earnhardt, who restarted alongside Petty, would get the jump and took over the lead for the first time in the race.

Heading into the final lap, there were three generations of NASCAR royalty fighting for the lead with Earnhardt still leading, Petty in second, and Allison in third. Going down the backstretch, Petty tried a pass low on Earnhardt, but Earnhardt ran him all the way to the grass to keep him from completing the pass. However, that sent both Earnhardt and Petty into Turn 3 at a bad angle, causing Petty to get into Earnhardt and spin him out.

“Didn’t much happen between Kyle and I, I think it happened between Davey and them” said Earnhardt with his signature grin. “We pushed just a bit off of (Turn) 2 and Kyle got his nose under us and you know, that’s all there was. I tried to hold him down on the back-straightaway and we went in (Turn) 3 down there and he took a little more than I wanted to give and that’s all there was to it.”

“That’s racing. He was trying to win. I was too.”

Allison, who had a full head of steam at that point, dove low on Petty and the two were door to door at the line, with Allison just nipping him for the win. But that was when all hell broke loose as the two got together and Allison spun driver’s side into the outside wall, destroying his No. 28 Ford and sending the driver to the hospital with a concussion, bruised legs, and a bruised lung.

“I got up under Dale,” said Petty. “He had pushed out the lap before coming off of (Turn) 2. I got up under him and he ran me all the way to the inside and it bottomed out hard, man. When we went into (Turn) 3, we just had a bad angle going into 3 and you couldn’t get a good run going into 3. His car got out from under him and I had to wait on him. I had a bad run and Davey got a really, really good run at me and there was just nothing I could do with Davey.

“We beat and banged all the way down through here. As we came across the line, he ended up trying to take me out a little farther and he spun around in front of me. It was my fault. I probably should have backed out before then.”

Though Allison was airlifted to the hospital that night, he was back at the track less than a week later in preparation for the Coca-Cola 600 and noted that there were no hard feelings from him about the wreck in the All-Star Race.

“Kyle called Sunday night at the condo and he was pretty shook up about it,” said Allison. “He kept apologizing and I told him I didn’t have any hard feelings from my end, you know. I didn’t see anything that he did that was out of line or that any other Winston Cup driver, including myself, would have done.”

The 1992 running of The Winston set the standard for all-star races to come as drivers and fans alike look forward to the non-points event each season for the chance to cut loose without worrying about points implications and go all-out for the cash prize and the bragging rights that comes with winning the premier event.

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David Morgan is the NASCAR Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s. Learning to love the sport at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993, he has been hooked ever since. David is a National Motorsports Press Association member, having covered races across the country since 2012 and looks forward to visiting every track on the circuit in the near future.