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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WITH VIDEO -- All-Star memories: 1998-Jeff Gordon passed by Mark Martin on last lap when he runs out of gas

Let’s just get it out there.
I love the NASCAR All-Star race, or as I’ll always call it in my heart -- The Winston.
That’s what it was called when I first started watching this sport, and I saw some great neck and neck racing and exciting finishes back in that era -- and that trend has continued to this day.

There were a lot of great all-star races over the years, but my all-time favorite is a no-brainer.
It was 1998.
With just a couple laps to go, Jeff Gordon was leading the race by a mile and there was no way anyone was going to catch him. This was during his dominant period and a lot of folks wanted him to lose ... It was the Anybody but Gordon era for most fans, who were sick of him winning damn near every week. Seriously, he was pretty awesome back then; to the point of extreme annoyance.
I was in the ABG camp at the time, and was about getting ready to drown my sorrows after yet another Gordon win when something magical happened -- Gordon ran out of gas; on the last lap, in The Winston -- the biggest nightime showcase in the sport, with the possible exception of the Coke 600. Doesn’t get more dramatic than that.
Being a big Mark Martin fan at the time, I was doubly happy -- the evil Gordon was foiled for once, and a likable guy like Martin won it, making tons of new fans in the process.
This is but one memory; there are many others in the event’s long history, from the “Pass in the Grass” to the more recent clash between the Busch brothers, but I do know one thing for sure.
We’re going to see an exciting race this Saturday night in the All-Star race.
It’s a night filled with dramatic entrances, a great qualifying race that adds some fresh blood to the big race, and some hardcore racing to the checkered flag; No points to worry about, so everyone lays it on the line.
It’s one of the best traditions in NASCAR, and I enjoy it just as much as I did back then -- though with a few less beers than I had in 1998.

Several drivers making debuts in all-star race
Trevor Bayne won at Daytona in 2011, but he didn’t get to race in the all-star race due to being ill. Now he’ll get his shot, and I wish him luck. Maybe a win could propel him to a better sponsorship situation. It’s too bad to see a young talent like him out of a ride some weeks due to sponsorship woes
Other first-time drivers this all-star race are Paul Menard, who won the Brickyard 400 in 2011, and Marcos Ambrose, who won at Watkins Glen.

Roush notes
— Greg Biffle leads the Roush championship hunt with a two-point lead in the Sprint Cup standings over Matt Kenseth who is second followed by Carl Edwards in 10th.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. extended his lead the Nationwide point standings to 23 points.
— The Roush team this welcomed Fifth Third Bank as a primary sponsor on the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth. The Fifth Third Bank Ford will run four races this season starting this weekend at the All-Star race.
— Roush has won four times in the All-Star race, with the first win coming via Mark Martin in 1998. Matt Kenseth won in 2004, Martin in 2005 and Carl Edwards in 2011. Jeff Burton won the All-Star Showdown, racing his way into the All-Star Challenge in 2003 and David Ragan repeated the feat in 2011.
— All-Star weekend brought one of the most successful performances in the Roush team’s history last season, with Roush Fenway winning both the All-Star Challenge and Showdown and the NNS race at Iowa the next day.

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