NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race, the sport’s equivalent to everyone else’s all-star game, rolls into Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. This year marks the 30th running of the All-Star Race. In honor of that anniversary, we’ve compiled some interesting facts from the history of this exhibition event for you to enjoy before everything kicks off with the Sprint Showdown on Saturday.
1. 90 is the magic number
The current All-Star Race is 90 laps, run over five segments (four 20-lap blocks and a concluding 10-lap finish). But the number of laps has changed many times over the years. The first All-Star Race was 70 laps, then the event jumped up to nearly double with 135 laps until 1989. That didn’t go over well, so it went back to 70 laps beginning in 1990. Ninety laps became the norm in 2002, but was reduced to 80 in 2007, then increased to 100 in 2008. We went back to 90 laps just three years ago.
2. It’s a perfect example of NASCAR’s explosion
One only needs to look at the winners’ purse from the All-Star Race to realize how big NASCAR has become over the last few decades. When Jeff Gordon won his first of three All-Star Races in 1995, the check was worth $300,000. Twenty years later, the race’s most recent winner, Jamie McMurray, pocketed a cool $1,035,734; definitely not a bad day at the office!
3. The fan vote is as unpredictable in this sport as in any other
If you can’t drive your way into the All-Star Race, you can try to win the fan vote. Everybody’s in with a fighting chance, not just the big name drivers in NASCAR. Last year’s fan vote winner was Josh Wise, who didn’t finish higher than 20th in the first portion of the season and didn’t finish higher than 23rd after the event. He finished 19th in the All-Star Race.
4. The All-Star Race is actually getting slower
Since the race entered its current format, it’s slowed down a bit. The average speed recorded in 2012 was 92 miles an hour, which declined to 90 mph in 2013 before picking back up to 100.5 last year. That’s still way down from the 127.9 miles per hour logged in 2011. The all-time lowest speed was 89.1 in 2007, when Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag, with the record high a face-melting 185 mph in 2001.
5. This is Jimmie Johnson’s world, too
The winningest driver in All-Star Race history — Jimmie Johnson — has also won the most Sprint Cup Series championships among active drivers. He’s won the exhibition four times, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013, to go with his six Sprint Cup titles.
Seven-time Cup winner Dale Earnhardt is tied with four-time title holder Jeff Gordon for second place, each having three All-Star checkered flags. NASCAR’s other seven-time champion, Richard Petty, never won an All-Star Race, but we don’t think he’s losing any sleep over it.
All-Star Race Weekend begins with the Sprint Showdown on Saturday, May 15 followed by the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Sunday, May 16 – both at 7 p.m. ET from Charlotte Motor Speedway.