Extra incentive a factor for “The Winston”

May 15, 2001 9:42 AM
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NASCAR’s annual All-Star event, "The Winston," might be the most exciting of All-Star events. The intensity in which the drivers go after the win is what separates this All-Star event from the others. The $500,000 prize money also adds a twist. The other participating 20 drivers go home with nothing.

The format for this Saturday’s race at Charlotte is different from any of the regular season races. It’s a non-points race and drivers are selected based on wins and/or having been a past champion.

There are two qualifying races prior to "The Winston." The winner of each gets an entry into the $500,000 race.

Once the field of 21 drivers is set, they’ll race in a series of stages. The first two stages are 30 lap runs. After each, they’ll invert selected drivers starting positions prior to the next stage. The final stage is a 10-lap dash for the money.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (8-1) won last year’s event. During a two-week stretch at Charlotte last season, Junior’s was the fastest car out there. The extra 100 miles in the Coca-Cola 600 was why he didn’t sweep last year’s festivities. Both Junior and his teammate, Steve Park (11-1), are going to be set up similarly to the dominating cars they had last season.

A driver who’s never won "The Winston" during his great career is Dale Jarrett (5-1). It remains the only major accomplishment NASCAR has left for him.

"The Winston is about winning," Jarrett said. "That’s all I want is that trophy to say that I have won the race of winners. I have been very fortunate in my career to win a lot of them, but I don’t have that trophy. The Winston really is exciting from a driver’s standpoint."

The only active multiple winners in this race come from the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Jeff Gordon (9-2) and Terry Labonte (35-1) have each won twice.

Gordon last won in 1997, while Labonte took the checkers two years ago. Labonte is someone to look at because of the starting and stopping format of the race. Drivers will not get lapped and guaranteed to be brought back to the pack at least two times. With only 10 laps, you never know.

Hendrick’s other driver, Jerry Nadeau (11-1), was close to Junior in time trials during last year’s Charlotte sessions.

Charlotte’s size and banking are similar to Atlanta’s where Nadeau rolled to victory in the season finale. Obviously, he likes this kind of track. Look for Nadeau to have a great run and a possible win.

INDY 500 UPDATE: Scott Sharp (7-1) is the provisional pole-sitter for the May 27th race. Sharp opened 18-1. The Penske team of Gil de Ferran (6-1) and Helio Castro-Neves (8-1), have been bet heavy. Ganassi Racing is entering four cars; each of them will have a shot at winning, particularly Tony Stewart (6-1) and Jimmy Vasser (8-1).

Look for several props around town dealing with Tony Stewart’s dual race day. Another interesting prop is picking the winning series to win CART or IRL.

IRL President Tony George didn’t like a CART driver coming into his race winning last season, but that did more for the open-wheel series since the split. The CART Fed Ex Series travels to Motegi, Japan, this Friday. Look for Adrian Fernandez (8-1) and Michael Andretti (7-1) to have great runs.

Top 5 finish prediction:

1. No. 88 Dale Jarrett  

(5-1)

2. No. 25 Jerry Nadeau  

(11-1)

3. No. 24 Jeff Gordon  

(9-2)

4. No. 1 Steve Park  

(11-1)

5. No. 8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr   (8-1)