Motorsport News

That One Time the All-Star Race Was Held at Atlanta

NASCAR Cup Series

The All-Star Race has evolved in multiple aspects over the year, including its format, but the past several years have seen the event’s venue change multiple times.

While that was the original plan for the All-Star Race when it was created back in 1985, it largely stayed at Charlotte Motor Speedway until 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic allowed NASCAR to think outside the box. That year, the All-Star Race was held at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was largely underwhelming all around (unless you’re a Chase Elliott fan).

The venue then shifted to Texas Motor Speedway in 2021 and 2022, in which both events were either lackluster or controversial, leading fans to beg for a change. In 2023, they got their wish, as North Wilkesboro Speedway was revived from the dead and set to host the All-Star Race this May.

But did you know that the All-Star Race was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway one year?

Remember, the All-Star Race was supposed to be a rotational venue each year. In 1985, the first race was held at Charlotte. But in 1986, the race was switched to Atlanta. This was back when Atlanta was a 1.52-mile oval shaped like Homestead-Miami Speedway and when the All-Star Race was simply called The Winston.

The qualifications to make the race were similar to how they are today: race winners from the 1985 season. However, there was a minimum requirement of 10 cars for the race, and only nine drivers had won in 1985. Therefore, the last spot was awarded to the highest-finishing driver in the points standings without a win. Geoff Bodine, who finished fifth in the standings, earned the 10th and final spot.

The pole position was automatically awarded to the defending Winston Cup (now NASCAR Cup Series) champion (which was Darrell Waltrip for this race), and then the rest of the field was set by most-to-least number of wins, with 1985 points being the tiebreaker. Among other drivers in the field were Harry Gant, Cale Yarborough, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte, Neil Bonnett and the surprise driver of the field, Greg Sacks, after his 1985 upset at Daytona International Speedway the previous July.

Before the main event, the Atlanta Invitational was held. Akin to what we know nowadays as the All-Star Open, it was a 100-lap shootout between 14 cars who were not eligible to race in The Winston. Benny Parsons won the race, which went caution-free. However, unlike nowadays, the win didn’t qualify Parsons for the 1986 Winston — it instead…

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