Location debate heats up The Winston

Friday, May 17, 2002

CONCORD, N.C. -- For years, Humpy Wheeler has done everything and anything he could to turn The Winston into a true all-star event.

From marketing it to building lights around Lowe's Motor Speedway so it could be a Saturday night show, he turned the race into a marquee event.

It may not have been enough.

NASCAR wants to move The Winston away from Lowe's Motor Speedway, which will host its 16th-straight all-star race on Saturday night.

"I remember the year they ran the event at Atlanta and there were only 3,000 people in the stands," driver Ricky Rudd said. "Now I'm guessing there will be over 100,000 on Saturday night, maybe 200,000.

"It didn't start that way and the folks here had something to do with turning it to what it is now. So I'd hate to see something they built move away."

But it's looking more and more like the event will be gone after Saturday night.

The event debuted in 1985, was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986, and has been at Lowe's in suburban Charlotte every year since.

Teams love the race being held here because most of them are based near the track and its one less weekend on the road for them.

But NASCAR thinks the race needs to move from track to track to create a true All-Star atmosphere and is in discussions with the series sponsor about how to handle it.

One idea has been combining it with another race at another track to lessen the time on the road. For example, if the race moved to Bristol Motor Speedway, they would run The Winston on a Wednesday night leading up to the Bristol event.

Three-time event winner Jeff Gordon loves the idea of combining the race with another event, but said it should be put with next week's Coca-Cola 600 so that it remains at Lowe's.

"I love it so much at Charlotte, the race track offers some of the best racing on the circuit and its convenient for all the different teams," he said.

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