May, 11, 2015
HMS EVENT ARCHITECT KARI SMITH – BACKSTAGE PASS
How could I forget my first (and favorite) Sprint All-Star race? My day at the track started with a team photo in The Sprint Experience, and my night ended with a Sprint team photo in victory lane. Not only was it my first time working All-Star race, it was my first chance to actually watch the All-Star race. To make things even better, we got the opportunity to watch the race from the roof of the motorcoach in the infield, stand in victory lane as Jimmie Johnson pulled up after his victory burnout, and celebrate on stage with the rest of the team. As much as I’ve enjoyed other races since then, I will always remember the experience from my first Sprint All-Star race.
HMS EVENT ARCHITECT AMY CAVITCH – T-REX
My favorite All-Star memory is from 1997 – back when it was still The Winston. Jeff Gordon has always been my favorite driver, and I have mad respect for the innovations Ray Evernham brought to the sport. The 24 team brought the legendary T-Rex car to the track for the 1997 race and smoked the competition. Hendrick engineer, Rex Stump, and his team had studied the NASCAR rulebook and designed a car that took advantage of every gray area to gain optimum advantage on the track. The car was revolutionary, and – although it complied with all rules – NASCAR asked the team not to bring it back to the track. After further inspection of the car, NASCAR added at least six new rules that basically outlawed T-Rex from ever hitting the track again. When you read the full story on the development of the car and the dominance they had, it’s a textbook example of the innovation and teamwork that fuels the sport. And it’s pretty BA.
EVENT ARCHITECT NATHAN WILLIAMS – BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
This year will be the first year since my time here at HMS that I will be in town and will not have to work at the race track all weekend. I think I will actually try to enjoy the race from the comfort of my couch with an ice cold beverage in hand. The All-Star race is one race that has constant excitement. When there is $1 million on the line, you never know what might happen!
EVENT ARCHITECT MICHAEL VERLATTI – OPENING CEREMONIES
I have been blessed to be involved in some very special moments in motorsports. For thirteen years, I was part of the production team for the Sprint All-Star pre-race show, and it continues to be one of my favorite events of the year. The five minutes before the lights came up and the cameras turned on were the most stressful, yet the most rewarding, memories in my career. Although I will be watching the pre-race show from a different seat this year, I’m still excited to watch the gladiators of NASCAR walk across that stage.
EVENT ARCHITECT CHRIS GORDON – OLD SCHOOL
My favorite All-Star memory has to be the 1992 running of “The Winston” billed as “One Hot Night”. This race is memorable to me for quite a few reasons. I was 11 years old and had just begun my racing career a couple of years prior, so like most kids passionate about their sport, I was glued to anything and everything NASCAR. I remember the race being hyped for almost a full year as Charlotte Motor Speedway had installed a brand new lighting system. This race would make history as the first superspeedway race to ever be run “under the lights”. Because of its primetime showing, it gave my dad an excuse to fire up the grill, throw down some bets and throw back a few cocktails with friends.
The event lived up to the hype! There was something truly special about seeing those cars, at those speeds moving under the lights that night. After three segments of racing, it came down to three drivers with a shot to win on the final lap. As Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Kyle Petty made contact entering turn three, sending Earnhardt spinning, Davey Allison dove to the inside of Petty in a drag race towards the checkered flag. Allison won by a nose. And as they made contact crossing the line, Allison’s car spun hard into the outside wall.
What happened next was also something most had never seen before. As an unconscious Davey Allison was being removed from the battered machine and airlifted to a Charlotte hospital with a concussion and a bruised lung, the track wrecker service, not knowing what to do with the destroyed race winning car, towed it into Victory Lane. The crew, also not sure what to do, began to celebrate around the driverless car, until a very upset car owner in Robert Yates “animatedly” explained that there wouldn’t be a victory lane celebration while his injured driver was on his way to the hospital. As a result, this was also the first time in my life I heard a curse word used on live television. It is said that Davey’s first words upon waking up in the hospital were: “Did We Win?”
To me, this event really took the sport back to its roots of shootout style racing under the lights on a Saturday night. No one knew it at the time, but looking back now, 23 years later, it is easy to see that this race was a turning point in the sport of NASCAR. It is now the norm for NASCAR tracks to be outfitted with and to host regular points events “under the lights” in a primetime TV capacity. I’m sure having three of the sport’s most historic names battling on the final lap for the win adds to the allure of this event for me, especially when you factor in the untimely deaths of Allison only a year later and Earnhardt Sr. in 2001.
This race also started a personal tradition for my family as we still regularly host an All-Star party at my house each year. So if you’re not doing anything this May 16th come on by, I’ll be out by the pool firing up the grill. Feel free to grab a cocktail and throw a couple of ones down for your favorite driver! I’m sure it will be “One Hot Night!”
Video link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF3tGjsCFQA
EVENT ARCHITECT REBECCA MOORE – TAILGATING WITH FRIENDS
All-Star race weekend always brings back happy memories for me! For about the first 5 years that I lived in Charlotte, my friends, who rented a house directly across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway (owned by Ken Schrader), and I would all have a large tailgate in their yard and walk to the race. My friend’s dad would always roast a pig and we would spend the day prepping for a fun night at the track. The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race was the first NASCAR race that I ever attended with some really close friends and after listening to the engines start and the cars race around the track, I realized why my dad loved racing so much! RIP Jerry.
EVENT ARCHITECT TODD HIRSCHFELD – VICTORY CELEBRATION
My first real job inside motorsports was working for Ray Evernham at Evernham Motorsports where I worked closely with our drivers including Bill Elliott and Kasey Kahne. The 2008 Sprint All Star race is a special memory for me because a late race strategy decision on Kasey’s car put him in the lead and enabled us to come home with the win that night. I had some friends in town attending the race, which made the celebration that much more fun. While Kasey was busy handling post-race media, we took it upon ourselves to finish off his victory champagne – only the beginning of an unforgettable night!