Win Winston Win Title
May 16, 2003 | 12:43 A.M. EST
Win The Winston in May, and chances are almost 50-50 that you'll go on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in November.
Eight times in the previous 18 editions of The Winston - the NASCAR Winston Cup all-star event that will be held Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway - a driver has won the event, then gone on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship that same year. That’s 44%. Not a bad ratio.
Four drivers - Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) , Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and Darrell Waltrip - hold those eight valuable double-doubles since the inception of The Winston in 1985. Waltrip was the first to pull off the feat in The Winston’s inaugural season. His first win at the Winston would also be his last in the event, and ditto with his NASCAR Winston Cup title in 1985, the last of Waltrip’s three championships. Earnhardt won The Winston for the first time in 1987 - along the way creating the famous "Pass in the Grass" tale - then went on to capture his third NASCAR Winston Cup title. Earnhardt became the first driver to turn the trick twice, winning The Winston in 1990 to compliment his point crown. He then set two precedents in 1993 - becoming the first driver to win The Winston three times along with the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the same year. The driver Earnhardt dubbed "Wonder Boy" is the only NASCAR Winston Cup competitor other than Earnhardt to win The Winston and the series championship in three seasons . Gordon won his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship and was the victor in The Winston for the first time in 1995, when he swept the segmented event. "The highlight for me in The Winston is probably the year we won all three segments," said Gordon of his initial ’95 all-star win. "But the highlight of that year was definitely winning the championship over Earnhardt." Gordon won The Winston again in 1997 prior to his second points title and in 2001, was the last driver to post a win at The Winston and hoist the trophy as the NASCAR Winston Cup champion in the same year. To date, Wallace, like Waltrip, can claim one win at The Winston and a NASCAR Winston Cup crown in the same season - Wallace did it in 1989.
Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellog’s/got milk? Chevrolet) are the only other drivers to have won The Winston as well as a NASCAR Winston Cup title, although not in the same season. Elliott won The Winston in 1986 and the championship in 1988, while Labonte won The Winston in 1988 and ’99 and a title in 1996. Labonte also won the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in 1984, the year before the onset of The Winston.