You never know exactly what to expect in the Monster Energy All-Star Race, which this year takes place on Saturday, May 20th, with live television coverage starting at 6 p.m. ET on FS1.
Over the years, there have been plenty of epic moments in the all-star race, including a number of surprise winners. Here are the five biggest upsets in all-star history.
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Mark Martin, 1998
It wasn’t so much that Martin was an upset winner in ’98 as much as it was how he won. Jeff Gordon was crushing the field in the all-star race and about to win it for the third time in four years.
Gordon led as the field took the green flag to start the final segment, but he jumped the restart, which meant the field had to circulate under yellow and restart again. The extra caution laps proved to be the difference, as Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet ran out of fuel going into Turn 1 on the final lap, allowing Martin to win over Bobby Labonte. Gordon wound up coasting to a 12th-place finish.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2000
The 2000 season was a big one for Earnhardt, as it marked his arrival as a full-time Cup driver. The third-generation racer won at Texas, which made him eligible for his first all-star race. On the last lap, Earnhardt passed Dale Jarrett to win in the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet.
And that victory delighted both Earnhardt and his father. “It was just really hard to believe that we won that race. I was sitting there in Victory Lane and just couldn’t believe that we had won,” said Earnhardt Jr.. “I could not wait to see my dad – I remember passing him in that last stage, and that’s something you just dream about. He was thrilled, so that was a real special moment to spend with him – we just couldn’t believe it.”
Kasey Kahne, 2008
Back in 2008, Kahne drove a Dodge for Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and wasn’t even qualified to make the field for the all-star race. In the last chance Sprint Showdown, Kahne stared 15th and worked his way up to fifth in the 27-car field. But just as it looked as if his night was over, Kahne won the Fan Vote to advance to the main event, then called the Sprint All-Star Challenge.
Kahne started dead last in the 24-car field, but on Lap 84, he passed Denny Hamlin and held on to lead the final 17 circuits to capture the victory and the $1,012,975 winner’s purse. “I remember how cool it was to win the All-Star Race back in 2008,” said Kahne. “I’m lucky enough to be locked into the race (this year) and it would be neat to win it again.”
Rookies aren’t supposed to win the all-star race, but that’s exactly Ryan Newman did, giving team owner Roger Penske his first of three victories in the all-star event. As a rookie, Newman’s night began in the 30-lap Winston Open, where he qualified third and finished third, which advanced him to what was then called The Winston.
Starting 27th in the 27-car field, Newman methodically worked his way through the field, passing future teammate Tony Stewart on Lap 74 and staying out front for the remaining 17 laps to win. “Somehow, we were able to hold them off,” said Newman. “It was an amazing team victory for us and unexpected."
Michael Waltrip, 1996
In terms of all-star upsets, this one well and truly stands alone. Waltrip came into the ’96 running of The Winston Select with a career record of zero victories in 309 Cup races over 10+ seasons. Like several other upset winners, Waltrip had to transfer in from The Winston Open last-chance race and started last in the 20-car field.
Inverting the field between stages helped put Waltrip into contention, and when Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt nearly wrecked going for the lead with nine laps to go, Waltrip was there to put the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford out front, a position he would not relinquish.