One thing you can always count on in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is emotion. With huge money on the line and an audience filled with friends, family members and co-workers from the many race shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway, every driver wants to win this race. Badly.
And when they don’t win, things can get testy, as they did in 1989, when a fight broke out on pit road after the raced ended and the crews of winner Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip traded blows and wrestling holds.
Contact on the penultimate lap triggered the tempers.
Wallace nudged leader Waltrip coming out of Turn 4 as the pair raced to the white flag, sending Waltrip spinning and Wallace to Victory Lane, where he collected $200,000 for his tainted triumph.
"Son of a gun if he didn’t bump me just enough to get me around," said Waltrip, who earlier that year put his No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into Victory Lane in the Daytona 500. " … And that scoundrel, he went on and won the race."
In his television interview after the race, the always quotable Waltrip uttered what would go on to become one of NASCAR’s most repeated sentences.
"I hope he chokes on the $200,000," said Waltrip. "That’s all I can tell him. He knocked the hell out of me."
For his part, Wallace feigned innocence.
"We just ran out of room," Wallace said. "I got under him and we touched. I backed out of the throttle and he spun. I didn’t intentionally hit him."
Waltrip, however, wasn’t finished talking. "A lot of guys let greed overcome speed, and that’s what happened today. I got spun out. A guy drove down underneath me and drove up into me and spun me out. It was blatant. I had him pretty well covered. I just didn’t want to make a mistake, but I guess I made one, letting him get up there."
This race had implications that stretched far beyond that May afternoon, though. Up until then, Wallace was the more well-liked of the two drivers and Waltrip the more controversial.
That all changed when Wallace put the bumper to his rival. Suddenly, shockingly, Waltrip was the good guy and it was Wallace who wore the black hat.
"Rusty got the money, but it changed his life forever," said Wallace’s brother, Kenny.
As for that fight, it began when several of Waltrip’s crewmen went to Victory Lane to voice their displeasure. It was there where Todd Parrott, then one of Wallace’s crew guys, threw a shoulder block into a Waltrip crewmember. From then on, it was wide open, as the two crews started brawling.
Wallace saw the two crews having at it.
"Man, everybody went crazy," Rusty said. "Half the fans wanted to kill me. The place was upside down, the whole infield was in a fight."
And the fight was very real.
"I think they started punching each other and nobody knew who was punching who, so they all just started punching everybody," said Wallace. "The next thing you know, they’re all rolling on the ground beating the crap out of each other."