All-Star Race can pit friend, foe and family
By Sporting News Wire Service
May 20, 2011 10:09 AM, EDT
Darrell Waltrip's love for the All-Star Race did not come at first sight. In fact, when he heard of the plan to have the first one back in 1985, he wasn't even sure he wanted to participate. A racing purist, he wasn't interested in putting on "shows."
Twenty-six years later, very few view the annual event at Charlotte Motor Speedway as a gimmick or a soulless exhibition. On the contrary, the image of the Sprint All-Star Race -- the 2011 edition of which is scheduled for Saturday night -- is of a throwback, everything-goes, under-the-lights trophy dash for cash.
When it's not for points, you get that feeling of 'Hey, let's just let it ride.'
-- KURT BUSCH
So intense has the competition become for the trophy and prize money -- which is now more than a $1 million -- that brother has actually turned against brother in pursuit of them.
Like in 2007.
Both of the Busch brothers were in it that year. Kurt was driving for Penske Racing. Kyle for Hendrick Motorsports. They both looked racy that night. Very racy as Kyle won the second segment.
In the final segment, the Busch brothers found themselves running near the front and near each other on the track. Both were in contention for the win. And then ...
"It was a good race that we had going on," Kurt remembers. "I just passed Jeff Burton for second and I was on the low lane going down the front straightaway and the next thing you know, someone was lower than me going through the grass."
It was his younger brother.
"I didn't know that it was him at the time," Kurt said this week. "Somebody really wanted that low lane on corner entry, that's when I noticed it was him after I pinched that guy down going into [Turn] 1. Ultimately I got wrecked, so it wasn't a smart move on my part."
Kyle got wrecked as well. Tempers flared and the Busch brothers exchanged words.
Interviewed immediately after the race, Kurt said, "That was a bummer to have my little brother pull that move on me.
"Right now, I'm not eating any Kellogg's [cereal, Kyle's sponsor's product] any time soon."
Relations between the two brothers remained chilly for months. It finally took an intervention from another family member to bring back intra-Busch harmony.
"To me, it wasn't really that big of a deal," Kurt said. "It seemed more a stinger for Kyle. We can chalk that up to youth. Grandma got us together around Thanksgiving and said, 'Alright boys, you need to get back to your normal selves now,' and it was fine at Thanksgiving and Christmas after that. It's just one of those moments when brothers have to test each other and neither one of us wanted to back down."
Such is the current nature of the All-Star Race. With no points paid, and no big picture to be worried about, it becomes primal as it takes the competitors back to their short-track Saturday night roots.
Oh, and also the big check is cool, too.
"It's tough when it's for a million bucks," Kurt said. "When it's not for points, you get that feeling of 'Hey, let's just let it ride.' It's almost like the roulette wheel when you throw money down on a number and see if you get lucky."
"It's just that it's a non-points race," Kyle said, "and the pure fact you're going after a race just for bragging rights and a million bucks. That's what it's all about."
Both Busch brothers have secured berths in Saturday night's race. Primal instincts will again fire along with the engines. An even bigger check will be cut to the winner at the end of it.
Here's hoping for a happy Thanksgiving.