Winston Million

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The Grand Slam in NASCAR was winning all of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series majors in a calendar year.

The Grand Slam[edit]

The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company announced at the Waldorf Astoria New York during the annual end of season prizegiving ceremony in 1984 two new events that would define NASCAR for years to come. One of them was the winner-only race, which has been known since 2008 as the Sprint All-Star Race. The other that they were formally elevating the sport's four majors into a formal Grand Slam with a cash bonus, the Winston Million. The events were as follows:

No driver had ever won all four races in the same season. Twice prior to 1985, a driver claimed a "Small Slam" (three out of the four races): Lee Roy Yarbrough (1969, although it was considered a "Triple Crown," as the Talladega event was not established until 1970) and David Pearson (1976). Starting in 1985, R.J. Reynolds, and brand sponsor Winston, began offering a $1 million bonus to any driver that won a Small Slam in the same season. If there was no million-dollar winner, a $100,000 consolation bonus would be given to the first driver to win two of the races. If a driver went into the Coca-Cola 600 or the Southern 500 with a chance to win the million, the race was advertised as "The Winston Million Running of the Coca-Cola 600" or "The Winston Million Running of the (Heinz / Mountain Dew) Southern 500." From 1994 to 1996, the program was advertised as the "Winston Select Million," as R.J. Reynolds chose to promote Winston's "Select" brand of cigarettes in NASCAR.

Winston Million - Small Slam Cash Bonus[edit]

From 1985 to 1997, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, then the title sponsor of NASCAR's premier circuit, offered an award of $1 million for any driver who won three of the four "crown jewel" races on the schedule.

Initial success[edit]

In the program's first year, Bill Elliott captured the million-dollar bonus, and the victory thrust him into notoriety. He became known as "Million Dollar Bill," and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The relative ease with which Elliott won the bonus led many to believe that the prize would be awarded fairly often in subsequent seasons. This, however, was ultimately deceiving, as the award proved difficult to win, and at times, it was difficult to even have a candidate in contention to win.

Frustration[edit]

Following Elliott's success, over a decade of failure followed.

  • In 1989, Darrell Waltrip became the first driver since Elliott to have a chance at the million, after he took the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600. He, however, was never a factor at Darlington, hitting the notorious Turn 4 (now Turn 2) wall at the Heinz Southern 500 (a race he had not won in his career at the time), and settled for the $100,000 consolation.
  • In 1990, Dale Earnhardt was leading the Daytona 500 on the final lap when he cut a tire and failed to win the race. He went on to win the Winston 500 and Heinz Southern 500, meaning that he could have won the million-dollar bonus had he held on to win at Daytona (another race he had not won at the time).
  • In 1992, the Mountain Dew Southern 500 was cut short by rain, robbing Davey Allison of a chance to clinch the million. He had been in contention much of the race, and finished fifth. Incidentally, from mid-1991 to mid-1992, Allison had won three of the four races, but he had accomplished this over two seasons. He sat as defending champion of three of the crown jewels at once in a similar fashion to the "ITF Definition of a Grand Slam" (when a player holds all four major titles together at the same time) but never won the Southern 500. That race ended on fuel, and Waltrip, who had taken the lead on fuel stops on Lap 293, held the lead when rain cut the race at the start of Lap 299, finishing off his Career Grand Slam.
  • In 1996, Dale Jarrett had a chance to win the million. He won at Daytona and Charlotte, and finished 0.22 seconds short of winning at Talladega (he finished second to Sterling Marlin). Jarrett's hitting the wall early in the notoriously narrow Turn 3 at Darlington led to a 14th place finish that finally foiled his chances. Once again, Jarrett never won that event. Gordon won the second of what would become four consecutive Southern 500 wins, for a total of five career wins in the major, the most consecutive wins in any leg of NASCAR's Grand Slam.
    • Elliott, Allison, and Jarrett never won the one major that foiled their Small Slam attempts. The three drivers who officially stopped their Small Slam attempts – Waltrip (1985 Coca-Cola 600, 1992 Mountain Dew Southern 500), Earnhardt (1989 Heinz Southern 500, 1992 Coca-Cola 600), and Gordon (1996 Mountain Dew Southern 500) – all claimed a Career Grand Slam.

It would not be until 1997 that the million was won again. Jeff Gordon finally prevailed, holding off a hard charging Jeff Burton on the final lap at Darlington to win. The two cars touched coming around Turn 4 to take the white flag side-by-side, with Gordon holding on to win his third of four consecutive Mountain Dew Southern 500 wins, a record in NASCAR majors. A Brinks truck led him around the victory lap, spewing bags of Winston play money.

Winston Million race winners/results (1985-1997)[edit]

Season Daytona Talladega Charlotte Darlington Notes
1985 Bill Elliott Bill Elliott Darrell Waltrip Bill Elliott Elliott won Winston Million
1986 Geoff Bodine Bobby Allison Dale Earnhardt Tim Richmond  
1987 Bill Elliott Davey Allison Kyle Petty Dale Earnhardt  
1988 Bobby Allison Phil Parsons Darrell Waltrip Bill Elliott  
1989 Darrell Waltrip Davey Allison Darrell Waltrip Dale Earnhardt Waltrip won $100,000 bonus
1990 Derrike Cope Dale Earnhardt Rusty Wallace Dale Earnhardt Earnhardt won $100,000 bonus
1991 Ernie Irvan Harry Gant Davey Allison Harry Gant Gant won $100,000 bonus
1992 Davey Allison Davey Allison Dale Earnhardt Darrell Waltrip Allison won $100,000 bonus: Waltrip has Career Grand Slam
1993 Dale Jarrett Ernie Irvan Dale Earnhardt Mark Martin  
1994 Sterling Marlin Dale Earnhardt Jeff Gordon Bill Elliott  
1995 Sterling Marlin Mark Martin Bobby Labonte Jeff Gordon  
1996 Dale Jarrett Sterling Marlin Dale Jarrett Jeff Gordon Jarrett won $100,000 bonus
1997 Jeff Gordon Mark Martin Jeff Gordon Jeff Gordon Gordon won Winston Million

Winston No Bull 5[edit]

In 1998, in preparations for the 50th anniversary of NASCAR, R.J. Reynolds decided to revamp and reintroduce the million dollar award program. Several factors contributed to the change. After thirteen seasons, the Winston Million had been won only twice, and several times, no driver won even two events. R.J. Reynolds, along with NASCAR, the drivers, and fans, wanted a new format for the award, which allowed it to be won more often and have more drivers involved.

The four established crown jewels on the circuit were experiencing worthy competition. In 1994, the inaugural Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was held, and for several years, actually dethroned the Daytona 500 as the richest race of the season. The events at Richmond International Raceway were also fast becoming fan and driver favorites. In addition, several new venues were introduced to the schedule, all of which were offering large base purses.

The new program for 1998, titled the No Bull 5 (after a Winston marketing campaign) consisted of three legs of the original Grand Slam (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500) along with the Brickyard 400. The race at Talladega used for the program; however, it was switched from the spring race to the October race. As a result, that event changed sponsorship names and became referred to as the Winston 500. The rules were as follows:

  • The drivers who finished in the top 5 of a No Bull 5 race qualified themselves for the bonus at the next No Bull 5 race.
  • If one of those five drivers went on to win that next No Bull 5 race, he won a $1 million bonus.
  • Five fans were chosen for each No Bull 5 race, and were paired with each of the five qualified drivers. If the driver won the bonus, the lucky fan paired with him also won $1 million.

During the No Bull 5 races, the No Bull 5 eligible drivers raced with special paint jobs. The number on the roof and the rear spoiler was painted day-glow orange because many cars were painted red, and a day-glow "$" was affixed to the passenger window along with a red dot on the windshield in races prior to 2001. Other special decals were sometimes present. This allowed fans to quickly identify and follow the progress of the five eligible drivers. The only exception was the 1998 Daytona 500 where eligible drivers had silver numbers instead of the orange.

In subsequent seasons, the races chosen for the No Bull 5 program varied. The Brickyard 400 was dropped after only one year, replaced by the Las Vegas 400. Eventually the Daytona 500 was replaced with the Pepsi 400, and the Southern 500 was replaced by the fall event at Richmond.

In its five-year span, which totalled twenty-five races, 125 eligible driver spots, and 124 eligible fans (one fan qualified twice, winning neither), the million dollar bonus was won thirteen times. Jeff Gordon won it a record four times. Including his 1997 Winston Million victory, Gordon won a total of $5 million from the bonus program.

Winston No Bull 5 winners/results[edit]

The top five finishers in each race listed qualified to race for the bonus in the next No-Bull 5 race. For the first No-Bull 5 race, the 1998 Daytona 500, the top five finishers from the 1997 DieHard 500 were used.

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

Career Grand Slam statistics[edit]

From 1998-2004, even after the entire program was discontinued, no driver again ever managed to win three of the four majors in the same season. For 2004, NASCAR announced the new Chase format, moving Darlington's major to November, but because of the Ferko lawsuit, was discontinued outright after 2004, much to the dismay of fans and competitors.

It should be noted the spring race at Darlington (now carrying the monikor of Bojangles 500) is officially the continuation of the Rebel 300 (a NASCAR Convertible Division race from 1957-59, then what is now the Sprint Cup Series in 1960, although the 1960-62 races were convertible races, and the first hardtop race in 1963 was two 150-mile races) and is not, and has never been considered one of the crown jewels.

Currently, there is discussion among fans regarding the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which began in 1994, or the Rebel 500, which will move to September in 2015, as the new fourth major. Howevever, nothing has been officially designated by NASCAR.

Career Grand Slam Champions[edit]

Driver Daytona Talladega Charlotte Darlington GS Titles GS Times
Jeff Gordon 3: 1997, 1999, 2005 4: 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007 3: 1994, 1997, 1998 5: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002 15 3
Richard Petty 7: 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981 1: 1983 2: 1975, 1977 1: 1967 11 1
Dale Earnhardt 1: 1998 3: 1990, 1994, 1999 3: 1986, 1992, 1993 3: 1987, 1989, 1990 10 1
Bobby Allison 3: 1978, 1982, 1988 3: 1979, 1981, 1986 3: 1971, 1981, 1984 4: 1971, 1972, 1975, 1983 13 3
Darrell Waltrip 1: 1989 2: 1977, 1982 5: 1978, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1989 1: 1992 9 1
Jimmie Johnson 2: 2006, 2013 2: 2006, 2011 3: 2003, 2004, 2005 1: 2004 8 1
Buddy Baker 1: 1980 3: 1975, 1976, 1980 3: 1968, 1972, 1973 1: 1970 8 1
David Pearson 1: 1976 3: 1972, 1973, 1974 3: 1961, 1974, 1976 3: 1976, 1977, 1979 10 1

Three current drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit can finish a Career Grand Slam:

Driver Major(s) Needed to Win
Bobby Labonte Daytona 500
Mark Martin Daytona 500
Jeff Burton Daytona 500, Aaron's 499

Indianapolis or the Rebel 500 as a Major?[edit]

After the Ferko lawsuit brought an end to the fourth major, fans have consistently discussed the possibility of elevating either the Rebel 500 (first run in 1957 as a Convertible Division race, and became a Sprint Cup race in 1960, although was restricted to convertibles until 1962, and first run with hardtops in 1963) or the Brickyard 400 (first run in 1994) as new "majors".

Three career Grand Slam winners (Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson) have completed a career grand slam with the addition of the Brickyard 400, for a Grand Slam +1, with Gordon and Johnson also having won a Rebel 500 each since the demise of the Southern 500. Of the top five all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup race winners as of the 2012 season, only two (J. Gordon, D. Waltrip) have started a Brickyard 400. As a result of that, official "major" status has never been granted to this race.

Current drivers must have started their first race after November 14, 2004 (the final Southern 500) in order to be eligible for a Career Triple Crown (the three remaining majors). Of current drivers who have won majors, only David Reutimann, Brad Keselowski, and Trevor Bayne are eligible to be deemed "Career Triple Crown" drivers.

When Kevin Harvick won the 2011 Coca-Cola 600, he completed his run of winning all three majors (Daytona 2007, Talladega 2010, Charlotte 2011), but he made four Darlington fall starts, so he cannot be deemed a Career Triple Crown winner. He has won both disputed races, the Brickyard in 2003 and the Rebel in 2014.

The debate over the issue is continuing, with the Rebel 500 being moved to September in 2015. However, the lineage of the Rebel 500 relates to the Rebel winners since 1957.

Sprint Summer Showdown[edit]

In 2011 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sprint announced a Summer program running from Indianapolis to Bristol, and the winner would be run at Atlanta for any driver who wins those races. The finalists would have a fan choose a driver (Like the No Bull 5 Program) and together the driver, fan, and Drivers choice of Charity would each receive a Million (In Brad Keselowski's case as he won at Pocono and Bristol, the fan would have to split the difference). None of the drivers running for the Showdown won. The highest running driver was Keselowski who finished 6th. Other recipients included Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, and Paul Menard the later of the two, both won their first career wins in the Program.

See also[edit]

References[edit]