Grand Slam (NASCAR)

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The Grand Slam in NASCAR is the achievement of winning all of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series majors in a calendar year.

The Grand Slam[edit]

In 1984, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company announced at the Waldorf Astoria New York during the annual year end awards banquet two new events that would define NASCAR for years to come. The first was an invitation only, "all-star" exhibition race called The Winston (now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race). The other announcement was that they were formally elevating the sport's four majors (sometimes referred to as the "crown jewels") into a formal Grand Slam with a cash prize bonus, known as the Winston Million. The long established and recognized major events were as follows:

Prior to 1985, no driver had ever won all four races in the same season. Only once had a driver claimed a "Small Slam" (winning three out of the four races), and that was David Pearson in 1976. Lee Roy Yarbrough won Daytona, Charlotte, and Darlington in 1969, although it was considered a "Triple Crown" at the time as the Talladega event was not established until 1970.

Winston Million[edit]

From 1985 to 1997, R. J. Reynolds and brand sponsor Winston, offered a $1 million bonus to any driver that won a three out of the four races (a "Small Slam") in a single calendar year 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 four 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 Southern 500." From 1994-1996, the program was advertised as the "Winston Select Million," as R.J. Reynolds elected to promote Winston's "Select" brand of cigarettes.

Initial success[edit]

In the Winston Million program's first year (1985), Bill Elliott captured the million-dollar bonus, and the victory thrust him into super-stardom. He dominated the season-opening Daytona 500, then won the Winston 500 at an all-time NASCAR record speed. He remarkably came back from two laps down, having lost the laps due to having to pit due to a broken oil fitting, and he subsequently made the laps up under green. After suffering mechanical problems at Charlotte, Elliott captured the million dollar bonus at Darlington, taking command after Cale Yarborough lost power steering.

Elliott became known as "Million Dollar Bill," and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Frustration[edit]

Following Elliott's success in the Winston Million in 1985, over a decade of failure followed. The relative ease with which Elliott had won the bonus led many to believe that the prize would be awarded fairly often in subsequent seasons. This, however, ultimately proved untrue, as the award proved difficult to win, and at times, it was difficult to even have a candidate in contention to win.

  • In 1989, Darrell Waltrip became the first driver since Elliott to have a chance at the million, after he won at Daytona and Charlotte. Waltrip, however, was never a factor at Darlington, hitting the notorious Turn 4 (now Turn 2) wall at the Southern 500 (a race he had not won in his career at the time). He settled for the $100,000 consolation prize.
  • 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 at Talladega and Darlington, meaning that he would 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 Southern 500 was cut short by rain, robbing Davey Allison of a chance to clinch the million, as well as the Career Grand Slam. Allison had been in contention much of the race, but settled for fifth after a late pit stop shuffle. That race ended on fuel strategy as Darrell Waltrip stayed out on the track and was leading when rain stopped the race on lap 293. With the win, Waltrip finished off a Career Grand Slam.
  • In 1996, Dale Jarrett had a chance to win the million. He won at Daytona and Charlotte, and had finished just 0.22 seconds shy of winning at Talladega (he finished second to Sterling Marlin). Jarrett hit the wall early in the notoriously narrow Turn 3 at Darlington, which led to a 14th-place finish.

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. Ironically, Elliott and Gordon won the only two Winston Million bonuses in its first year running in 1985, and in its final year running in 1997.

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, 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 current race at Darlington (now carrying the monikor of Bojangles' Southern 500) is now officially the continuation of the spring 500-mile Darlington races run from 2005 to 2014; the race moved back to Labor Day weekend in 2015.

Currently, there is discussion among fans regarding the Brickyard 400 (known as the Crown Royal 400) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which began in 1994, or the Rebel 500 (known as the Bojangles' 500), which moved to September in 2015, as the new fourth major. Despite the discussion, nothing has been officially designated by NASCAR regarding either the Crown Royal 400 or the Bojangles 500 being a major.

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 6: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007 16 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 4: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014 2: 2004, 2012 10 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
Kevin Harvick 1: 2007 1: 2010 2: 2011, 2013 1: 2014 5 1

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 initial 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 until 2015) 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, Trevor Bayne, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano 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 his Career Triple Crown winner can or not be deemed.[1] He has won both disputed races, the Brickyard in 2003 and the Southern 500 in 2014.

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

Television[edit]

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.

Xfinity Series Dash4Cash Program[edit]

A similar program to the No Bull 5 occurs in the Xfinity Series, which began in 2008 when Nationwide Insurance sponsored the series. At a race prior to the first race in the program will be designated the top four finishers for the first race in the bonus. Those drivers in the first race in the program are eligible for a $100,000 bonus. Fans will select one of those four drivers, and a lucky fan will also win $100,000. The highest championship driver (as of 2011) finisher in the race, eligible for points in the Xfinity race, wins the bonus and automatically qualify's for the next event. The next three highest finishers eligible for points in the series also get a chance to race for the bonus at the next Dash4Cash race.

Starting in 2015, the 30th anniversary of the million dollar cash bonus, Comcast (the new sponsor of the second-tier series), announced modifications to the five-race program, including a million dollar bonus.[2] Unlike past years where the races were typically assigned to conflicting weekends to prevent Sprint Cup drivers from participating under pre-2011 rules, the four races are Dover, the Lilly Diabetes 250 (Indianapolis), Food City 250 (Bristol), and Darlington. As usual, the top four finishers at Charlotte participate in the program starting at Dover.

The rules are the same, but Xfinity drivers will have a chance to qualify for the Dash4Cash at Charlotte. After that, that next four races are Dover, Indianapolis, Bristol, and Darlington. If a driver wins the first three cash prizes, and then wins outright Darlington, the driver's winnings in the bonus program will be augmented to one million dollars. The driver must claim the Dover, Indianapolis, and Bristol bonuses, finish first overall in the Darlington race, and earn the 47 (or 48 if the driver leads the most laps) points for the win at Darlington to claim the $600,000 bonus.

See also[edit]

References[edit]