NASCAR Turns on the Lights for Speedway Racing at Charlotte in 1992

NASCAR 75: One of a series of 75 stories that helped define the first three quarters of a century of NASCAR.

davey allison races in the 1992 winston cup all star event
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  • The All-Star Race was an annual presence at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which put significant effort into its promotion each year.
  • CMS president Humpy Wheeler took promotion to the next level with the idea of putting up lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway ahead of the 1992 race.
  • Davey Allison nipped Kyle Petty at the finish line for the victory.

    It was billed as One Hot Night.

    It was that—and much more.

    The 1992 Winston All-Star Race was held on May 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was unique in that it was the first major NASCAR superspeedway race held at night. It began with a touch of controversy and ended in much the same fashion.

    The All-Star Race was an annual presence at CMS, which put significant effort into its promotion each year. But there were rumblings that the event, then one of the top draws of the season, might be moved to another track. That set the wheels in the inventive mind of CMS president Humpy Wheeler to work.

    dave allison 1992 vl the winston
    Davey Allison makes a little NASCAR history with his win in the first superspeedway race at Charlotte under the lights.
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    Why not move the race to nighttime, Wheeler proposed. At first, it seemed like a ridiculous idea. Stock cars had raced most of forever on short tracks at night, but on a 1.5-mile, high-speed track? Some drivers were more than skeptical.

    Wheeler brought in a lighting system that cost about $2 million, and NASCAR held an evening test to check for issues. There were none, and promotion of the big night continued unchecked.

    A crowd of 100,000-plus showed up with giddy anticipation, and those fans were rewarded.

    The race was decided on the final lap. With a winner’s purse of $300,000 on the line, the competition was frantic.

    Dale Earnhardt, typically a master of these situations, led as the field roared down the backstretch for the final time. Kyle Petty, running second, dropped low into the third turn to attempt to pass Earnhardt. Earnhardt lost control of his car as Petty charged past, and it appeared that Petty was on his car to a big paycheck.

    But Davey Allison had followed Petty through the third and fourth turns and suddenly appeared as the challenger. They raced side by side to the finish line, with Allison getting there first by a nose. The two cars crashed as they crossed the line, and Allison slammed hard into the outside wall.

    Allison suffered a concussion and a bruised lung. He was helicoptered to a local hospital, where he spent the night.

    Victory lane was missing the race winner, but the celebration went on.

    Somewhere, Humpy Wheeler was smiling. And nighttime superspeedway racing soon became commonplace in NASCAR.

    davey allison nascar winston
    Davey Allison rolls to the win at Charlotte in 1992.
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