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Remember the other half of that 1985 NASCAR-R.J.Reynolds All-star promotion......

 Bill Elliott, 1985, Darlington (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Hey, remember the old Winston Million?
   Maybe it's time to dust off that concept and polish it and put it back into the game.
   Why not?
   Just some idle thoughts while awaiting the start of the Coke 600...
   But which NASCAR tracks to pick, and what format?
   And could anybody put together enough such big wins?
   But, ah, those good ol' days...
   Remember Bill Elliott at Darlington that September, facing a $1 million bonus from tour sponsor R. J. Reynolds if he could win the Southern 500, after winning the season-opening Daytona 500 and the spring Talladega 500?
   Remember Elliott surrounding himself by a bevy of Georgia State Troopers, to keep the media at bay?
   Another of T. Wayne Robertson's sports publicity gambits, along with the annual All-Star race, the Winston Million looked almost deceptively easy: Any driver who could win three of the sport's four major events – the Daytona 500, the Talladega/Winston 500, the Coke 600, and the Southern 500 – would get a $1 million bonus.
   Elliott did it the first year, with that fastback Thunderbird, starting out by winning the season-opener at Daytona and following with a win at Talladega. He stumbled at Charlotte that May (Darrell Waltrip won the 600). But Elliott went to Darlington that Labor Day with all the hoopla NASCAR and Reynolds could muster. 
   And Elliott beat Cale Yarborough for the dramatic win.  http://bit.ly/bjqU11 
   Jeff Gordon was the only other driver to ever win the Million, which went unpaid again until Gordon in 1997 added the Southern 500 to wins at Daytona and Charlotte.
   The days of sweeping the sport's big races might be long gone, though.
   The four races Reynolds picked were dubbed the 'Grand Slam,' which nobody has ever won: Daytona as the richest, Talladega as the fastest, Charlotte as the longest, and Darlington as the oldest.
   (LeeRoy Yarborough won Daytona, Charlotte and Darlington in 1969 (the year Talladega opened, to a major driver boycott because of tire problems), and David Pearson in 1976 also won Daytona, Charlotte and Darlington.)  
    Darrell Waltrip in 1989 went to Darlington in September with a shot at the Million, having won Daytona and Charlotte. But he crashed out of the chase.
    Dale Earnhardt had a shot, in a way, too in 1990 – the year he lost the Daytona 500 on the last lap with that cut tire. Earnhardt won nine races en route to the championship that season, including Talladega and Darlington; but he crashed midway through the 600.
    Davey Allison in 1992 also had a shot at the Million, winning Daytona and Talladega, finishing fourth in 600, and then wound up fifth at Darlington when that race was called 100 miles short by rain while he was contending for the win.
   And Dale Jarrett in 1996 won Daytona and the 600, missed by a nose to Sterling Marlin at Talladega, and crashed early at Darlington.
   For the 1998 season Reynolds changed up the program, morphed it into something strange, dubbed the No Bull 5, with a somewhat unusual format that distorted the original concept of a Grand Slam sweep, or mini-Slam sweep, which had proven rather hard to win.
   Just to see how the original three-of-four biggies might have worked, from 1998 until 2004, the last year of the original Southern 500: no one won Daytona and Talladega to start the season...until Gordon did that in 2005 (when Jimmie Johnson got the 600, after Gordon crashed out late in the race).
   However Johnson open 2006 winning Daytona and Talladega, and wound up a close second to Kasey Kahne in the 600...that close to a sweep, even without the Southern 500 on Labor Day.
    So, if someone were to ante up $1 million...or $20 million, or whatever, what tracks to pick?
    What are the top four or five events on the NASCAR tour today?
    Obviously the Daytona 500, Indianapolis' Brickyard 400, Talladega's two (the spring race is typically wilder than the fall 500), Charlotte's 600, the two Texas 500s, and maybe the August night race at Bristol.
    How about this five-some: the Daytona 500, April's Texas 500, Charlotte's May 600, Indy's July 400, and concluding with Talladega's October 500?
   Of course checking the record books the last few years, in those 15 events there have been 12 different winners, and no one has won even two of those five in a single season.
    ...but just some idle thoughts while awaiting the start of the Coke 600.

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  Million Dollar Bill today (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 20 Million Dollar Man

A promotion of this epic proportion is exactly what NA$CAR needs today! Currently the racing is lackluster and often boring. The five tracks mentioned could build genuine excitement for our declining sport. Maybe a similar idea showcasing the upcoming pony car wars ofr the Nationwide series could give them a much needed boost. There you would have to eliminate all part time cup competitors for fairness. It would be great for the fans and great for Detroit to see Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros dueling it out...oh crap! Chevy didn't have the 'nads to put the Camaro in competition and in their "wisdom" forced a 4 door, old man's grocery getter on the masses. Their stupidity will be Dodge and Ford's gain! Let's roll corporate America! Whoever has the intelligence and vision to structure these 2 incredible promotions can reap a veritable gold mine in publicity for many seasons...unless Million Dollar Bill decides he wants the big check and wins the promotion in the inaugeral year again.

A $20M man....hmmmm, could

A $20M man....hmmmm, could make it interesting, for sure....putting talladega-october in there as the finale might perk up that race, which, unlike the spring-talladega, is too conservative for my tastes....
and i still find Chevrolet's 'reason' for not racing the Camaro in NASCAR disingenuous. In fact at least one GM team actually built a Nationwide version of that Camaro to submit to NASCAR, only to get shot down in a phone call from Detroit. Bad move on GM's part....maybe it's scared....or just too arrogant, after four straight championships.
And I would welcome a move by Toyota into NASCAR's pony-car game too.....that marque needs a little pizzazzzzzzz....maybe they could call it 'the Rowdy.' lol

NASCAR needs some sort of

NASCAR needs some sort of incentive to spice up the pre-chase season and give the drivers a better reason to go after wins. I like these 5 races for the deal: Daytona 500, Darlington, World 600, Brickyard 400, and the Bristol night race. That's your four biggest races and one at the most historic track.

Now, do you set it up to get say $5 million for 3 out of 5, $10 million for 4 out of 5, and $20 million for the sweep? I think one of the past incentive deals was set up where you get part of the money if you won so many legs of the package, but I can't remember the details.

Another idea would be to have money tied to "swing" packages kind of like the PGA Tour does. You could have the Northeast Swing with 2 Dovers, 2 Loudons, 2 Poconos, and Watkins Glen. West Coast swing could include 2 Californias, 2 Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Sears Point. Deep South could include 2 Talladegas, 2 Daytonas, 2 Atlantas, and Homestead. Mid-Atlantic: 2 Charlottes, 2 Richmonds, 2 Martinsvilles, and Darlington. Mid-west: 2 Michgans, Chicago, Kansas, and Indy. There are many combos you could come up with, but I'm all for giving drivers something more to race for.

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