Sometimes in motorsports, drivers need an opportunity to compete against the competitors they see on a normal basis, but forget about the bigger picture. Make it about one night, one race, and winner take all.
That is the definition of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Things are done differently, from how the pit stalls are selected, to how the teams qualify, and how the race is actually run. This is a weekend that points simply are the last thing on their minds. Instead, it's all about getting a victory, and a huge check at the end of the night.
It's a race that since it's inception in 1985 have seen moments that have lived on in infamy. Races such as "One Hot Night" come to mind, when the Charlotte Motor Speedway added lights for the first time, changing the course of night racing in NASCAR to this day.
Even the first race that was won by Darrell Waltrip was memorable because car owner Junior Johnson said he had a special engine for that race, one that he guaranteed would last the entire race, and give Waltrip the victory.
He was right, as at the end of the then 70-lap event, Waltrip won the race...then entering turn 1 on the cool down lap his No. 11 Budweiser machine went up in smoke.
Legend says Waltrip had his foot on the gas and the clutch to purposefully blow the motor, preventing a detailed inspection as competitors said it was an oversized engine. A legend that lives on with D.W. and former crew chief, now FOX-analyst, Jeff Hammond.
But, what are other defining moments in the All-Star Race.
This week, a few of the writers in the Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool got a break from picking a winner, but were given an option. The request: name your defining moment in NASCAR's wild night.
Four writers gave their take on what they considered to be the defining moment for The Winston, Winston Select, All-Star Challenge, or the All-Star Race.
Misan Ayuka: 2002-Avoiding Elimination
Ryan Newman had been denied by Tony Stewart just a week before at Richmond. So Newman had to race his way into what was then the Winston. The Rocketman did by winning the open. Newman then started dead last in the Winston.
He had to spend the whole race getting up through the field so that he wouldn't be eliminated, the first year the elimination process was used. He accomplished this. He had contact with Elliott Sadler which resulted in Sadler spinning and throwing his helmet at Newman. Newman shock it off and got the lead.
He showed how strong he truly was on restarts. But Dale Earnhardt Jr was coming. On the last restart, Earnhardt Jr charged up to Newman's bumper. The last lap Earnhardt Jr was there and he could have taken out Newman. But he respected the rookie perhaps remembering that just two seasons ago he won the Winston in his rookie season. Newman held off Earnhardt Jr and won the Winston.
It would be months later that he earned his first points win, but this was huge for Newman and continued to have a great rookie season by winning Rookie of the Year, beating Jimmie Johnson.
Billy Fellin: 2008-Victory for the Fans
For me, the defining moment has to be when Kasey Kahne won the 2008 All-Star Race after being put in the race by the fan vote.
In a sport that prides itself on the fans and how loyal they are, I think it's really monumental when the fan voted driver gets in to Victory Lane.
Christopher Leone: 1996-An Unexpected Celebration
The All-Star race, more than anything, is about how anything can happen when you strip away the points and start racing for the money.
In my mind, there's no better race that defines that than the 1996 Winston Select, where Michael Waltrip - still about half a decade removed from the first points-paying win of his Cup career - scored the last of five transfer spots in the Winston Open to sneak into the main event, and then took the victory over the sport's best.
Even he couldn't believe that he pulled out the win. It's hard to think of a more compelling or more unlikely story.
Dustin Parks: 2001-Rain turns to Riches
Expect the unexpected in this race, and certainly 2001 gave us that. Right at the start of the race, entering the first turn, the entire field went into a slide, taking out four good cars. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Michael Waltrip and others damaged. Why...because NASCAR missed the fact it was raining, and hard, on the track.
The rain delay, unlike most weekends, meant teams could work on their cars. But with good drivers already in damaged cars on the first lap, the race for them was done...or so they thought. Live on the air, while FX was interviewing Michael Waltrip, NASCAR made the call to have the drivers that wrecked get out their backup cars, roll them through inspection, and put them on the grid. Never before had it been done, but it's not for points...no penalty for those involved, and the fans got to see an entire field take the green flag.
Who would have thought that at the end of the night, one of those drivers that at the beginning of the night have a destroyed race car would end up in victory lane. That's what Gordon did, getting his third win in the prestigious event.
That's a moment where one goes from the outhouse to the penthouse, and ends up in the memory bank.
Final Thoughts: This year's All-Star Race is all about winning. Five segments in all, with 90 laps to complete the event. Four segments at 20 laps a piece, with the winners of those segments starting out front for the final 10-lap, green-flag shootout.
Pull those belts tight, because no points are on the line...it's all about the checkered flag and a $1 million paycheck at the end of the night.
Coverage of the 2012 edition of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race begins at 7 p.m. ET on Speed with the 40-lap Sprint Shootout. The top two drivers, along with the winner of the fan vote, will transfer into the main event, which will have a start time at approximately 9 p.m. ET.