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NASCAR's All-Star Race spoils the victor

When drivers talk about the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, they speak of the pride of winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, they talk about the prestige of winning an all-or-nothing type of race - and then they mention the $1-million purse that the winner takes home.

"To me the All-Star Race is right there in the top three or four when you look at the Daytona 500, the Brickyard," says four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who has 50 career Cup wins. "If you look from a paper perspective, it's probably the second largest race to win. It leaves a feeling inside of you that you're so proud that you won our All-Star event with everything that's on the line with it; the purse side of it also helps rank it some more.

"Those two wins that I have there are really, really special to me. I'd say top three or four."

It's an amazing thing, racing with no points on the line and a million bucks up for grabs. It's not only the largest purse in the Cup ranks, it's also a sign of just how far the sport has come.

After all, it wasn't until 1971 when NASCAR saw its first driver pass $1 million in career earnings, and that was Richard Petty in the year he won his third Cup title. Now, someone can snare that in a single race.

It's amazing just how far things have come.

Tim Flock was a successful champion who raced in NASCAR from 1949 through 1961. His career winnings: $110,365. Donnie Allison won 10 races in a career that spanned 1966 to 1988 and posted career winnings of just over $1 million.

Now, drivers can almost match that in a single outing, on a single night.

Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer seems somewhat in awe of the possibility. He points out that's an amazing purse for anyone in racing to claim.

"I would hope that's big money for anybody," Bowyer said.

And, he acknowledges, that would be fun to spend.

"I was going to say, it's not like I've had a million dollars to just go out and have fun with, but I could just imagine," he said. "A million dollars would look very good in my bank account."

It would look good in anyone's -- and would have with the men who paved the path for this kind of success and backing to be in NASCAR. But don't expect to find any hard feelings there.

The men who built the sport, and those racing today, are in it for the competition. The money is not, nor has it ever been, the driving force for anyone competing in the sport.

However, the purse growth evidenced in the All-Star Race is a sign of just how far the sport has come in recent years.

And that's a good thing, both for adding excitement and glamour to nights like the All-Star Race and to those men who helped build it to its current level.

Two-time champion and 50-race winner Ned Jarrett enjoyed his time as a driver and has watched the sport's expansion through both his role as driver and TV commentator.

"It is amazing the difference in the sport," he says, chuckling at the idea of having won this big of a purse in his day. "... It's good to see it really. I'm happy that it came along so (son) Dale could share in that, and even new drivers will be able to share in that as time goes by."

Bobby Allison, who won a championship and officially 84 Cup wins, has nothing but positive comments about his racing career and how he was treated during his tenure.

"It's been an incredible ride, believe me," he says. "I won Grand National races, three Cup races that paid $1,000 to win. That usually was what they paid on the little tracks. Some actually paid less than that, but I didn't win one of the ones that paid less than that."

As to the increases in the purses, he thinks that's a positive development.

"Well I think it's just really neat," Allison said. "I think we contributed to that evolution. In our day, there was big money and we went for it. It's no longer big money, but we helped it grow and I always felt good about that."

And now, they'll go for $1 million in one 100-lap showdown.

How does that feel? It only adds to the excitement of Saturday night.

"It's a big deal," Harvick says of winning the race. "It's a huge feather in your cap. Everyone wants to win it because it is the All-Star Race. And you get a million bucks to go along with it, so that's always nice."