This Saturday night June 27 marks the return of the Kar Korner All Star 100 to Rockford Speedway, an event which has featured some of the Stock Car Racing’s very best competing in a star-studded sprint on Rockford Speedway’s famous ‘high banks.’ With the 22nd edition of this great race just around the corner, we take a look back on some of what makes this event so ‘special.’
July 11 1978 “The Tuesday Night Special”: Dick Trickle won the inaugural All Star 100, the first ‘Tuesday Night Special,’ a concept designed by promoters John McKarns and Art Frigo which scheduled short track races on a Tuesday to allow NASCAR’s elite racers the chance to compete at tracks like Rockford Speedway against the top Late Model racers of the day. Trickle held off Rusty Wallace to claim the win. Wallace, who at the time was a curly-haired 21 year old from Missouri, went on to become a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013 after claiming the 1989 Winston Cup championship and 55 career NASCAR wins. Hueytown Alabama’s Neil Bonnett, who went on to win 18 NASCAR races and was named one of the Series’ ’50 Greatest Drivers,’ finished third in the first ‘Tuesday Night Special.’
Bobby Allison: One of the great names in American Motorsports, Bobby Allison also enjoyed entering in short track races across the country when we wasn’t racing NASCAR’s premier circuits. Allison raced in four All Star 100’s, including the first two in 1978 and 1979, finishing tenth and seventeenth respectively. On July 17 1984, Allison returned to Rockford on an emotional night, which followed the funeral of long-time Rockford Speedway promoter Hugh Deery. Allison charged through the field, taking the lead late in the event, then holding off local Don Leach to take the win despite a right side flat tire on Allison’s winning car. The race is considered one of the most memorable in the history of the event. Allison returned one more time to run ‘All Star’ in 1985, finishing sixth behind the eventual top five of Joe Shear, Dick Trickle and Mark Martin, Jim Back and Al Schill.
Earnhardt’s Unforgettable Run: Seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt raced in the 1988 edition of the All Star 100 and despite not winning the event, Earnhardt put on a show that few would ever forget. Starting 18th in the 22-car field, ‘The Intimidator’ made his way through the field in rapid fashion, making several daring three-wide passes on his way to the front. But before Earnhardt had a chance to challenge front-runners Joe Shear and Butch Miller, his engine would expire, signaling an early end to his night on the 44th lap. Despite the early exit and the fact that Earnhardt did not win or compete for the win, his wild and unorthodox run at Rockford is an effort still talked about over 25 years later.
The ability to repeat is no easy feat: In the previous twenty-one runnings of the All Star 100, no driver has ever won the event in back-to-back fashion. The only two drivers to ever win more than one All Star 100 are a pair of greats who did their share of winning throughout their careers; Joe Shear and Dick Trickle. As mentioned earlier, Trickle won the first All Star 100 in 1978. The Wisconsin Rapids Wisconsin native also captured the event in 1980, 1983 and 1986. Shear, also a six-time Rockford Speedway Track Champion and an eight-time winner of Rockford’s National Short Track Championship, claimed victory in the All Star 100 in 1981, 1985 and 1992.
Truly an ‘All Star’ event: As mentioned earlier, the ‘Tuesday Night Special’ which became known as the All Star 100 has featured some of the greatest talent in American Stock Car Racing. Along with expert Late Model racers like Dick Trickle, Joe Shear, Rich Bickle, Butch Miller, Dave Watson, Al Schill, Larry Schuler and Kevin Cywinski who have tasted victory in the 100 lap sprint, the likes of Mark Martin and Bobby Allsion also claimed wins in the star-studded race. The All Star 100 also witnessed legends like Rusty Wallace, Neil Bonnett, Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Petty, Jim Sauter, Alan Kulwicki, Ted Musgrave and Matt Kenseth take part in the event.
Future stars find success on ‘All Star Saturday Night’: Since the return of the All Star 100 in 2007 following a 15-year hiatus, the race has moved off the traditional Tuesday night in favor Rockford Speedway’s regular Saturday race night. In recent years, two young racers have used the All Star 100 as a springboard towards the upper reaches of the racing world. In July of 2009, then 16-year old Ross Kenseth not only set a new Track Record in Qualifying, but also won the 100 lap main event after assuming the lead with 43 laps to go. Kenseth has recently picked up an ARCA Racing Series win at Michigan International Speedway while also finishing sixth in his first NASCAR Xfinity start last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Back in 2011, a fifteen year old from Michigan stormed into Rockford Speedway and became the youngest Late Model winner ever at the historic oval. That young Michigan racer is named Erik Jones and since that night at Rockford nearly four years ago, the now 19 year old is driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports and has won five NASCAR Truck Series races and two NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
Make sure you’re at Rockford Speedway this Saturday night June 27 to witness more history! Spectator Gates open at 5 PM, with Qualifying getting underway at 5:55 PM and the first green flag flying at 7:07 PM. Adult admission is just $20, with Students (ages 12-17) admitted for $10, Children (ages 6-10) are $5, while Kids 5 and under are admitted FREE. Along with a complete show for the ARCA Midwest Tour and the headlining Kar Korner All Star 100, the Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models will join the show, contesting their ‘Star Spangled 76’ lap feature event. The Central States Super Cups will also be featured as part of ‘All Star Saturday Night.’
For more information on the ARCA Midwest Tour, please visit arcamidwesttour.com. For more information on the Rockford Speedway or the Kar Korner All Star 100, please visit rockfordspeedway.com or please call 815-633-1500.