With no points on the line, a big check to the winner and a race featuring NASCAR's elite, the All-Star Race has always held a special place in my heart.
Maybe it was because the annual shootout under the lights typically fell on the weekend of my birthday and coincided with the party my parents always planned around this event. Or maybe it's because the yearly showdown of the sport's best has created some of NASCAR's most memorable – and in some cases most notorious – moments.
Whatever the reason, here are my favorite All-Star Race memories since 2000:
5. Tony Wins For Tony (2009)
When Tony Stewart decided to leave Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2008 season to own his own team, most in the garage thought he was crazy. After all, JGR was one of the premiere organizations in NASCAR and a team which had provided Stewart with good enough equipment to win two Sprint Cup Series championships and 33 races.
While Stewart's foray into owning a Cup team started rather well - he was second in points heading into that year's All-Star Race - what he had yet to do was win a race in a car bearing his name.
That all changed in a race which featured a crazy final segment with plenty of three-wide racing, a remarkable save by Jimmie Johnson along with a savage Jeff Gordon crash as he was battling Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch for the lead. When the smoke finally cleared, there was Stewart standing tall in Victory Lane celebrating not only his first win as a car owner but his first All-Star Race victory in 11 tries.
4. Carl Edwards Wins, Then Wrecks (2011)
It's become customary in NASCAR that when a driver wins, he either does a burnout, whips doughnuts through the frontstretch grass or performs some combination of both. However, what a driver is not supposed to do is damage a perfectly good race-winning race car.
But that is exactly what Carl Edwards did last year after taking the checkered flag in NASCAR's annual get together of the best-of-the-best.
Unbeknownst to him, a drainage ditch had been left exposed and as he drove through the infield to begin his celebration, Edwards' Ford Fusion clipped the grass and severely damaged the nose of his car.
The lasting image from last year's event was Edwards getting out of his wrecked, smoldering car and shrugging his shoulders in utter disbelief of what had just happened – as did everyone who had just witnessed the incident.
3. Brother vs. Brother (2007)
Three weeks ago in the Nationwide Series race at Richmond, Kurt Busch wheeled a car owned by his brother Kyle to Victory Lane, marking the first time Kyle had won a Nationwide race as an owner.
Seeing that moment unfold, you would think the Busch brothers had an inseparable bond, as close as brothers could possibly be. However, the relationship between the siblings hasn't always been so ideal.
Five years ago in the 2007 edition of the All-Start Race, Kurt was running second with 18 laps to go when Kyle attempted a banzai pass on his older brother heading into Turn 1. But as Kyle barreled into the corner, his Chevrolet bobbled and drifted up the track and into Kurt, sending both into the wall and ending both of their nights.
Understandably, Kurt was less than pleased with what had transpired and went on television and made it known that he wouldn't be eating Kellogg's – then Kyle's sponsor – anytime soon. The bad blood was such that the two barely spoke the rest of the season and didn't reconcile until grandma sat the two down at Thanksgiving and forced them to put their issues behind them.
2. A JGR Civil War (2010)
In theory, teammates are supposed to race one another hard and do everything they can not to wreck one another. But that tends to go out the window when a big check with a lot of zeros is awaiting the winner.
This exact scenario played out in 2010, when with eight laps to go Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were running first and second when coming off of Turn 2.
Hamlin boldly blocked Busch's attempt to pass him on the outside, but the Hamlin's defensive driving resulted in Busch making significant contact with the wall. Just four laps later, Busch cut a tire from the damage and saw his night come to an early end.
It was then, as he limped back to the garage after crashing-out that Busch unleashed an unforgettable tirade that would have made a sailor take notice.
"Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin after this fucking race," Busch radioed to his crew. "I swear to God, I'm going to kill that fucker. It's all his fucking fault.
"I had this race won! It was won!"
Busch then proceeded to park his wounded Toyota in front of Hamlin's hauler where a meeting between the two combatants soon took place, mediated by team owner Joe Gibbs.
1. The Son Also Rises (2000)
Few drivers entered Sprint Cup with as much fanfare as Dale Earnhardt Jr. did during his 2000 rookie campaign and few drivers had a coming out party like he did when he became the first rookie to win the All-Star Race.
Entering the non-points affair, the Budweiser team had the mentality they would do whatever it took to win, as anything less than first wasn't going to be acceptable. It was this attitude that led to a decisive call as Earnhardt Jr. entered the final segment running third but with a car that he and his team knew was not fast enough to win the race. So crew chief Tony Eury Sr. rolled the dice and called his driver to pit road for one last key adjustment and to put on four fresh tires for the 10-lap dash to the cash.
As the green flag waved, Earnhardt Jr., starting towards the back, transformed into a mirror image of his father, slicing his way through the field and passing then-defending Cup champion Dale Jarrett on the outside with two laps to go to take the lead.
Making this moment even more poignant was the embrace that Earnhardt Jr. shared with his dad in Victory Lane. It was not just a dad telling his son congratulations on a job well done, but a proud father acknowledging that his son had finally arrived – and arrived in a very big way.