By Matt Weaver — One of the major flaws in motorsports is that every weekend feels the same. This is especially true in NASCAR where as soon as the sport leaves the hallowed ground of Daytona International Speedway, it is largely nine months of the same show on the same type of tracks with often similar outcomes.
As media, we try to place additional races on the pedestal but outside of tenure and a larger purse, events like the Brickyard 400, Southern 500 or this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 just feels like one of 36. One solution is to bring back a variation of the Winston Million — a four-race season within a season that paid a $1 million bonus to any driver that could win three out of the sport’s four marquee events, a list that included the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Talladega 500 and Southern 500.
For the better part of a decade, the Winston Million was the third most important goal behind the Daytona 500 and Winston Cup championship. It was so challenging in fact, that only two drivers — Bill Elliott (1985) and Jeff Gordon (1997) — were able to accomplish the feat.
In typical NASCAR logic, the Sanctioning Body and Winston revamped and diluted the million dollar program into the Winston No Bull 5 that opened it up to more drivers and made it easier to accomplish. It’s a lot like the Chase and its contrived evolution when you think about it.
A reintroduction of the Winston Million (let’s call it the Sprint Payout) would attract a few of the longtime fans disenfranchised by the recent decisions to modernize the sport as well as revive a tradition that was considered as tough and challenging as any in professional sports.
Here’s how it would work: The current Sprint Cup Series grand slam arguably includes Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte and the Brickyard 400. Indianapolis replaces Talladega just because two random restrictor plate races shouldn’t make up the grand slam and the Brickyard is one of the toughest events on the schedule, especially when considering the number of champions that have kissed the bricks.
The same rules as the old Winston Million apply in that winning three of the four races result in scoring the grand prize, upped from $1 million to $2.5 million to reflect the difficulty in achieving such a feat. Should no driver win three of the four events, a $250,000 bonus would be paid to the driver that accumulated the most points in all four events. Additionally, as was tradition in the Winston Million, any driver that won two of the four will earn a $100,000 bonus.
All told, it would be piece of NASCAR history revived and would give fans and industry insiders something extra to dissect over the course of a long season while adding an element of importance to races like this weekend’s Coke 600. Make it happen.