Less than a month before the 30th anniversary of the biggest all-star event in sports on May 16, former race winners Darrell Waltrip and Jamie McMurray reflected on what it means to take the checkered flag at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and how big the cornerstone event has become over the last three decades at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Waltrip won the inaugural event in 1985 as part of a historic Charlotte weekend sweep that also included capturing the Bruton Smith trophy at the Coca-Cola 600 the following day. It was a win that propelled the NASCAR Hall of Famer to his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, following a tight points battle with fellow Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.

As much as the win meant to Waltrip (the $200,000 winner's share of the race's purse was the biggest payday of his career), he said the Sprint All-Star Race has always been an event for the fans.

"Nobody knew back then if the All-Star Race would catch on and last - if it would still be around today - but it's caught on and lasted," Waltrip said. "It's truly a unique race weekend. You have concerts. You have pre-race shows. It's truly an event for the fans. Charlotte is the right place for it to be. It always has been and it always will be. This race has created for our sport a really dramatic, exciting, unpredictable weekend, and when these drivers go home, all they care about is whether they won a million dollars."

This year, 20 additional laps of white-knuckle excitement have been added to the race, with five extra laps added to each of last year's first four 20-lap segments. The final shootout for $1 million will remain 10 laps, and the race total will now be 110. McMurray, the most recent driver to join the elite club of Sprint All-Star winners, said the new format for 2015 may change some drivers' strategies, but the need for consistency throughout the race will be vital if he wants to defend his 2014 title.

"When you look at the Sprint All-Star Race right now, it's not about winning every segment. It's about getting the most points throughout the four segments that you have, then your pit crew has to do their part," he said. "I like that. I think it's kind of cool that it involves the entire team.

"For us, that was really cool. We came in (for the final, mandatory pit stop) third and we came out on the front row. When you get to line up on the front row for 10 laps to win a million dollars, you know you've got a chance.

"It's a really fun race. That's the first word that comes to mind. That whole weekend is laid back. It's intense, but it's also a lot of fun. It's one of two races all year where there are no points, so everybody runs all out all weekend."

Waltrip and McMurray also chuckled at the difference in paydays between 1985 when Waltrip won $200,000 and last year when McMurray took home $1 million. Each was presented with a trophy check, with Waltrip's notably smaller.

"Let me put it in perspective, it took five All-Star Races for the five winners to make that much money," Waltrip said of McMurray's seven-figure payout. "But that's a good thing. I'm happy I won $200,000. It's the biggest payday I ever had. I'm also happy our sport is in the shape it's in and we have the fan support and the sponsor support to be able to pay the winner of the Sprint All-Star Race a million bucks."

Great seats are still available for the May 16 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the entire 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder, with weekend passes starting at just $99. Fans can upgrade to a Golden Ticket for just $20 more and get early stagefront access for the Little Big Town pre-race concert, presented by Rayovac. To purchase tickets, camping and race-day upgrades, fans should call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shop online.

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