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The first time I saw The Winston was one of the better ones. It was in 1992, the first contested at night. Lights at superspeedways are now taken for granted, but 26 years ago, whether they could work was an issue of considerable doubt. A 1.5-mile track requires lots of illumination, and all sorts of high-tech precautions had to be taken in order to eliminate glare.

The doubt disappeared after Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty and Davey Allison all crashed on the final lap, in two installments, and Allison’s celebration of victory took place at a nearby hospital.

Today doubt would have appeared. At the time, it seemed as if Humpy Wheeler had just invented pizza.

I was in the grandstands that night. The next year was the first I wrote about NASCAR for a living. For a decade, it grew and grew.

Now it’s called the Monster Energy All-Star Race. Catchy, huh?

The race is full of lore. Fans remember those nights as if they were Civil War battles. Gettysburg. Rusty wrecked D.W. Shiloh. Earnhardt made the all-time greatest pass in the grass that technically wasn’t one. Antietam. Davey over Kyle, back when Kyle was Petty. Even the lesser battles were exciting.

I don’t even remember what happened in the last 10 all-star races, and I was at the one last year. Oh, I remember a few details. A color scheme here. A conversation with a driver there. The unbelievable ease of getting out and driving home through the night. The last tweet-up I will ever attend.

In 1992, the place was packed. Now the place won’t come close to holding that crowd. The track has been downsized. The event has been downsized. The sport has been downsized. What’s a Monster Energy All-Star Race to do? Its cards have all been played. This year NASCAR officials are giving restrictor plates a try. They revved it up for more than 30 years with thrills, chills, lights, cameras, sparks, flames, concerts, movies, the lovely, the talented stars of the silver screen.

What’s new? Why, they’re slowing it down! If this works, maybe next year they’ll run the whole race under caution and decide the winner via wave-arounds. In five years, they’ll run it in reverse!

Mick Jagger sang it best.

She’s so respectable!