By Pete Pistone
SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE PREVIEW
There are no points and simply pride and money on the line in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Over the years that’s been a pretty good recipe for an entertaining night of racing.
Since the annual All-Star event made its debut back in 1985 it’s undergone a variety of changes, modification and tweaks. But at the end of the day it’s still all about one thing and one thing only – winning.
“Yeah, everybody amps it up so much saying there’s nothing on the line but money,” said former winner Tony Stewart. “Trust me, we all think of the trophy first and the money second. But it’s fun to know that you can take extra chances in that race and you know that everybody is going to do it so it just takes the whole level of racing and just takes it up a whole new level that we don’t get a chance to do when we’re racing (the normal schedule).”
The change of pace from the weekly grind of points racing makes Saturday night’s race special enough that in addition to the drive to succeed there’s also a “fun factor” in play.
“We’ve never been able to close the deal,” said Sprint Cup Series point leader Carl Edwards. “I’m excited to be able to go compete for a million dollars and not have points on the line. It’s just a fun weekend and I’m looking forward to it more than I have any other All Star race.”
In a bit or a rarity considering the history of the event, this year’s All-Star Race will again feature the same format used last year when Kurt Busch went to victory lane.
The Sprint Showdown preliminary event will see the first two finishers move into the main event along with one driver voted in by “Fan Vote” for an All-Star Race starting line-up of 22 cars.
A fifty lap segment opens up the All-Star Race followed by a pair of 20-lappers with a no holds barred ten lap dash to the checkered flag set to cap the night off and the $1 million pot of gold.
That all adds up to what some believe to be the best all-star event in professional sports.
“Our series, the hits are actually probably worse, harder, stronger,” said Jimmie Johnson of what takes place in the NFL’s Pro Bowl or NHL’s All-Star Game. “The intensity and commitment for our All-Star event seems to be a lot higher than others. So that mindset is the difference to me. Not to take anything away from those athletes. I should then say we’re surrounded by a steel cage so it’s easier for us to dish some stuff out and take some hits.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Track Size: 1.5-mile
Banking/Straightaways: 5 degrees
Banking/Corners: 24 degrees
There have been 26 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Races.
The first NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race was in 1985.
25 have been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 1986, the event was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and won by Bill Elliott. That season was also the first year for what is now known as the Sprint Showdown.
84 drivers have run in at least one All-Star Race.
There have been 18 different winners of the All-Star Race.
Mark Martin has participated in 21 races, more than any other driver.
The race has featured a field that ranged from 10 drivers in 1986 to 27 in 2002.
Dale Earnhardt (1987, 1990 and 1993) and Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997 and 2001) are the only three-time winners of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
There have been seven different winners in the last seven NASCAR Sprint All-Star races.
Davey Allison (1991 and 1992), Terry Labonte (1988 and 1999), Mark Martin (1998 and 2005) and Jimmie Johnson (2003 and 2006) are the only other drivers to post multiple victories in the All-Star Race. Allison is the only driver to ever win consecutive All-Star events.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2000) and Ryan Newman (2002) are the only drivers to win the All-Star Race in their rookie season.
Jeff Gordon is the youngest winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at 23 years, 9 months and 18 days (1995). Mark Martin is the oldest at 46 years, 4 months and 12 days (2005).
Matt Kenseth has a 6.6 average finish in 10 appearances in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the best of any driver in this weekend’s field; followed by Jimmie Johnson with a 6.7 average finish in nine appearances. The best average finish by a driver with more than five starts is Ken Schrader, at 6.125.
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race has been won from the pole position four times; the first three came in consecutive years: Dale Earnhardt (1990) and Davey Allison (1991 and 1992). Kurt Busch posted the fourth win from the pole last season.
The deepest in the field an All-Star Race winner has started was 27th, by Ryan Newman in 2002.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won six All-Star Races: Jeff Gordon (three), Jimmie Johnson (two) and Terry Labonte (one).
Five drivers have won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same year: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Dale Earnhardt (1987, 1990, 1993), Rusty Wallace (1989), Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997, 2001) and Jimmie Johnson (2006).
The record for lead changes in a NASCAR Sprint All-Star race is 10 in 2004. The most different leaders is nine in 2002.
Who’s Hot at the All-Star Race
Matt Kenseth – Fresh off his victory last Sunday in Dover Kenseth races to the All-Star Race with four straight Top 10 finishes in the event on his record. Kenseth is a winner of the 2004 race.
Tony Stewart – His recent rough streak could be cured with another win in the All-Star Race, where he’s run in the Top 5 four straight years including a victory lane-worthy performance back in 2009.
Kurt Busch – A year ago Busch was the toast of Charlotte Motor Speedway with a win in the All-Star Race and a follow-up victory in The Coca-Cola 600. Things have not gone well for the Penske Racing team since Daytona but the ship would feel very righted with back-to-back $1 million paydays.
Kyle Busch – You’d think the format of the All-Star Race would be perfect for Busch’s style of racing with the all-out dash to the checkered flag in the final ten-lap segment. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has not enjoyed the annual event very much at all and has only one Top 10 finish in five career starts.
Jamie McMurray – Charlotte is the scene of McMurray’s first career Sprint Cup win but the All-Star Race has not been a favorite of the Earnhardt Ganassi racing driver. An average finish of 17.2 in four career starts is McMurray’s performance record in the race.
Jeff Burton – The veteran has a best finish of fourth in six career races for Burton adds up to a career average finish of 14.8.
2011 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
Montoya, Juan Pablo
Fan Vote Winner
Winner Sprint Showdown
Second Place Sprint Showdown
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