No points. No problem. That's Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a
nutshell – along with a $1 million payoff for the driver and team most
willing to throw caution to the wind and fulfill the racing prophecy of
"checkers or wreckers."
What separates NASCAR's all-star affair from those of other professional
sports? Several things – but most noteworthy that individual players
aren't performing with an unfamiliar coach or manager with teammates who
may or may not be interested in the outcome. Points leader Greg Biffle
will race with his No. 16 Ford team. So will the other starters who will
be racing for pride as well as cash.
Saturday night's 100-lap race will be contested in five segments – four
20-lap stints and a 10-lap finale. Winners of the first four segments
will go to the head of the field for the race's ultimate pit stop. Only
green flag laps will be counted during the final segment.
Carl Edwards is the defending winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Other previous winners qualified for the event include Gordon, Kurt
Busch, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Mark
Martin, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.
The race is open to race-winning drivers from the 2011 and 2012 NSCS
seasons, active NSCS champions from 2002-2011 and past Sprint All-Star
Race winners from 2002-2011. The top two finishers of the night's
opening Sprint Showdown plus one driver selected via the Sprint Fan Vote
complete the field. (Click here to vote
An All-Star victory might be the spark Gordon needs to jump-start his
2012 season, during which he's been beset by just about every
imaginable piece of bad luck. He ranks 23rd in the point standings
despite being in contention for a top-five finish or better in most of
the season's first 11 races.
"We've won all three segments and battled Darrell Waltrip and Dale
Earnhardt for the victory," said Gordon. "But we've also run out of gas
while leading on the last lap. We've also won in a backup car after
wrecking in primary in Turn One on lap one. The All-Star Race is always
wild and crazy."
Showdown Filled With NASCAR Star Power
Last-chance races have been called many things, and Saturday's Sprint
Showdown (run in two segments, 20 laps each) is "special." Consider that
among the 22 participants there are:
• 10 winners of 77 NASCAR Sprint Cup races
• A past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
• Two Daytona 500 winners and a Brickyard 400 winner
• Three former Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifiers
• Two competitors ranked among the top 10 in current NASCAR Sprint Cup points
Only the top two finishers will transfer to the Sprint All-Star Race,
although another will go into the night's main event via the Sprint Fan
Vote. Who might they be?
Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte have won 21 races apiece. Labonte is the
2000 NSCS champion. Dale Earnhardt Jr., an 18-time winner and currently
third in points, has won the Daytona 500. So has Jamie McMurray, whose
resume includes the Brickyard 400. Burton, Earnhardt and Juan Pablo
Montoya have been Chase qualifiers.
If there's a "wild card" it could be Martin Truex Jr., ranked sixth in
points with four top-five finishes including a second place last month
at Kansas Speedway.
Any way you shake it, that's some under card.
Bayne, Menard, Ambrose Eye First All-Star Race
Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race will feature at least three
first-time starters – two of them winners since last May's Coca-Cola 600
and another whose all-star debut was delayed by illness:
• Trevor Bayne punched his All-Star ticket by winning the 2011
Daytona 500. Unfortunately, Bayne was hospitalized later in the spring,
forcing him to delay his special trip to Charlotte as a 20-year-old.
• Paul Menard kissed the fabled start-finish line bricks following
his victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
• Australian Marcos Ambrose became the second foreign-born driver to
reach NASCAR Sprint All-Star glory, winning at Watkins Glen
International last August.
There could be other Sprint All-Star rookies. Three more slots are open
to as-yet unqualified drivers: one via the Sprint Fan Vote and to the
top-two finishers of the Sprint Showdown last-chance event that precedes
the Sprint All-Star Race.
Rookie winners of the race are few and far between – just two since the
race's second edition in 1986. Ryan Newman won as a first-time starter
in 2002 driving for Penske Racing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in 2000
driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
• The festivities begin with the Sprint All-Star Showdown beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, with the Sprint All-Star Race following immediately at 9:00 p.m. Both races air live on SPEED.