Sponsored by SPEED
By Eric McClung
This Saturday night will mark the 28th running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race which airs on SPEED at 7:00 pm ET. The great thing about this showcase is that drivers are encouraged to hold nothing back. While other sports have seen their All-Star events criticized over a lack of competition, this race will keep viewers intrigued from the drop of the green flag. Instead of dialing it down, NASCAR drivers throw caution to the wind with risky passes and aggressive driving for a $1 million payday.
The All-Star Races is held at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. which is home to many of the NASCAR teams. There are three ways a driver can get into the field. All Cup race winners since last year’s All-Star Race are invited in addition to previous All-Star winners and Cup champions from the past 10 years. The top-two finishers of the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap event held right before the All-Star Race with drivers not eligible for the main event, are transferred in. Finally, the results of a fan vote are used to select the last driver.
The format of the race itself has been tweaked and adjusted over the years. This year will be a 90-lap competition broken into four 20-lap segments before a final 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag. There is an optional pit stop after each segment with a mandatory stop required before the final 10 laps. In a move to add emphasis on winning segments, the top four starting positions for the final shootout are up for grabs.
Picks for the Sprint Showdown:
The fan vote will ensure Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes the All-Star Race regardless of where he finishes in the preliminary event. As long as he keeps the car intact, Earnhardt will land in the main event one way or the other. Since Earnhardt doesn’t need to go for the win in the Showdown, Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger are prime candidates to make the transfer.
Truex has already won this event twice, most recently in 2010. More importantly, he’s experiencing a career year and currently sits fifth in points. At Texas Motor Speedway, a track with a very similar configuration to Charlotte, Truex captured the pole and finished sixth earlier in the season.
Due to the limited number of laps run in the Showdown, Allmendinger has an excellent opportunity to qualify well and race his way into a second career All-Star Race. In the last three Cup qualifying sessions at Charlotte, Dinger has scored a spot on the first two rows each time. Allmendinger finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in the two points-paying races held at CMS last year.
Picks for the Sprint All-Star Race:
Over the last six years, Kyle Busch leads all drivers with 158 laps led in the All-Star Race, pacing at least 19 circuits in each event. While he’s yet to win one of these, Busch was the runner-up last year after three DNFs due to crash. In point races, Rowdy has six top-fives and eight top-10s in the last nine starts at CMS. After a thrilling win in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in February, the season-opening exhibition race, Busch’s all-or-nothing style could pay off once again.
In 13 career All-Star Races, Tony Stewart has collected nine top-10s with five straight top-fives and won the event in 2009. The defending Sprint Cup Series champion won two of the first five races this season and has added two more top-fives in the last three races. Smoke is a safe set for another strong finish while challenging for another All-Star victory.
Looking to cash in on the All-Star Race? Like NASCAR on SPEED on Facebook for a chance at $10,000. Correcting picking the winner of each segment will earn you extra entries. Bonus codes will be given during the broadcast for even more chances to win.