It's more important than ever to lead the All-Star Race

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Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced on Tuesday a major change to the format of the Sprint All-Star Race, beginning with the 2012 event to be held at the track on May 19. Previously, winners of each segment within the event won prize money, but this year, there's an extra incentive.

The All-Star Race is made up of four 20-lap segments, followed by a 10-lap shootout to determine the winner. The format of the 2012 All-Star race calls for the winners of each of the four 20-lap segments to start first through fourth in the final-10 lap segment to end the race. Previously, aside from cash bonuses, there was no incentive to winning individual segments, except for the final one that ended the race.

... it helps set the stage for an exciting race and an exciting evening for the fans.

Robert Pemberton

"This new addition to the format is going to provide even greater incentive for the drivers to go all out and win one of the four segments," NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. "It also puts even more focus on the pit crews and how they perform during that final pit stop. The team aspect of the sport will be highlighted more than ever and it helps set the stage for an exciting race and an exciting evening for the fans.

The eligibility requirements are unchanged. Drivers who won races in 2011 or up to the date of the All-Star Race in 2012 are eligible, as are the Sprint Cup Series champions from the past 10 seasons and the winners of the 10 most recent All-Star events. Drivers already eligible for the 2012 All-Star Race include, in alphabetical order, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Regan Smith and Tony Stewart.

The two highest-finishing drivers from the preliminary Sprint Showdown, to be held earlier the same evening, among drivers not already qualified for the All-Star Race , will also advance to the main event, as will the winner of a fan vote conducted on NASCAR.com and Sprint.

Winner Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford celebrates
Winner Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford celebrates

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags all-star, charlotte, pemberton