NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News And Notes - NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race * On-The-Roll Kyle Busch, 23 Others Make Up All-Star Field * Premier Prelim: NASCAR Sprint Showdown * Dale Earnhardt Jr. One Of 4 'Former Champion Wild Cards' * Newman's Team...
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News And Notes - NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
* On-The-Roll Kyle Busch, 23 Others Make Up All-Star Field
* Premier Prelim: NASCAR Sprint Showdown
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. One Of 4 'Former Champion Wild Cards'
* Newman's Team Defends Pit Crew Championship
All-Star Action: Busch Takes Hot Streak Into NASCAR Showcase
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 13, 2008) -- The playing field will be somewhat leaner and definitely meaner on Saturday night, seemingly lessening the chances of another event dominated by Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's/Interstate Batteries Toyota).
Of course, that's pure speculation going into the 24th annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Even though the 24-driver field will feature recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners, past All-Star race winners and past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions, these days it's always hard to pick against Busch, the current series points leader.
He has three NASCAR Sprint Cup victories this season. En route to that, there's this: a series-high Driver Rating of 112.0. Five other NASCAR wins -- in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series, have added to his aura.
Aura, though, will be a relative term come Saturday night. Auras will be everywhere, every lap. The All-Star race will have every driver who has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship since 1997, a group led by Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), who also has three All-Star victories, tied with Dale Earnhardt for the all-time lead.
How tough is the field? Tough enough that a former Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Juicy Fruit Dodge) is an event rookie. Tough enough that several past Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors -- plus two former NASCAR national series champions -- aren't even in the field, as they're forced to try to "qualify" via the NASCAR Sprint Showdown, the annual All-Star preliminary.
Busch, of course, has personified toughness of late. And while he's trying to earn his first All-Star victory, he'll also be striving for a place in the record book. A victory Saturday would make him the youngest All-Star winner ever, at 23 years, 15 days.
Jeff Gordon holds that record, at 23 years, 9 months, 18 days.
All-Star Berths Resulting From Showdown Will Be Well-Earned
The preliminary event to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race has had several incarnations and resulting format changes through the years, all the while adding to the annual evening of intrigue.
Typically, the prelim -- featuring drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star race by winning -- is dotted with notable names.
But has there ever been a "last chance" race like this?
Saturday night's 40-lap/60-mile NASCAR Sprint Showdown, which advances its top two finishers to the All-Star event, has star power of its own.
Start with Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) and Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge Dealers-UAW Dodge), two former Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors amid surprising winless streaks -- Kahne at 0-for-52, Sadler at 0-for-130.
Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota), the 2003 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, has been shuttled to the Showdown, as has Travis Kvapil, (No. 28 Yates Racing Ford) the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion.
And while one former Indy 500 champion, Montoya, has made the All-Star field, two others -- rookies Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) and Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Dodge Challenger Dodge) are Showdown entrants. They, like everyone in the prelim field, will look to capitalize.
It can happen. In 1996, Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota), at the time winless in 309 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, finished fifth in the All-Star prelim. Back then, the top five finishers advanced. Waltrip incredibly went on to win the main event.
In 2002, Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) won the second of two prelims, a 16-lap "No Bull Sprint" to advance, and he too went on to win.
24-Driver All-Star Field Headlined By 17 Different Race Winners, 4 'Wild Cards'
Here's the breakdown for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race field:
Seventeen of the 24 drivers will be race winners from either 2007 or the 2008 season to date;
Two drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Citizen Soldier/Amp Energy Chevrolet) and Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet) -- are in, because they're past champions of the event.
Two more -- Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) and Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota) are in because they're past champions of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
These four champion "wild-card" berths cover only the 10 previous seasons.
In addition to the these 21 drivers and the top two finishers in the NASCAR Sprint Showdown, the 24th and final spot goes to the driver getting the most votes in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Fan Vote.
For the fifth consecutive year, the fans will vote one driver into the Sprint NASCAR All-Star Race field. Fans can vote for a driver who is not already locked in by using their Sprint phones to text "7777" and follow the instructions -- or by voting online at NASCAR.com or sprint.com/speed.
Previous winners of the fan vote:
2004 - Ken Schrader
2005 -- Martin Truex Jr.
2006 -- Kyle Petty
2007 -- Kenny Wallace
Note: To advance to the main event via the fan vote, a driver must finish on the lead lap of the NASCAR Sprint Showdown.
Below is a rundown of the All-Star drivers already locked in. <pre> 2008 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Field
Driver Car Why He's An All-Star Greg Biffle #16 Dish Network Ford Victory at Kansas, Sept. 2007 Clint Bowyer #07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet Victory at New Hampshire, Sept. 2007 Jeff Burton #31 AT&T Mobility Victory at Texas, April 2007 Kurt Busch # 2 Miller Lite Dodge Victory at Pocono, Aug. 2007 Kyle Busch #18 M&M's/Interstate Batteries Toyota Victory at Bristol, March 2007 Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 N. Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet Won 2000 All-Star race Carl Edwards #99 Office Depot Ford Victory at Michigan, June 2007 Jeff Gordon #24 DuPont Chevrolet Victory at Phoenix, April 2007 Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Victory at New Hampshire, July 2007 Kevin Harvick #29 Pennzoil Platinum Chevrolet Victory 2007 Daytona 500 Dale Jarrett #44 UPS Toyota Won 1999 series championship Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe's Chevrolet Victory at Las Vegas, March 2007 Matt Kenseth #17 DEWALT Ford Victory at California, Feb. 2007 Bobby Labonte #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Won 2000 series championship Mark Martin #01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Won 1998 All-Star race Jamie McMurray #26 Crown Royal Ford Victory at Daytona, July 2007 Casey Mears # 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet Victory at Lowe's, May 2007 Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Dodge Victory at Infineon Raceway, June 2007 Ryan Newman #12 Alltel Dodge Won 2008 Daytona 500 Tony Stewart #20 Home Depot Toyota Victory at Chicago, July 2007 Martin Truex Jr. #01 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Victory at Dover, June 2007
Plus ... Top-two finishers in the NEXTEL Open Winner of NEXTEL Fan Vote </pre>
On The Line: Jeff Gordon Discusses All-Star Race On NASCAR Teleconference
Three-time NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race champion Jeff Gordon fielded media questions during Tuesday's NASCAR Teleconference. Gordon is tied with Dale Earnhardt for most All-Star victories, with three.
On winning this weekend's All-Star race and setting a record for wins: "The All-Star event is always a special event. I think it is one the drivers take a lot of pride in what type of success they have in that event. Also, the teams put in a lot of effort, and there are no points on the line so it's just all about the win.
"To know that we have won it three times in the past really means a lot. Those have all been very special occasions and events for me to be a part of in the past, and to do anything that Dale Earnhardt's done and to be in that same category certainly even more special. We would love to get another one. I never really look at events as stats and trying to break records. I look at it as a race that we want to win badly, and it's the next race on the schedule.
"Hopefully we can pull it off."
Newman's Crew Defending Title In NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge
While the top NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers shine in Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, pit crews will be spotlighted in Thursday's fourth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman.
Scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Charlotte's Time-Warner Cable Arena, the event determines seven individual position winners as well as the winning team. It begins with a seeding round, and progresses through five additional rounds. Round Five is the final round.
The reigning Daytona 500 champions -- Ryan Newman's No. 12 Alltel Dodge pit crew -- also are the defending champions of Thursday's competition. They're one of 24 teams eligible to compete in the Challenge.
Thursday's roster also includes last year's runner-up -- the pit crew for Bobby Labonte's No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge -- plus two other former Pit Crew Challenge champions -- the pit crews for Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Budweiser Dodge (2005) and Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet (2006).
The seven individual pit-crew positions are front-tire changer, front-tire carrier, rear-tire changer, rear-tire carrier, gas man, catch-can man and jack man.
Eligible pit crews are those whose teams are eligible for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and/or the 2007 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge champions -- plus three "wild-card" teams, meaning the top three teams from the current series point standings who aren't otherwise qualified.
Loop Data: Revealing Stats Favor 3 Former All-Star Champions
Jimmie Johnson has won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race twice. Jeff Gordon has won three times. Kevin Harvick is the defending champion.
The statistics suggest that one of the three might end up in Victory Lane yet again.
Of those already "locked in," Johnson has some of the best All-Star stats since Loop Data's inception in 2005. He owns series-highs in the yearly race in Driver Rating (113.6), Fastest Laps Run (44), and is third-best in Average Running Position (6.2) and Laps in the Top 15 (92.3%).
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon, likewise, leads a couple of statistical categories -- Laps in the Top 15 (99.6%) and Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15), with 83. He ranks third in Driver Rating among those locked in with a 104.4 and second in Fastest Laps Run with 25.
Harvick, last year's champion, finished second and first the last two years. He has a Driver Rating of 110.7 (second), an Average Running Position of 7.6 (fifth) and 11 Fastest Laps Run (seven).
Of those All-Stars looking for their first win in the coveted race, Kyle Busch likely has the best shot. Not only is the 23-year-old white-hot this season -- he's tied for the series lead with three wins -- but has had success in his two previous All-Star races. Though his finishes have been poor -- he's finished 16th and 20th thanks to two accidents -- Busch does have solid statistics. He has a Driver Rating 102.8, an Average Running Position of 8.8, 18 Fastest Laps Run and has spent 64.7% of the laps in the top 15.
Special Delivery: Jarrett Driving Big Brown Truck Prior To His Finale Race History Lesson: A Look Back At The 'Original' All-Star Event Extra-special pre-race ceremonies on Saturday night will spotlight Dale Jarrett and one of the most memorable marketing campaigns in the history of professional sports.
The NASCAR All-Star race will be the last race for Jarrett, one of the most popular drivers in the history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, a man who clearly embellished the Jarrett family legacy that was started by his father, two-time series champion Ned Jarrett.
Jarrett has never won the All-Star race; he's in the field via the past series champion provison. Jarrett won the series title in 1999.
Pre-race ceremonies involving Jarrett will be unique, to say the least. Pretty interesting, as well. During drivers' introductions Jarrett will be introduced last. In contrast to the other drivers who will ride around the track in Toyota trucks, Jarrett will jump behind the wheel of the famed UPS "Big Brown Truck" and will drive around the track. In addition, a fan, selected this week at random, will accompany Jarrett on the long-awaited truck appearance.
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which debuted in 1985, has some ancestry. From 1961-63, an All-Star event was held at Daytona International Speedway in conjunction with the Speedweeks activities.
Like the current event, this original was for winners only. In 1961, the event -- called the American Challenge Cup -- had 11 cars and Joe Weatherly as the winner via a last-lap pass of Fireball Roberts.
Roberts came back to win the race in 1962. In 1963, the final year of the race -- the name had been changed to "Race of Champions" -- Fred Lorenzen was the winner.
The Race: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
The Place: Lowe's Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 17
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: SPEED, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
The Track: 1.5-mile oval
The Distance: 100 laps/150 miles
Winner's Purse: $1,012,975
2007 Winner: Kevin Harvick
Race winners from 2007 and 2008 seasons
Past champions of NASCAR Sprint All --Star Race and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (from previous 10 seasons)
Top two finishers in NASCAR Sprint Showdown race
Top vote-getter in NASCAR Sprint Fan Vote who also finishes on lead lap of the Showdown.
Pre-Race Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 1:30-2:50 p.m. Qualifying, 6:15 p.m.; Saturday -- NASCAR Sprint Showdown, 7:30 p.m.