All-Star: Series non-points event preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes -- NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Pit-Stop Premium: All-Star Success A Team Effort All-out. All night. All the way to the checkered flag. That's how NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will approach ...

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes -- NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

Pit-Stop Premium: All-Star Success A Team Effort

All-out. All night. All the way to the checkered flag.

That's how NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will approach Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This year marks the 26th annual edition, where skill makes for seat-of-your pants viewing. Saturday's 21-driver lineup vies for a winner-take-all check ($1 million). And without points to consider, expect some action to be sheet-metal-tinged.

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Burger King Chevrolet) is the defending champion. Last year's all-star victory not only was the first of the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion's career, it also cemented the progress of his then-new-team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and his first year as a driver-owner.

"There were a lot of people that didn't know what to think about what we were trying to do," Stewart said. "I think it really sent a message to these people how dedicated our organization is to being successful. It kind of quieted a lot of the naysayers and a lot of people that were on the fence trying to decide if I'd made a good decision or not. Standing there on the stage, getting the check was a pretty good statement."

The format for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race remains the same as a year ago, with one addition. The Essentials:

* Segment 1 is 50 laps, with a mandatory green-flag pit stop on Lap 25 during which teams must change all four tires. After Segment 1 ends, the caution flag will be displayed for an optional pit stop.

* Segment 2 is 20 laps. After it ends, the caution flag again signals an optional pit stop.

* Segment 3 is 20 laps with a 10-minute break after it ends. During the break, teams may make normal pit-stop adjustments. The Segment 3 finishing order determines the lineup for the pace lap prior to the start of Segment 4.

* Segment 4 is a 10-lap shootout that counts only green-flag laps.

The New Wrinkle: Once the field takes a lap behind the pace car prior to the start of Segment 4, all cars must enter pit road for a four-tire stop. Their order exiting pit road determines how they'll line up for the 10-lap, Segment 4 shootout.

The Eligibility: Remains unchanged from 2009. Includes race winners from either the 2009 or 2010 seasons through May 16, or past champions of the all-star event or past NASCAR Sprint Cup champions, both from the last 10 years. Also, the top two finishers in the Sprint Showdown, the 40-lap preliminary race scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Saturday, and the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote, advance to the all-star race. Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) was last year's Sprint Fan Vote winner.

Special Notes: David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) is the only all-star rookie of the 18 drivers currently eligible. ... If four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Du- Pont Chevrolet) reaches Victory Lane this Saturday night, he'll surpass seven-time series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt for the most all-star victories, with four. ... Sunday, May 23 marks the NASCAR Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction Ceremony and Ryan Newman's No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet will sport a special logo honoring inductee Junior Johnson. Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet also will sport a special logo, this one honoring Earnhardt. Burton will participate in Saturday night's Sprint Showdown preliminary race.

Super Showdown: Preliminary Race A Worthy Precursor

Excitement starts early for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race thanks to the event that precedes it.

The 40-lap Sprint Showdown usually yields drama, but the ante might be higher this year: Saturday's lineup contains drivers typically all-star eligible who'll race their peers for the chance to advance.

Keep an eye out for Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford), currently seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings; his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford), who's 10th and Jeff Burton, currently eighth in the standings.

Only the top-two finishers transfer to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) won last year's Sprint Showdown. Jamie McMurray (No. 1 National Wild Turkey Federation Chevrolet) finished second; he's all-star eligible this year.

On The NASCAR CAM: Crew Chief Alan Gustafson

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 5 Delphi/ Chevrolet driven by Mark Martin, for Hendrick Motorsports, was the guest on Tuesday's NASCAR CAM video teleconference.

Gustafson's pit crew is one of 24 competing in Wednesday's sixth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman. It begins at 7 p.m. ET at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena and the stakes are high: The finishing order determines the pit selection order for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

Q: Lots of pressure for pit crews?

A: "There is some pressure involved there, but I think it's a really cool venue for the guys to go showcase their talents and have the fans so close to them in the stands. It's a lot of fun, a really fun event. "

Q: Your thoughts on the uniqueness of qualifying for the All-Star Race and the emphasis put on the pit crew?"

A: "Ultimately, the pit crew is going to have a huge impact on it. I think it's great. All the pit crew guys are really excited about it. The more control they have for the outcome, the more motivation is for them. So I think it's a cool thing they're doing. I'm glad they're getting the pit crew guys involved and make it a potential for a real good reward for those pit crew guys."

Q: Needless to say, all the drivers are being extra nice to the pit crews this week?

A: "Yeah, definitely pumping them up, that's for sure."

Q: How would you like to see this race run? Is it set-up pretty good now or would you like to see some changes?

A: "I like the pit stop at the end. I think the pressures are going to be on the pit crews' shoulders and it's going to be a great opportunity for those guys to shine during that four-tire stop. So that will be neat. That could potentially shuffle some of the order.

"The good cars will probably work their way to the front by then. The fastest cars should be out in front unless something happens, you know, before that point in time. So that will be neat to shuffle around and get somebody else track position and see what they can do about it. I like those two things."

JGR 'Mates On Opposite Sides Of All-Star Stats Sheet

The two hottest drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series right now also happen to work out of the same shop: Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

The two have won the last three races, and have combined to win five of the last seven.

Their winning ways diverge, though, when the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race rolls around. Busch, as usual, is strong. Hamlin, surprisingly, is not.

Though his finishes wouldn't suggest it, Busch owns a tremendous statistical docket during the traditional non-points event. In four starts, Busch has finished in the top 10 only once (last year, a seventh-place run).

Busch's three other finishes were outside the top 15. But his performances were strong in each. He led at least 21 laps in each, and his Driver Ratings were 98.7 or higher.

The culprit, it seems, is bad luck. Consider this: His lowest position in each race was also his finishing position.

Overall in the all-star race, Busch has a Driver Rating of 106.3, 116 Laps Led, 45 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 70.3%.

Hamlin, in three starts, also has just one top 10 (a fourth-place finish in last year's race). Unlike Busch, none of his starts were statistically impressive.

Even in his fourth-place finish last year, Hamlin failed to dominate. His Driver Rating was just 68.4 and his Average Running Position only 12.7.

In Hamlin's other two races, a 17th in 2007 and a 23rd in 2008, he had a Driver Rating under 60.

Overall in the all-star race, Hamlin has a Driver Rating of 57.5, an Average Running Position of 12.9, two Fastest Laps Run and seven Laps Led.

Seventh Annual NASCAR Day On Friday, May 21

The next two weeks mark a whirlwind of activities throughout the greater Charlotte, N.C., area, which is home to most NASCAR race teams and industry businesses. It begins with Wednesday's sixth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman at 7 p.m., in the Time Warner Cable Arena and ends Sunday, May 30 with the 51st Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In between are "NASCAR Rev'd Up" from 4- 10 p.m., Thursday in Uptown Charlotte, featuring concerts by Switchfoot, Parachute and local band Paper Tongues, and Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Saturday brings the 26th annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Sunday features history -- the NASCAR Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction Ceremony.

Don't forget Friday: It's the sixth annual NASCAR Day, a charitable celebration of the NASCAR spirit. The event helps fans and partners work together to make differences in the lives of children, especially with the purchase of a $5 collective lapel pin. Proceeds fund many programs that benefit children. Since 2004, NASCAR Day has raised nearly $8 million in charity.

Fast Facts

The Race: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
The Date: Saturday, May 22

The Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad-oval)
The Time: 9 p.m. ET

The Distance: 100 laps/150 miles

TV: SPEED. 7 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite (WSOC FM 103.7 local)

2009 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson 2009 Winner: Tony Stewart

Friday -- Practice, 1:30- 2:50 p.m. 6 p.m. -- Qualifying.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , David Reutimann , Carl Edwards , Junior Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing