The Nextel: All-Star notebook

ALL-STAR NOTEBOOK Every all-star event has been held at Lowe's Motor Speedway except the 1986 edition, which was run at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ... More than $22 million has been awarded to the competitors in the previous 19 events. ... The ...


Every all-star event has been held at Lowe's Motor Speedway except the 1986 edition, which was run at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ... More than $22 million has been awarded to the competitors in the previous 19 events. ... The first two events were run in a single segment. The segmented format started in 1987. The first race, in 1985, was 70 laps. The race was 83 laps in 1986 and 135 laps from 1987-89. The 70-lap format began in 1990 with a two-segment race. The three-segment format began in 1992, also the first year the race was held at night. The current three-segment, 90-lap format began in 2002.

The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge is renowned for its racing -- and its "one-off" special paint schemes, such as the one Jeff Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet will sport this week. Gordon will be in a reborn "Rainbow Car," one of the most famous and photographed race cars of all time. The original paint scheme, promoting DuPont Automotive finishes coincided with Gordon's quick rise to prominence in the 1990s, when he won three premier series championships.

Only two drivers competed in the first 16 all-star races -- Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. ... Terry Labonte has competed in 18 all-star events, missing the 1991 event when he finished ninth in the preliminary race and failed to transfer. ... Bill Elliott, who qualified for this year's event but is not competing, has been in 17 all-star events. Jeff Gordon (1995, '97 and 2001) and Dale Earnhardt (1987, '90 and '93) are the only three-time all-star champions; Davey Allison (1991 and '92) and Terry Labonte (1988 and '99) are the only other drivers to post multiple all-star victories. ... The largest all-star field was 27 cars, in 2002.

Saturday's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge isn't the only all-star event on NASCAR's calendar. The second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown takes place Nov. 11-13 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. The invitational event showcases the top drivers from NASCAR's regional racing divisions. Drivers from six different NASCAR series are invited based on the final point standings for their respective series. The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown features a $500,000 purse and live national television coverage on SPEED Channel.

SPEED Channel is all over the all-star weekend

This weekend's programming:
Friday, May 21 -- Two sessions of NASCAR Live from Charlotte -- 5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET.
Friday, May 21 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Open qualifying LIVE from Lowe's Motor Speedway at 6 p.m. ET.
Friday, May 21 -- Live coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Friday, May 21 -- Trackside (11 p.m. ET) from SPEED Channel's new 53-foot traveling stage truck located outside the track behind Turns 3 and 4. Co-hosts Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond will welcome the winner of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.

Saturday, May 22 -- NASCAR Busch Series qualifying LIVE from Nazareth at 4 p.m. ET.
Saturday, May 22 -- From the stage truck at Charlotte, Pit Bull (6:30 p.m. ET) features NASCAR beat writers David Poole (Charlotte Observer), Ben Blake (Racer Magazine), Marty Smith ( and Mike Mulhern (Winston-Salem Journal). Pit Bull is hosted by Steve Byrnes.

Sunday, May 23 -- SPEEDNews NASCAR Edition (7 p.m. and midnight ET) hosted by Bob Varsha, Ralph Sheheen and Connie LeGrand. Bob Dillner, Robin Miller, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond are regular contributors.
Sunday, May 23 -- NASCAR Victory Lane (8 p.m. ET) Host John Roberts is joined by NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and Chad Little, offering post-race coverage of the Charlotte NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star weekend.

Monday, May 24 -- Inside NEXTEL Cup (7 p.m. ET) with Allen Bestwick, Michael Waltrip, Johnny Benson and Ken Schrader reviewing the weekend's action.
Monday, May 24 -- Watch SPEED Channel's reality series NBS 24/7 (8 p.m. ET) as it follows NASCAR Busch Series race teams from FitzBradshaw Racing (Casey Atwood, Tim Fedewa, Randy LaJoie), Akins Motorsports (Kasey Kahne) and Braun Racing (David Stremme).


"It's a race for winners. You can't get any more competitive than that. ... It's a Saturday night shootout. It's where we all came from. It takes us back to our beginnings -- our roots in the sport because many of us started racing on a Friday or Saturday night. This is a wild and the wildest of Saturday nights anywhere." -- Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford).

"It's as fun as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing can be, and I think that shows. The fans obviously seem to like it." -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet).

"[Changing tires] is like wearing an old pair of shoes. If you can do it, you can do it; if you can't, you can't." -- Tony Eury, car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is also substituting as the team's front-tire changer in place of the injured Phil Drye.

"This race is very different than other all-star atmospheres in professional sports. Remembering who won the NFL Pro Bowl game or the NBA All-Star game may be tough but race fans always remember who wins our all-star race." -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford).

Fast Facts

What: 20th Annual NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge
Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway; Concord, N.C.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FX, 7 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $4 million (approximate).

Race length: 90 laps/135 miles.
Track layout: 1.5-mile tri-oval.

2003 winner: Jimmie Johnson.

Eligible drivers: Race winners from '03 and '04, past event champions who are active, past premier-series champions not already qualified via a win, NEXTEL Open winner and another driver from the NEXTEL Open selected by fan voting. Fans can vote a driver into the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge by voting now on NASCAR.COM, or on their Nextel phone.

Qualified drivers/teams: Greg Biffle, Geoffrey Bodine, Kurt Busch, Ricky Craven, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Evernham Motorsports No. 9 (Kasey Kahne now driving), Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 (Brian Vickers now driving), Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, Michael Waltrip.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Geoffrey Bodine , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Little , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , David Stremme , Elliott Sadler , Robin Miller , Mark Martin , Davey Allison