Keeping Pace

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race To Feature Exciting 10-Lap Shootout For Final Segment

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race XXV, set for Saturday, May 16 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (SPEED, 7 p.m.), will consist of four segments, concluding with a 10-lap sprint and a $1 million pay-out to the race winner.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

10 To Go: Short-But-Sweet Final Segment Makes All-Star Return

A note to fans watching Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race: Settle back — and hold on.

Come to think of it, same thing goes for the drivers.

The inherent and inevitable drama of the event is getting a shot of adrenaline. Make that 10 shots — in the form of 10 laps, the short-but-sweet segment that will end the 25th running of the all-star race  at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“From a fan standpoint, it really drives the race,” said Mark Martin (No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet). “A 10-lap shootout is a huge, huge deal. It puts a lot of excitement in it, a sense of urgency. I think it's a good move. Sparks will fly once again at Lowe's Motor Speedway.” 

What goes around has come around in this case. The all-star race used to have a 10-lap final segment and it produced some of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the event and NASCAR overall for that matter. That includes Martin’s 1998 all-star victory, when he weaved his way through the pack over the course of the 10-lap final segment, and then got the win when Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) ran out of gas on the last turn of the last lap.

Borrowing from some time-tested short-track terminology, this amounts to NASCAR’s ultimate “dash for cash.”  The all-star champion will win $1,022,975.

Twenty-one drivers will vie for those seven figures which will mean trying to position themselves well for the final segment. This will not be easy. It will be somewhat tricky, which to some stock car purists is the true beauty of the all-star race, 10 all-out closing laps notwithstanding.

Here’s how the  100 laps/150 mile race is broken down:

  • First segment — 50 laps
  • Second segment — 20 laps
  • Third segment — 20 laps
  • Final segment — 10 laps

There also are some special pit-stop conditions, and resulting challenges that make the all-star race a true team event. During the first segment, there will a mandatory green flag stop on Lap 25, with teams required to change all four tires. Between the first two segments there will be a yellow flag period allowing for fuel, tire changes and normal chassis adjustments. Between the third and final segments, a 10-minute pit stop will allow for the same work to be done.

And this final note: During the fourth and final segment, only green flag laps count, which means fans in all likelihood are going to get 10 good ones.

Surprise Talladega Winner Is Sole All-Star Rookie — For Now

Brad Keselowski (No. 09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Dodge) was clearly enjoying the moment several weeks ago after getting his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at one of the series’ most historic tracks, Talladega Superspeedway. During the post-race press conference his enthusiasm was evident. Then he was reminded of some more good news: the victory earned him a berth in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

“I didn’t know that,” Keselowski said.

Keselowski is the only all-star rookie to have qualified for the event, although that could well change before the green flag drops. In addition to the current list of 16 2008 and ‘09 race winners, 2007 all-star champion Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Pennzoil Chevrolet) and 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte (No. 96 Ask.com Ford), the all-star field also will have the top-two finishers in Saturday night’s Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap event for series drivers who haven’t qualified for the all-star race. There also will be one more driver: Whoever wins the Sprint Fan Vote, a nationwide balloting that affords one final all-star entry. Last year, Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) won the fan vote then went on to win the all-star race.

Meet the All-Stars: Event Rookie Keselowski Will Be Surrounded By Heavy Hitters

Note: In addition to event rookie Brad Keselowski, 17 others have entered the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. (Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte, who qualified, declined.) Information on those 18 follows on Pages 2 and 3. In addition, the top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown qualify, along with the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.

Driver: Greg Biffle
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Car: No.16 3M Ford
Previous All-Star Appearances: 5
Best Finish: 2nd (2008)
Why He’s in: Won at N. Hampshire, Sept. 2008
What He’s Saying:
“Hopefully, I come up one spot better than I did last year. I finished second at both (LMS) races. We’re gonna work hard at it.”

Driver: Clint Bowyer
Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car: No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 1
Best Finish: 18th (2008)
Why He’s In: Won at Richmond, May 2008
What He’s Saying:
“It should be a wild finish, that’s for sure.  A million bucks on the line with 10 to go, fans can’t ask for more than that. “

Driver: Jeff Burton    
Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car: No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 11
Best Finish: 4th (1998, 2007)
Why He’s In: Won at Bristol, April 2008
What He’s Saying:
“Every sport needs an all-star event. Our all-star event, I think, is the best all-star event — period. End of story. Every other all-star event, the intensity goes down. Our all-star event, the intensity goes up.”

Driver: Kurt Busch 
Team: Penske Racing
Car: No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
All-Star Appearances: 7
Best Finish: 2nd (2003)
Why He’s In: Won at N. Hampshire, June 2008
What He’s Saying:
“You jump into the all-star race and it’s just a whole different atmosphere and attitude. … This race is just an entirely different animal. … You can bet that things will surely get heated up and there will be fireworks for sure.’

Driver: Kyle Busch
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Car: No. 18 M&M’s Toyota
All-Star Appearances: 3
Best Finish: 16th (2006)
Why He’s In: Won at Atlanta, March 2008
What He’s Saying:
“I think my favorite (all-star) memory of watching as a fan growing up was the T-Rex car in ‘97 with Jeff Gordon, being a Jeff Gordon fan and watching him dominate that night and pretty much take everybody to school.”

Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Car: No. 88 Nat’l Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 9
Best Finish: 1st (2000)
Why He’s In: Won at Michigan, June 2008
What He’s Saying:
“Winning the all-star race is really hard because obviously you only get a shot at it once a year … I think it’s a great addition to our season … I’m looking forward to seeing how the format works out.”

Driver: Carl Edwards
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Car: No. 99 Aflac Ford
All-Star Appearances: 3
Best Finish: 4th (2006)
Why He’s In: Won at Auto Club, Feb. 2008
What He’s Saying:
“The All-Star race is fun. Everybody wants to win it bad. The 10-lap shootout format is gonna be wild. I think the fans will be on their feet one way or another.”

Driver: Jeff Gordon
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Car: No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 15
Best Finish: 1st  (1995, ‘97, 2001)
Why He’s In: Won at Texas in April
What He’s Saying:
“The All-Star race is a spectacular event … everybody in that race is a proven winner … you don’t get into that race easily. “

Driver: Denny Hamlin
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
Car: No. 11 FedEx Toyota
All-Star Appearances: 2
Best Finish: 17th (2007)
Why He’s In: Won at Martinsville, March 2008
What He’s Saying:
“Our car just wasn’t as good at night (at Darlington, finishing 13th) as it was during the day. ... It’s just something we have to work on.”

Driver: Kevin Harvick
Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car: No. 29 Pennzoil Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 8
Best Finish: 1st (2007)
Why He’s In: Won 2007 all-star race
What He’s Saying:
“Night racing is where we all grew up. We all grew up racing at a Saturday night or Friday night short track, whatever the case may be. I guess it just brings out the best in all of us. It is a lot of fun and exciting to watch."

Driver: Jimmie Johnson
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Car: No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 7
Best Finish: 1st (2003 and ‘06)
Why He’s In: Won at Phoenix, April 2008
What He’s Saying:
“This race is an all-star event so in my opinion you need to do something exceptional to get into it and I think our system works. And there's a high car count, so that's exciting.”

Driver: Kasey Kahne
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
Car: No. 9 Budweiser Dodge
All-Star Appearances: 5
Best Finish: 1st (2008)
Why He’s In: Won 2008 Coca-Cola 600
What He’s Saying:
“Absolutely, it’s all about the fans. We couldn’t have won last year without the fans voting us into the race. The drivers and crews are out there to thank the fans and put on a good show for them.”

Driver: Matt Kenseth
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Car: No. 17 DEWALT Ford
All-Star Appearances: 8
Best Finish: 1st (2004)
Why He’s In: Won Daytona 500 in February
What He’s Saying:
“My favorite all-star memory is when we passed Newman right at the end of that race to win it.  We were having a pretty good battle and to be able to pull it off was pretty cool.”

Driver: Brad Keselowski
Team: Phoenix Racing
Car: No. 09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Dodge
All-Star Appearances: None
Best Finish: n/a
Why He’s In: Won at Talladega in April
What He’s Saying:
“I thought winning Talladega was awesome, but when I found out I would be in the all-star event … I mean, who wouldn’t want the chance to race for a million dollars?”

Driver: Bobby Labonte
Team: Hall of Fame Racing
Car: No. 96 ASK.com Ford
All-Star Appearances: 14
Best Finish: 2nd (1997 and ‘98)
Why He’s In: Won 2000 series championship
What He’s Saying:
“I was pleased where we ended up (18th) at Darlington. That car was so tight, I hope we can get a handle on that for (the all-star race)”

Driver: Mark Martin
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Car: No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 19
Best Finish: 1st (1998 and 2005)
Why He’s In: Won at Phoenix in April
What He’s Saying:
“This is the all-star race. Even though it has rendered frustration for me from time to time, the format has also rendered me great rewards at other times.”

Driver: Ryan Newman
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
Car: No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 7
Best Finish: 1st (2002)
Why He’s In:  Won 2008 Daytona 500
What He’s Saying:
“The atmosphere is entirely different at the all-star race than at most all of the other races throughout the season. Sparks fly.”

Driver: Tony Stewart
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
Car: No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet
All-Star Appearances: 10
Best Finish: 2nd (1999)
Why He’s In: Won at Talladega, October  2008
What He’s Saying:
“I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas. We're doing things right. It's just a matter of time (before we win this year)."

Fast Facts

The Race: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

The Date: Saturday, May 16

The Track: Lowe’s 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)

2008 Polesitter: Kyle Busch

2008 Winner: Kasey Kahne

Schedule:Friday—Practice, 1:30-2:50 p.m. 6:05—Qualifying.

Track Contact: Adrian Parker (704) 455-3209; aparker@lowesmotorspeedway.com

2009 Top 12
    Driver                     Points
 1 Jeff Gordon               1,601
 2 Tony Stewart            1,572
 3 Kurt Busch               1,546
 4 Jimmie Johnson        1,465
 5 Denny Hamlin           1,445
 6 Jeff Burton                1,384
 7 Kyle Busch              1,380
 8 Ryan Newman          1,363
 9 Greg Biffle                1,345
10 Matt Kenseth           1,326
11 Mark Martin             1,316
12 Carl Edwards           1,271

Sprint Showdown: An Extraordinary Preliminary

When talking about the Sprint Showdown,  one must again borrow from good ol’ fashioned short-track action, for a quick description of appeal. The Showdown is NASCAR’s “last chance race,” affording its top-two finishers 11th-hour berths into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

The Showdown, which has various names and incarnations through the years, invites all NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who have not qualified for the all-star race. Typically, the race features some major teams and drivers. This year is no different. Five drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings’ top 20 will start the 40-lap event.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet), who is 14th in the standings and a mere 16 points out of 12th place.

David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron’s Toyota), 15th in the standings and only 39 points out of 12th.

Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota), 17th in the standings.

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet), 19th in the points.

Marcos Ambrose (No. 47 Kingsford/Clorox Toyota), who is 20th.

There’s also Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota), who made all-star history in 1996. Back then, the Showdown transferred its top-five finishers to the big show. Waltrip finished fifth in the prelim, and went on to win the all-star event in impressive fashion, becoming the first all-star champion who had to  advance from the Showdown.

Fast Facts

The Race: Sprint Showdown

The Date: Saturday, May 16

The Track: Lowe’s Motor Speedway, (1.5-mile quad-oval)

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

The Distance: 40 laps / 60 miles

TV: SPEED, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite

2008 Polesitter: Elliott Sadler

2008 Winner/Runner-up: AJ Allmendinger/Sam Hornish Jr.

Schedule: Friday—Practice, 12-1:20 p.m. Qualifying, 5 p.m.

Luck Has Evaded Kyle Busch In All-Star Runs

The old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.”

Kyle Busch knows that all too well.

Last season, Busch won eight races before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But bad luck in the form of blown engines plagued him once the Chase started. He was good, but very unlucky.

In the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Busch has been good – great even. But lucky? Not even a little bit.

In 2006, Busch led 21 laps and finished the first segment as the race leader. Yet, an accident left him with a 16th-place finish.

In 2007, Busch led 24 laps and was the race leader coming out of the second segment. But the infamous wreck with his brother Kurt ended his night. He finished 20th out of 21 cars.

Last year, Busch’s luck was at its worst. He led a race-high 38 laps and seemed like the car to beat – until his engine gave out. Busch finished in a last-place 24th.

Busch’s Loop Data statistics tell the whole story. Though he has an average finish of just 20.0, Busch ranks among the best in practically every key Loop Data category.

In his three all-star races, he has a Driver Rating of 105.7 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 10.2 (10th), 35 Fastest Laps Run (second), the fastest average Green Flag Speed of 179.594 mph and a series-high 83 Laps Led.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.





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