“If You Ain’t First You’re Last!”: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Saturday Preview

"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

This weekend is the All-Star Break in NASCAR. What does that mean? Ricky Bobby knows. “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” In other words, this weekend is a little different.

This is a non-points race. The All-Star Race does not count towards the championship. This race is for fun and bragging rights. If you win the race, then you get a million dollars. If you come in second, then you get nothing. Another difference is how you get into the race. Usually the field consists of 43 drivers with the top 35 in owner points being locked in, and the drivers outside the top 35 needing to get in the race on speed. Starting positions are usually determined by two laps of time time trials. However, this weekend there are two races.

"Mad Dash for Cash"

In order to automatically qualify for the All-Star race, a driver must have won a points-paying race this year or in the previous year, must be a past champion of this event in the past ten years, or must be a past series champion in the last ten years. If a driver does not fit any of the criteria, then they must race in the Sprint Showdown. Only the top two-finishers move on to “the show”. Wait there’s more. If a driver does not finish in the top-two, then they must rely on the fan-vote. Now, some people may think the fan-vote winner has no shot at victory. In 2008, Kasey Kahne defied the odds and won the event after getting in by the fan-vote.

The other differences are the lengths of the races, mandatory pit stops, and the fact that the races are divided into segments. The format for the Sprint Showdown is a twenty lap race divided into two ten-lap segments. Meanwhile, the Sprint All-Star Race is a 100-lap race divided into four segments. The first segment is 50 laps and drivers are required to make a green-flag stop at lap 25. Then the next two segments are each 20 laps and no pit stops are required. However, there is a mandatory pit-stop after the third segment, and everyone must take four-tires.

Chaos in Charlotte

The final segment is the “dash for cash”, as it only lasts ten (green flag) laps. Usually, all of the fun occurs in the final segment because all of the drivers push the issue and “lay everything on the line”.

Sprint Showdown Breakdown:

Favorites:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: NASCAR’s most popular driver is due for a victory.

Jeff Burton: He has won at Charlotte before.

Joey Logano: He performs well at this track, and has finished in the top-ten in the last two All-Star Races (the big show).

Martin Truex Jr.: He is the defending champion and two-time winner of the Showdown.

Others to Watch:

A.J. Allmendinger: He won the Showdown in 2008.

Brian Vickers: He won the Showdown in 2005.

Bobby Labonte: He won the Sprint Cup Championship in 2000. He knows how to win.

Brad Keselowski: Penske has good cars here. Sam Hornish Jr. won the 2008 Showdown, and Kurt Busch won both the All-Star Race, and the Coca-Cola 600 last year.

Dark Horses:

Marcos Ambrose: He has had a strong year so far. Ambrose keeps inching closer to his first career victory.

David Ragan: He usually has fast cars here, and Roush Racing has had success at Charlotte.

Paul Menard: He had a strong start to this season as well. Will he finally win?

Who is moving on? My Picks:

NAPA Know How, NAPA Knows How To Win.

Winner: Martin Truex Jr. He has had fast cars every race, but has been a victim of bad luck. This time his team will get the job done and win back-to-back Showdowns.

Second Place: Joey Logano. He performs well at this track.

Fan Vote: EARNHARDT!!!! No brainer.

All-Star Race Breakdown:

Favorites:

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has won everything on this track. He used to be invincible here.

Kurt Busch: The defending champion of this race.

Tony Stewart: The 2009 winner of this race.

Kevin Harvick: He has won twice this year and is the 2007 winner of this race.

Others to watch:

Kyle Busch: He has won in every series but the Cup Series at Charlotte.

Jeff Gordon: He has won three All-Star races.

Carl Edwards: He is the points leader, and should have won the last two weeks. Third time the charm?

Matt Kenseth: According to the Motor Racing Network (MRN), he holds the best average finish among current Cup drivers in the field with an average finish of 6.6 in the past ten races. He also comes in with the momentum from his Dover victory on Sunday.

Dark Horses:

Kasey Kahne: He won the 2008 race.

Ryan Newman: He won this race in 2002.

My Pick:

A Trumphant Tony Stewart

Always tough to pick a winner in these races, but I will go with Tony Stewart. He performs well at this track, and he is due for a win.

Images Courtesy of: Autoracingdaily.com (Stewart), Bleacherreport.net (Mad Dash and Crash), Charlotte Observer (Fireworks at the top), bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com (Truex Jr.), Catchfence.com (All-Star Race Logo)

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