Previewing the 29th Running of the NASCAR All-Star RaceBy Nick DeGroot
NASCAR comes home this weekend to kick off what in my opinion is the best two weeks on the motorsport schedule. $2,000,000 is on the line this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the best stock car drivers in the world will lay it all out on the line hoping to hoist that check when the dust settles. The exhibition event has been around since 1985 and has undergone 11 format changes always keeping the teams and drivers on their toes. The titans of our sport will fight tooth and nail for $2,000,000 Saturday night; the biggest All Star Race payout ever offered. There are no points and no implications on their seasons from this race, just checkers or wreckers.
We’ve seen what these drivers are willing to do to win this season and I’m sure they will take it to the next level in the All-Star Race as they race for a lot money, a trophy and of course bragging rights. If you aren’t one of the lucky 19 to be locked into the race, there is still a way to make it in. The Fans get to vote one driver of their choice into the event and the top vote getters as of May 15th in no particular order are Danica Patrick, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip. The other way is to race your way in via the 40 lap Sprint Showdown that will precede the All-Star Race (ASR). The 1st and 2nd place finishers get to advance to the “main event” and there are 23 racers bidding for those two spots.
Fan Vote: Danica Patrick: The Cup rookie is the obvious choice to win the fan vote considering her popularity and all she has to do is bring the car home one piece during the Showdown. That race can get pretty wild though so just in case she does crash out, who will be the fan vote recipient? I say it would go to Bobby Labonte who won it last year and is one of the most respected drivers out there among the fans.
Sprint Showdown: Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola. Truex is always fast when we go to 1.5 mile tracks and he came within a few laps of victory at Charlotte’s sister track (Texas) just a few weeks ago. In the three 1.5 mile tracks we’ve raced on in 2013 so far, he’s finished 8th, 2nd and 4th leading 188 laps making him the obvious favorite in my opinion. Aric Almirola is my pick to take 2nd in the Showdown because of how fast he’s been as of late. In the past five races, he has four top 10 finishes and is sitting comfortably 9th in the standings through 11 races; easily the best season he’s ever had. Other drivers to watch include Stenhouse, Montoya, McMurray, Menard and Burton. As for a possible upset, keep an eye on Casey Mears and Germain Racing. They have been fast all year but have been the victim of crashes not of their doing. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that GEICO Ford Fusion transfer from the Showdown to the ASR tomorrow night.
All-Star Race: It’s hard to bet against Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth but I’m going to take a chance and and pick the Busch brothers. This is their kind of race – it’s short and fast paced so you have to be aggressive, willing to take risks and put your car in places most wouldn’t dare. If that’s not the definition of Kurt and Kyle Busch then I don’t know what is. Neither Busch has ever won the All-Star Race but they’ve certainly made the highlight reel on more than one occasion. In fact, they took each other out back in 2007 and they refused to talk to each other for months. Kyle is back to being Kyle this year after a dismal 2012. He’s already won two races, he is dominating the Nationwide races again and this is a weekend of redemption for the No.18 after the disappointing end to the Southern 500.
Kurt Busch is sort of an underdog here driving for a one car team that has just one victory in their existence but they have one of the most versatile drivers out there behind the wheel. In the past month, Kurt’s broke the track record at Darlington for the Cup race, nearly won the Nationwide event at Talladega, drove an Indycar at 220mph at Indianapolis and took a Holden V8 Supercar around the Circuit of the Americas. The No.78 has been very competitive this year but has had pit stop issues or mechanical failures late in races a few times hurting their performances. Those two things shouldn’t be much of a problem this weekend considering that it’s a 90 lap sprint race instead of a 500 mile marathon. If they want to win though, they will most likely have to fight their way past Kenseth and Johnson who I think will be in control of the race. Don’t count out Kasey Kahne either who won the All-Star Race back in 2008 and is always solid when we go to the 1.5 mile tracks.
This is the race where teams will bring experimental equipment and setups as they lay it all out on the line for the money and the trophy. We’ve seen people wreck for the win and even crash their brothers or teammates in pursuit of the victory. We’ve seen the unthinkable happen in these races where tempers are high and pedals are through the floor. In the final 10 laps, these guys will go balls to the wall trying to take the win and would rather bring home the steering wheel than a 5th or 6th place finish. What do you think is going to happen when you take 22 of the best stock car racing has to offer, put $2,000,000 in front of them and give them 90 laps to get it done? I think it’s going to be off the wall excitement that will make the finish to the Auto Club 400 look clean compared to what’s going to go down Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway!