We’re 1/3 of the way through the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and it’s onto Speedweeks at Charlotte. A million bucks is up for grabs this week (actually 2 million), and unlike the NHL, the NBA, and the MLB, we’re already on to the All-Star weekend.
There have been 28 previous All-Star races, all but one being held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 1986 event was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway and won by Bill Elliott. The first All-Star race was won by Darrell Waltrip back in 1985 amongst a field of 12. This year, 22 cars will take the green flag of the 2013 All-Star race, 19 of those divers have already locked up a spot in the field.
Here’s how the starting field for the drivers that will be making the start in the main event tonight:
– NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race winners in 2012 and 2013
– NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winners in the last 10 years
– Drivers who are past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions in the previous 10 years
– The top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown, the 40-lap race that precedes the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
– The top Sprint Fan Vote driver who finishes the Showdown and whose car is in “raceable” condition.
Like last year, the All-Star race will consist of five segments – four 20-lap segments and a 10-lap shootout. Unlike last year, the running the running order at the completion of the fourth segment (Lap 80) will be repositioned behind the Pace Car, based on the drivers’ average finish for the first four segments – putting a premium on strong finishes throughout the entire event.
The new lineup will be placed directly behind the caution car prior to the opening of pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop, yielding the spotlight from the drivers to the pit crews.
The order of the cars returning to the track will determine the starting order of the final 10-lap shootout. Running order ties will be broken by the finish of the fourth segment.
I am a fan of the new setup as NASCAR has done a nice job of eliminating the sandbagging factor we’ve seen in previous events, by emphasizing strong finishes in each of the first four 20-lap segments.
I will keep this brief this week as the intro section is rather long, and I have little to brag about from last week. I chose Kasey Kahne as the winner last week, a pick that looked like a jackpot throughout the middle to late stages, but with 33 laps to go, my chances went south. Whether Kyle Busch got into Kahne, or if he only got close enough to take the air off the No.5 car, this little rivalry heating up between the two drivers is going to be something to watch over the next few weeks. The incident left Kahne settling with a 17th place finish.
As for my Dark Horse, Ryan Newman, it was the fourth time I picked him this season and he did ok for me for the first time this year. Newman ran a strong race, avoiding trouble throughout and finished 10th.
On Thursday in my preview of tonight’s All-Star race with Greg Depalma on The Prime Sports Network, I picked a guy who is one of the favorites tonight, despite never winning a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This is a Kyle Busch style race, with nothing to lose and two million bucks at stake, you can bet that the floorboards of the No.18 car are going to be worn out at the end of the race on Saturday Night.
He has never won an all-star event in 7 tries despite starting on the pole three times and never won at Charlotte in 26 tries. In spite of never winning at Charlotte, Kyle has been very strong throughout the course of his career and since 2008, he has finished outside the top 8 just twice in 14 races. Kyle’s Driver Rating has never been less than 100, besides the two accidents in 2010 and 2011 since the spring of 2007.
He has lead laps in 20 of 26 starts at Charlotte, and in the fourth starting spot tonight, Kyle has put himself in position for an early lead. He was close in 2011 to the cool million when he started on the pole for his third time, but Carl Edwards was the guy to beat that night. I still like my pick today.
Dark Horse Pick
He might not be a Dark Horse now, but on Thursday he was a 30 to 1 longshot to win the All-Star race tonight. An important stat to mention with this Dark Horse pick is that Eight of the 28 (28.5%) NASCAR Sprint All-Star Races have been won from the front row: four from the pole and four from second-place.
The guy I picked on Thursday as a “quiet pick” to win the million bucks was Kyle’s brother, Kurt. Kurt Busch’s overall All-Star Race record is: 11 starts, one win, four top-fives, six top-10s, one pole and 30 laps led. His average start is 8.1 and average finish 10.8.
He followed his 2010 All-Star Race win with a victory the following week in the Coca-Cola 600 and is one of four active drivers to have won the Charlotte double. The others are Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2003) and Kasey Kahne (2008). Busch qualified for this year’s Sprint All-Star Race as both a former winner of the event and as a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion (2004).
Kurt will be starting outside of Carl Edwards on the front row tonight, and is my quiet sleeper pick this week.
That’s all for this week, so until the longest race of the season next week, You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!