Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star race promises to be unlike any other race the entire season. With no championship points on the line, an all-or-nothing attitude settles upon NASCAR’s best, making for one wild night.
Saturday night’s race will be run in five segments. The first four segments will be 20 laps each. The final segment will be the ultimate dash to the finish - 10 laps, only green flag laps count.
The winner gets a check for $1 million.
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in Sprint All-Star Race wins with three. Carl Edwards is the defending winner, but it’s Jimmie Johnson who emerges as the favorite. Johnson’s 16-race winless drought vanished last Saturday, replaced by a renewed optimism within the No. 48 camp.
Johnson has two wins in the All-Star Race (2003 and 2006), but also three finishes outside the Top 10. He did, however, lead in all three of those starts. He also has the highest driver rating among the starting field and will look to maintain his winning momentum Saturday. While there are no points on the line, Johnson says there is still pressure.
“It is a different type of pressure,” Johnson told reporters. “There is no doubt the Shootout and the All-Star Race are more relaxed. Sure we want to win. It’s just who and what we all are. Without having the points and the structure of a normal weekend, it does make it a lot more fun.”
Kyle Busch will look to score his first All-Star win Saturday night. The team is starting to slowly turn things around and, given the fact that Busch has the second-highest driver rating at Charlotte, he could be ready to step up and win his first $1 million All-Star check. For Busch it’s all or nothing.
“You’re giving it all you’ve got every single lap,” Busch said. “You’re definitely up on top of the wheel and your guys do the best they can to give you a good car and to make it as lightweight as possible and throw away the air conditioning unit and keep all the front fans away from you – no radiator fan. All that stuff, just try to lighten that baby up and make it fast.”
Like Busch, Greg Biffle heads to Charlotte without an All-Star win but brings a head of steam. He leads the points and hopes show the NASCAR world that he’s a legitimate contender by winning Saturday.
The All-Star field will be rounded out by the winner of the Sprint Showdown. The event features drivers who aren’t otherwise eligible for the All-Star race. In that event, look for A.J. Allmendinger or Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and advance to the big show.
Although no points are on the line, there are still plenty of bragging rights to be had for a decent finish.
Kasey Kahne vs. Kevin Harvick: Both drivers have won the All-Star event and could certainly do so again Saturday night. Neither, however, has shown the strength in the first part of the season to be a favorite this time around. Kahne won in 2008, Harvick in 2007. With a higher driver rating, look for Kahne to finish ahead of Harvick.
Carl Edwards vs. Jeff Gordon: Edwards is the defending winner while Gordon has three ASR wins - the most of any driver in the field. Edwards’ focus is on the big picture and trying to break a losing streak, so expect him to use the All-Star Race as a tuneup for next week’s Coca-Cola 600. Gordon’s last All-Star Race victory came in 2001 and his bad luck has kept him out of contention the entire 2012 season. Expect Edwards to finish ahead of Gordon Saturday night.
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race has been won from the pole position four times. The first three came in consecutive years: Dale Earnhardt (1990) and Davey Allison (1991 and 1992). Kurt Busch posted the fourth win from the pole in 2010. The deepest in the field an All-Star Race winner has started was 27th, by Ryan Newman in 2002.
Jimmie Johnson (+600)
Kyle Busch (+700)
Greg Biffle (+900)
Martin Truex Jr. (+180)