I can’t believe its been a year since last years All-Star race, but here we are once again on the eve of this years race. A time for drivers and teams to put the worries of points and The Chase out of their minds and instead concentrate on something far more valuable, cold hard cash. With the winner of the All-Star race pocketing a cool $1 million, for an evenings hard work.
Of course not everyone in the current standings will be in with a shot of the money, for those of you new to the sport the race is unlike any other in the schedule, and can appear confusing to understand at first glance. A Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that is composed of the Sprint Showdown and then the five-part All-Star race itself where only the drivers who are eligible can win the money. Dont worry though it isn’t as complicated as it sounds and in fact is quite simple to understand.
Let’s start with who is eligible to win the money. In order to be in the All Star race itself a driver must have won a race either in the 2013 season or has won a race since the 2012 All Star race. However even if a driver hasn’t accomplished one of these feats, if they have won the Championship or won the All Star race in the last ten years than they can also race for the money. Finally there are three other ways that a driver can make it, they can finish first or second in the preceding Sprint Showdown, or be voted in by the fans, who have been voting online since the start of the season (voting is open until 5pm EST on Saturday at http://www.nascar.com/SprintFanVote).
The Sprint Showdown mentioned above is a pre All Star race race that is run over 40 laps, in two 20 lap segments. A caution will be thrown after the first 20 laps and it is up to the teams as to whether they give up track position and come to pit row or stay our and risk running on old tyres. The final 20 laps is then a mad dash as drivers do whatever they can to ensure that they are in the top two, as nobody wants to have to rely on making it through via the fan vote. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr who would be virtually guaranteed winning via the fans vote went all out and won the Showdown last year. One final criteria the three eligible drivers need to meet is that despite all their hard racing their car must still be in a condition to race in the All Star race!
Onto the All Star race itself, which has gone through a few format changes over the years. The current format is that the 135 mile (90 lap) race is split into five parts. Four parts of 20 laps and then the final all out battle, winner takes all, 10 laps. Last year’s race saw the ‘winner’ of each of the four segments lining up 1-4 when coming to pit row for the mandatory stop before the last 10 laps.
But there have been further changes to how this order is to be determined after last years race, where the winners of the early segments dropped to the back to stay out of trouble which led to a slight downer on the rest of the segments and was not what NASCAR wanted to achieve.
“When you look at last year and (Johnson’s) guys won and did exactly what (they) needed to do to pull off that win with the rules that they were given to work with…So that’s the way the game was played. We got a new game coming” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said.
So this year two changes have been introduced in an attempt at making sure everyone remains competitive. If a driver wins all four of the segments and the final 10 laps than they will win an extra $1 million. The order of the cars coming to pit row will also not now be solely on the finishing position of the earlier segments. Instead the order of the cars coming to pit row will now be decided by their average finish in the earlier parts. This should see drivers battling hard for the entirety of the 90 laps to ensure that they have done everything they can to win the money.
Come the green flag at the All Star race there will be 22 of the best drivers NASCAR has to offer all in with a chance at going home $1 million richer. As we’ve seen time and time again drivers will do anything to win and even more so when there’s this amount of money on the line so expect fireworks on Saturday night!