Another year, another format for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Sprint announced Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway the blueprint for a five-segment, 90-lap all-star showdown, scheduled May 19 at the 1.5-mile track. The 28th running of the event will continue to pay the winner a cool $1 million.
Changes have been nothing new to the annual invitational event, ever since it debuted as a 70-lap exhibition in 1985. This year, though, each segment carries a unique benefit while keeping a premium on pit-crew performance.
The race will consist of four 20-lap preliminary segments, culminating in a 10-lap shootout. The field will make a mandatory final stop before the final leg of the race, then will line up according to the order in which they leave pit road.
This year, though, winners of the four preliminary portions will enter pit road first, giving them an edge for the final segment. In the event one driver wins multiple preliminary segments, the second-place driver in a given 20-lap run would receive the benefit.
“It makes you really want to get one of those first four 20-lap races,” said Kasey Kahne, the 2008 All-Star winner. “The way you come off pit road for that final 10 is (whether) you have a shot to win or not.”
For crew chiefs, the stakes will be just as high, with the strategy of whether to take two tires, four tires, fuel only or a mere stop-and-go on the final stop potentially determining the outcome.
“I think it’s pressure on everybody,” said Steve Addington, crew chief for Tony Stewart. “Everybody wants to win that race, but you can throw caution to the wind, so it’s up to the call from the top of the pit box as to how much pressure (you put) on them or yourself. But if you call for a tire change, they’re going to have to be spot-on.”
In addition to the leaving the seven-figure winner’s payout unchanged, race organizers made no tweaks to driver eligibility. The field will consist of race winners from 2011 and the 2012 season up to May 12, plus any past champions of the all-star event or NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from the past 10 years.
Additionally, three transfer spots are left open before the main event. The top two finishers in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown earlier in the evening will qualify for the race. Another driver will be selected on the basis of fan votes cast online or through mobile devices.