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Preview: Edwards gears up for shot at All-Star repeat

May 18, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Buescher's confidence growing as success builds on itself in Truck Series

Carl Edwards is the one driver in the garage who can claim to be most recently familiar with winning the Sprint All-Star Race. But just one week ago, he admitted he wasn't completely familiar with the event's new format.

At Darlington Raceway last weekend, Edwards was asked about his hopes for an All-Star repeat and his thoughts about the new five-segment schedule for the annual non-points race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

All-Star fever


Getting ramped up for the 2012 Sprint All-Star Race? Make sure you check in on the race site for both the Sprint Fan Vote and all the information on the eligible drivers.

"I don't know," Edwards replied. "What is the new format?" As the tweaks to this year's race were explained to him, a slight grin crossed his face: "Oh, that's cool."

Edwards figures to be more familiar with the nuances come Saturday night, when he defends his title in the 28th edition of the Sprint All-Star Race (SPEED, 7 p.m. ET).

Edwards, currently mired in a 44-race winless streak in points-paying events, last performed his signature victory backflip in this race last season. Although an All-Star win wouldn't count toward ending the second-longest drought of his career or increasing his Sprint Cup Series points total, the $1 million winner's purse and bragging rights would go a long way toward giving his Roush Fenway Racing team a boost.

This year's race will have four 20-lap preliminary segments with a final 10-lap shootout. A pit stop is mandatory before the final leg of the race and the four preliminary winners (or highest finishers, in the event a driver wins multiple segments) will receive the advantage of entering pit road first for the final stop.

"That's going to make those first races really important," Edwards said. "If you look at the way the racing is right now, you start up front and you've got a huge advantage. That's a great way to address that issue.

"We started, I think, first or second in the last segment last time and that was a huge advantage for us. I don't know if we would've been able to win if we started back in the pack. That's going to put a premium on those first segments. I think you'll see guys really, really battling it out."

The level of competition promises to be as hectic as ever, which is a departure from the All-Star exhibitions of other sports. The seven-figure payday for the winner plays no small role in ramping up the intensity.

"Any time they put that much money in front of anybody, it's going to cause things to rise to another level," said Kevin Harvick, the 2007 winner of the event. "Take the points away from that and you really have some unique scenarios that have come up over the past several years in All-Star races."

The night will also feature the Sprint Showdown qualifying race, where the top two finishers will transfer into the main event. One other driver will be selected for the All-Star Race through a fan vote to complete the exclusive 23-car field.

Buescher pours it on in Truck Series

For two big reasons, James Buescher has forged closer bonds with his Turner Motorsports team this season.

"It's not like we had a whole lot of experience coming into it, and I think it's just taken some time to figure everything out, and be able to put every piece of the puzzle together."

--JAMES BUESCHER

For one, a growing sense of team chemistry has spurred the No. 31 Chevrolet to improved on-track performance in the Camping World Truck Series. The off-track reason is Buescher's offseason marriage to Krishtian Turner, making team owner Steve Turner his father-in-law.

With the close-knit team now closer than ever, Buescher's stock has risen. Fresh from his victory in the Truck Series' most recent race, at Kansas Speedway, he now stands second in the standings, just four points back of leader Timothy Peters entering Friday night's N.C. Education Lottery 200 (8 p.m. ET, SPEED) at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"Everything seems to be clicking," said Buescher, who also won the Nationwide Series opener at Daytona in a Turner car. "I joked earlier in the season that getting married in the offseason, I finally started winning some races. So I don't think that's a reason.

"But I think just the evolution of our team, it's still a young team. We have only been a NASCAR team for a few years now. ... So it's not like we had a whole lot of experience coming into it, and I think it's just taken some time to figure everything out, and be able to put every piece of the puzzle together."

Buescher has done plenty of double duty this season. He's competing for the championship in Truck, but has also run all but one Nationwide race. Having a dose of success on both tours has been a confidence builder for Buescher, who had been winless in both series dating back to his NASCAR debut as an 18-year-old in 2008.

"It does weigh on you and it weighs on your mind when you're in a losing streak like that," said Buescher, who has finished no worse than third in the past three Truck Series races. "But you know, when you finally can get to Victory Lane twice in a couple months, it just gives you the confidence to know that you are capable and you do have a team capable of winning, and you've just got to keep trying to get to Victory Lane, because even though we have done it twice, it doesn't mean it's going to make the next time any easier.

"We just have to keep working like we are and don't take anything for granted."

Road to $1 million

• The Sprint All-Star Race consists of five segments, of 20, 20, 20, 20 and 10 laps.
• Twenty drivers are automatically qualified, as either race winners from 2011 and '12 or past champions of the All-Star event. Two more will transfer via the top two positions in the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap preliminary race, and another through a fan vote.
• Before the second, third and fourth segments of the All-Star Race, there is an optional pit stop in which teams may elect to pit for fuel, tires and chassis adjustments. Teams pitting will not retain their position on the track.
• Before the final segment, there is a mandatory pit stop in which teams may pit for fuel, tires and chassis adjustments. Tires are not mandatory during the stop. The winners of the first four segments will move to the front of the field prior to the final segment, and be the first cars coming to pit road.
• Prior to the final segment, cars will line up in the order in which they exited pit road.

Peters doesn't have a win this season, but his consistency (top-five finishes in all four races in 2012) has him atop the points. Kyle Busch, winner of the past two Truck events at Charlotte, has curbed his competition in the series and is not entered this year.