Average finish, mandatory pit stop put premium on hard racing (Harold Hinson Photo)
CONCORD, N.C. -- If drivers want a starting spot up front for the final 10-lap shootout in this year’s Sprint All-Star Race, they’re going to have to earn it.
Their pit crews will have to as well.
Officials with NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced a change to the format for this year’s event, scheduled for May 18 at CMS.
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The average finishing position from the first four segments of the five-segment race will determine the running order of the field before a mandatory four-tire pitstop.
How quickly drivers return to the track, however, will determine the order for the restart.
“We’re changing the format a little bit, put a little more emphasis on all the laps and your finishes there,” Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR, said. “The four segments, you take those, average your finish and that’s what re-positions you for that last mandatory pit stop.
“The crews are involved; it will make you hustle.”
All laps (caution and green-flag) in the first four segments will count toward the total for each segment.
Only green-flag laps will count in the final 10-lap shootout.
“I think it’s going to be really aggressive,” Chad Knaus, crew chief for defending race winner Jimmie Johnson said. “Once you … race and you win that first segment, whoever that winner is, he’s going to be going for broke in that second segment. If he’s able to pull off two of them, I think going into (that third segment) after a pit stop, it’s going to be really, really exciting to see what happens.”
The format change was only one of the more noteworthy moves unveiled Feb. 26 during a press conference at the 1.5-mile track.
The other? A $1 million bonus for any driver who wins all five segments of the special, non-points race.
“It’s real; it’s taped down, too,” defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski said as a “car” consisting of $1 million in paper currency was unveiled.
“I don’t have a strategy but to win,” he said, eyeing the car tabbed “Bruton’s Big Bonus” after Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder Bruton Smith. “It looks like now I’ve got a reason to do so.”
Can it be done?
“It’s going to be extremely difficult to win all five,” Keselowski said. “But in order to win an extra $1 million, you should have to do something special. And winning all five segments would be something very special.”
Drivers who have won one or more Sprint Cup races in 2012 and 2013 are eligible for this year’s race. Winners of the event the previous 10 years are also eligible, as are those drivers who won a Cup title within the last 10 years.
Once again, the top two finishers from the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap preliminary race, will advance to the All-Star race. One more position will be filled by fan vote, as long as the driver chosen finishes on the lead lap of the preliminary and the car is in “raceable” condition.
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