News & Media

All-Star format change emphasizes segment wins

March 27, 2012, David Caraviello,

CONCORD, N.C. -- Drivers who win first four segments will pit first before final 10-lap sprint

As an exhibition event with a big payday at the finish, the Sprint All-Star Race has always been about winning. Now that same philosophy is being carried over to the individual segments that comprise one of NASCAR's craziest nights.

In a format change to the May 19 event announced Tuesday, the winners of the first four 20-lap segments will be allowed to enter pit road first prior to the final 10-lap dash, providing them with a strategic advantage in the $1 million-to-win race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since there's no break before the final segment and no tire changes are mandatory on the final pit stop -- at a minimum, cars must only stop in their pit boxes -- crew chiefs promise to play a key role in determining who is out front when all the money is on the line.

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.

Related: Winning All-Star segment now puts driver up front

"Those 20-lap segments are going to be a lot like the 10-lap segment," said Steve Addington, crew chief for defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. "Everybody's going to be wanting to get up front. I think it's going to be really important to win one of those segments, because coming down pit road, that opens it up to a lot."

Particularly with tires being optional on that final, mandatory pit stop, which means the event could very well swing on a decision to take two tires, or fuel only. Former All-Star Race winner Kasey Kahne said it would be tough for a driver on old tires to hold off another with four tires for the entirety of the final 10-lap segment. But the potential scenarios seem endless.

"If four guys don't get anything, and then you restart sixth with tires, you might be able to win from there," said Kahne, who won the event in 2008. "It will be interesting how it all works out. It will be a crew chief's game late in the race."

All-Star weekend festivities begin May 17 with the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner Arena in downtown Charlotte, and also include a Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18. Eligibility standards for the All-Star Race remain the same: race winners from 2011, from 2012 through May 12, or previous All-Star winners the past 10 years. Drivers who are not eligible can try to get in by being one of the top two finishers in the Sprint Showdown preceding the main event, or by winning Sprint Fan Vote.

Fan voting is open at NASCAR.COM/AllStar through 5 p.m. ET on May 19. Another fan element will be included in this year's event, where one fan will be chosen to introduce each driver prior to the All-Star Race. Fans can submit video introductions of their favorite drivers to, and a panel of judges will determine one winner for each driver, which will be shown on the high-definition video board at the speedway.

Related: Contest allows fans to introduce drivers at ASR

But it's all a prelude to the big show, a 90-lap event where because of the format change, drivers won't be able to lie back in the early-going and wait for the end. "I think the 20-lap segments are going to mean a lot," Kahne said. "You want to be in that top four coming to pit road for the final 10, because 10 laps goes by quick here. You've got to be in those front four spots if you want to win the race in 10 laps, I think."