The Setup: All-Star Race serves as a test

May 15, 2014, Brad Parrott, Special for,

Crew chief Brad Parrott sizes up story lines, strategy for All-Star Race

Editor's note: Brad Parrott, a 19-time winner in NASCAR national series competition, has joined as a guest writer for the 2014 season. Here is his first-person analysis ahead of Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

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Race week for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race never undersells on anticipation. It's a hold-onto-everything-you-got, run-as-hard-as-you-can and a have-fun type of event.
There are no points involved, but it's a lot of pressure -- more pressure on your race team than everyone expects, because it's a test for the Coca-Cola 600 next week. Whoever wins takes home a big check, but it's a free test that everybody runs to see what sort of setup you'll need in NASCAR's longest race. So it's no pressure, and it's a lot of pressure all in one, but either way, you've got to bring your game.
A lot of teams have built a one-race race car for Saturday night. Teams used to have specific cars for say, road courses; now teams come in to Charlotte saying, "This is our All-Star car." The team that comes out of the All-Star Race with a clean race car could absolutely bring it back for the Coca-Cola 600 and add to the money list for that car.
The driver who leads on the final restart probably won't have any tires, probably won't have any gas. Charlotte is a place where you can make the most of a two-tire or no-tire strategy and have it pay off. It showed last weekend in Kansas that getting out front in clean air is the key and can put you in Victory Lane. It's up to crew chiefs to make that crucial call for track position and your best handling scenario.
The good thing about Charlotte is that you have three lanes you can work with -- low, middle and high. When tires wear out, almost everyone will go to run up high, but remember it's a whole new ballgame with the new ride-height setup coming to Charlotte.
There are fireworks involved in every lap you run at the Sprint All-Star Race. Whether you've got the best car and just don't have the track position or you've got the worst car in a thinned-out field where six or seven cars are already out of the race because of wrecks, it's one of those deals where you throw the dice. You drink as much water as you can during the race, then hopefully it's beer and champagne afterward.
The way that Danica Patrick ran last week at 1.5-mile Kansas, she could almost bypass the fan vote and race her way into the main event from Friday night's Sprint Showdown. Kyle Larson is certainly a dark horse in the qualifying race, but even a rookie talent could make waves on All-Star weekend. It would be a huge boost to that team if they could win the Showdown.
Still, the best teams almost always come to the front. As good as he's been on the intermediate tracks this year, I'm picking Kevin Harvick to win the All-Star Race.
In one sense, everybody wins racing at Charlotte. With almost every team based around the Queen City, you get two travel-free weeks at home. That's big for all the crew chiefs to have your friends, family and kids watching in your backyard and enjoying Charlotte racing like it should be.