All-Star Weekend in Charlotte
As I'm writing this, the cars are on the track in practice for the first race, the All Star Showdown. As of right now, Dale Earnhardt Jr is fastest, but AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano also have very fast cars. These guys don't have a win so have to race in to the All-Star race, along with many others.
The other way a driver can get into the All Star Race is through the Fan Vote. The website has been tallying votes for weeks and once the Showdown is completed, the winner of that race will advance to the All Star Race. At that time the winner of the Fan Vote will also be announced and that driver will also advance to the big race.
On Thursday the crews for the teams competed in the Pit Crew Challenge. It will air on SPEED over the weekend, but Jimmie Johnson's crew beat out Denny Hamlin's crew in the final and did a fair bit of celebrating.
In order to qualify for the Sprint Cup All Star Race, a driver must have had a win in the past year. A few first timers will compete this year, including Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne and Paul Menard. All three are in the race by virtue of a win last year, and all three can be expected to do well.
In this 28th running of the All Star Race, there are several past winners, including Carl Edwards and his teammate, Matt Kenseth. Matt has had a strong start to the 2012 season, so could definitely be a factor.
Perhaps one of the ideas for the All Star Race that is the most fun is the paint schemes. Every year the crews and their sponsor seem to come up with unique and special paint schemes, honoring their charities, their foundations, a sponsor, or perhaps a child. These cars are released as special addition diecasts, and special promotions in the souvenir tents feature the paint schemes in T-shirts, hats, cozies and more. The All Star weekend can Souvenir sales can be a business in its own right. I can attest to that, as I have a Dale Earnhardt Sr. All Star Diecast from 1995, back when the race was called the Winston. The car is in its original packaging, never opened. (I also have one from the 1998 Daytona 500 - the one Dale won).
This year's race will have another new format. Every year it seems to be a challenge to come up with a format the fans have never seen. This year the All Star Race will consist of four 20 lap segments. The goal will be to win the segments as the winners of the four segments will line up first for the ten laps shootout to the checkers. The twist?? The winners will line up in the top four positions before they head to pit road for a mandatory pit stop. So, not only will how a driver and his car performs on the track be a factor, but the pit strategy in that final break could also be a huge factor. Will they go with four tires, two tires or fuel only? Also, the goal will be to win the first segment, as the Segment 1 winner will have P1 heading to the pits for that final pit stop.
It is expected that with the ability to change the format, change up the rules and factor in a qualifying race will, for a change, make this an All Star competition people will actually want to watch.