Which drivers can excel at All-Star Race?
Take an inside look at the top drivers in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Sprint Showdown this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m ET on SPEED.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 1st, same as last week, has a 24-point lead in the standings.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: No wins, two top-five and three top-five finishes in five all-star starts. He was last in the 21-car field last year when he was involved in a crash.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards doesn't have to worry about protecting his points lead in the all-star race because it is not a points race. "We're pulling out all the stops for the all-star race and have some really neat stuff car-wise that I'm excited about," Edwards said. "We'll see if we can finally break through and win this race. We've never been able to close the deal. I'm excited to be able to go compete for a million dollars and not have points on the line. It's just a fun weekend and I'm looking forward to it more than I have any other all-star race. We're running well enough that I think we have a real shot at this thing."
LOOKING BACK: The points leader is coming off a seventh place after leading five times for 117 laps at Dover. "I didn't have any choice in it really, that is up to the guys up on the box," Edwards said of the call on the last pit stop. "That is too tough of a choice to make right there and I don't blame (crew chief) Bob Osborne one bit. I thought we would be able to march up through there and I thought the race would be between Clint (Bowyer) and I. I did see a couple cars go fast early on two tires but I really felt we were going to have something. If we had had a caution, who knows what would have happened."
ETC.: Edwards will drive RK-726, the chassis that finished 18th at Martinsville last month. "It's an honor to compete in the all-star race, especially since we needed the fan vote to get in it last year," crew chief Bob Osborne said. "The best we've ever finished in it is fourth back in 2006, but I feel our team is much stronger now than in previous years. It's always fun to race without the pressure of points so everyone on the team is excited for Saturday night."
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 2nd, same as last week, 24 points behind the leader.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Two wins, six top-five and six top-10 finishes in nine all-star races. He was 13th last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Being a five-time Cup champion means nothing in this race and Johnson is prepared for a different style of racing. "I think we had a great shot to win last year's all-star race, led late and I think we had a problem on pit road and came out third; and restarted inside of the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and spun out with, I think, just a lap or two to go," Johnson said of last year's battle. "I enjoy that track. The old track, and how rough it was and abrasive it was, really fit my style. We had a great set-up for it and I knew how to drive the track. The rougher the track, the better in my opinion; I seem to do better at those tracks. So, in time, the track will get there. It changes a little bit each year and we'll see where it is now. But I'm looking forward to it. There's nothing like being home. Our all-star race is a true all-star event. I'm very proud of our sport and Sprint and what they've done with that event. Everybody is charged up for it and then we roll out of that into one of the biggest weekends in motorsports, period."
LOOKING BACK: Finished ninth at Dover after leading a race-high nine times for 207 laps. He thought the last pit stop determined the race. "I guess in our minds we didn't think that would take place, so many guys taking two [tires] instead of four," Johnson said. "It was certainly the call. I knew basically from the numbers we were in trouble when we left pit road and there were so many guys in front of us. It is just the way it is. We had a great race all day. Led a lot of laps but unfortunately, not the one at the end that counted. But a solid day; in the pits and on the track. We couldn't really get a hold of the track the longer the day went on, but we got some good ideas coming back."
ETC.: With so many Cup drivers getting called to the NASCAR trailer following incidents on and off the racetrack, Johnson always keeps his nose clean. "I've only been called there a couple of times; once with Kevin (Harvick) and once with Tony (Stewart), if memory serves me right," Johnson said. "I think we all understand where those limits are. Rick (Hendrick, team owner) had a good group of drivers that understand the business side as well. So I think it's kind of outside of the box for us, in Rick's mind, to get into trouble and do the wrong things on track; although we're all capable of it if you're mad enough. But Rick loves that passion in his drivers and we find ways to rectify our problems in situations."
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 3rd, same as last week, 37 points out of first place.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: No wins or top fives and one top-10 finish in five all-star races. He was 14th last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch gets to change his approach in the All-Star Race. "The All-Star Race is a different atmosphere for me, since it's a different way of racing for everybody," he said. "It's just that it's a non-points race, and the pure fact you're going after a race just for bragging rights and a million bucks. That's what it's all about. It's hard to describe a driving style. A lot of guys would say they're patiently aggressive. That's the best way to look at it. I guess that's the way I thought I was a few years ago, even though there wasn't a lot of patience involved. Now, there's a lot more involved and I've gotten smarter. There were plenty of times I could have made moves this year at certain points of the race and I decided to back off and wait a lap and let it happen on its own. It seems to me that success is becoming a little easier when you're patient when you need to be, but also aggressive when you need to be."
LOOKING BACK: Started last in the field after having to change engines but raced his way to a fourth-place finish at Dover. "I'm happy with a top-five finish considering how far we were behind when we started the weekend," Busch said. "We had our engine failure there and I put it in the fence, so I got us behind. It was my fault. The guys did an awesome job with what we had and with what we could do. We put something under it knowing this is how we ran there in the past and it just didn't work. … It just seemed like you would get single-filed out and you just couldn't really pass very well. All the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing, thank them and we'll be back at the all-star race next week at Charlotte. … We came from a long ways back and the guys on pit road helped me out, too. All in all, we're happy to get out of here with a fourth -- that's pretty good, considering now we can go to the all-star race in Charlotte."
ETC.: With so much success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series and the Cup series, Busch was asked if he is surprised at what he has accomplished so far in his brief career. "That's all NASCAR wins -- that's not Cup wins," Busch said. "In the all-time list, if you think of it that way, it's pretty cool. It's good. People will always tell you that they're not Cup wins and Richard Petty's were (all) Cup wins. Nothing to take away from Richard or anybody else who raced back in those days, but I pulled up some entry lists and some finishes and sometimes there are 12 cars that entered the race or 18 cars that entered the race. That's not taking away from those guys because they built this sport into what it is today. They won those races and, for me, I feel like our era now has come so far from what it was that it's tough to win here right now, too."
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 4th, same as last week, 52 points out of the Cup lead.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 11 all-star contests. He was 12th last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has yet to qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race but will likely be the driver that gets voted into the lineup through the fan vote. "I don't take it for granted that we'll get the fan vote; anything can happen," Earnhardt said. "We're just going to go and enjoy that weekend. That weekend is pretty fun. I would rather, personally make it through the fan vote because the qualifying procedure is a little bit of a pain in the tail, from a driver's standpoint anyways, I'm sure that is probably not everybody's opinion. Having to qualify and then sit around and wait for everybody else to qualify and run up and down pit road like hooligans is not a lot of fun. The most important thing is just focusing on the points races, the races that matter toward the championship. When we get to all-star weekend, however things are lined up is how things are lined up. That is just a fun weekend regardless."
LOOKING BACK: Led one time for one lap before finishing 12th at Dover.
ETC.: Earnhardt thinks the recent feud between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick is good for NASCAR by bringing more attention to the sport. "It's not bad," he said.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 5th, same as last week, 54 points out of first.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 10 all-star starts. He was sixth last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: It's all about the racing and not about the points according to Harvick. "The all-star week is always a lot of fun," Harvick said. "The crew guys are a big part of all-star weekend with all the pit-stop competitions, and they're a big part of the race, so it's an important week for us just to kind of see what we have to head to the (Coca-Cola) 600 with and really evaluate the performance of the race car on the racetrack a week before the race. It's a fun week and a lot of money on the line. I guess it's a really good-paying test session but it's a lot of fun too."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick is coming off a 10th-place finish at Dover.
ETC.: Harvick wishes NASCAR officials were more consistent when it comes to penalties and probation. "Well, there just has to be consistency," Harvick said. "I can race either way. We can flip each other over. I don't mind wrecking. I don't mind getting wrecked. I don't mind eye for an eye. I don't mind any of that, but just tell me what the rules are. Explain to me what the penalty is if you are going to hook somebody in the middle of the straightaway, if you are going to spin them out, if you are going to retaliate, what is the penalty? Tell me what the penalty is -- a consistent answer."
17 MATT KENSETH, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 6th, an improvement of four positions from last week, 74 points out of first place.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 10 all-star events. He was eighth last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth expects to use a different game plan on Saturday night. "There's different strategy and things to think about with your car's setup when it comes to looking ahead to the all-star race," he said. "You want to do everything you possibly can to win that race, but you don't want to have a terrible finish at the same time. We want to go for the win, and do everything you know you can do within your means, but you still have to be smart enough to know when you step over that edge. We're all going to be driving it right on the edge every lap to try to pull off that win. With a lot of money on the line, and no points attached to Saturday's race, we're all going to do whatever we can to try to figure out how to win the Sprint All-Star Race."
LOOKING BACK: Drove to his second win of 2011 with Sunday's victory at Dover. He led two times for 33 laps. It was the 20th victory of his career. With the victory, Kenseth moved into a tie for 34th on the all-time list with Speedy Thompson. His path to victory was paved with a quick decision on pit road on the last stop. "Jimmy (Fennig, the crew chief) wanted four but as I was driving down pit road I thought maybe we could compromise. While I was on the jack I asked if he was sure we didn't want to try two and he said to put on two. It was really Jimmy's call and just a suggestion by me. It was tough to pass on top of that rubber out there. We had a lot of power and these guys did a good job with the car."
ETC.: Crew chief Jimmy Fennig has built a brand new chassis -- RK-766 -- for Kenseth to drive Saturday night. "The Sprint All-Star Race you race differently than we will next week for the 600 miles at Charlotte," Fennig said. "We can look at a couple different set-ups this weekend for the all-star race, but most times a lot of the car settings won't be able to translate over. The all-star race is always a lot of fun for the fans and it gives the crews a chance to get some recognition earlier in the week with the Pit Crew Challenge. We've had a great start to the week and I'm looking forward to continuing that through Saturday night for our team."
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 7th, drops a position from last week, 76 points out of the lead.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, three top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine all-star starts. He was 11th last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Unlike the long grind of a 400- or 500-mile race, many drivers like the all-star race because it is quick and to the point. "I think one of the coolest things about the all-star race for us is that it is a short race," Newman said. "It's kind of like the races we all grew up racing -- you have to make your move and you have to make it a now kind of thing. It's a unique layout, and to me that's what makes it fun. You have the different segments and the rules, and the strategy changes each and every lap. The all-star race is huge in our eyes because it's the all-star race, and it's in our backyard, everybody's backyard. It's all about bragging rights. We're all about beating each other at our own game at our home field, I guess you would say. It's definitely a challenging race, but it's a lot of fun. Everyone wants to come out on top-not just for the $1 million, but also for the bragging rights."
LOOKING BACK: Coming off a 21st place finish at Dover. "I've never driven so hard for so little," said Newman after the race. "I'm not trying to beat up the guys because they know and they're just as frustrated as I am right now. We just couldn't get it right today. No matter what change we made, we didn't make our Chevrolet any better."
ETC.: Newman believes drivers fighting back has always been part of the sport. "I think if you look back at the history of the sport, it's always been there and it's been some of the benchmarks for the sport," he said. "The first race on TV and the fight that happened out there between (Cale) Yarborough and the Allison's. The Intimidator (Dale Earnhardt) himself, he wasn't just the Intimidator because of his mental game. He was an Intimidator because of his physical game. There's a lot of history in our sport with not being pushed around or being the one that pushes around. There's a fine balance for that depending on the driver, the competition and the racetrack -- where you're at in the season and all those things play a part of what you have to do as a driver to either get that respect or make sure that you're given that respect."
33 CLINT BOWYER, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 8th, an improvement of one position in the standings, 80 points out of first.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Looking for his first top-10 finish in two all-star starts. He did not make this race last year and finished 23rd in the Sprint Showdown -- a race to get into the all-star race.
LOOKING AHEAD: There are many incentives to win the all-star race, according to Bowyer: "It's a million dollars to win, you can't take that from it, but there's nothing more you can do. It's still another race. That's the way I look at it. Every lap I try as hard as I can and if that's not good enough, it's not good enough. I can't reach in my bag of tricks and pick out more speed. If you're in a situation with a green-white-checker, you're going to go for it. Whatever expense -- you're going to go for it and that's the situation that can erupt at such a big, prestigious race like that with nothing to lose. There's nothing to lose, there's no consequences about that so you might as well go for it. There's absolutely no consequences, you have to take all the risk, all the gambles that you possibly can and sometimes those will bite you."
LOOKING BACK: Finished sixth at Dover after leading one time for 29 laps. "Our guys worked really hard getting our car fixed up," Bowyer said. "We got up and led the race. I mean, we're really working well together. I'm getting a little bit of confidence. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) is getting a little bit of confidence in himself. I'm getting some more confidence in myself. Just making better decisions. Obviously, probably two tires may have won the race right there, but when he said four and that many guys stayed out or were on two, I really thought we would be able to get back up through them, especially as greasy and slimy as the track was on restarts. But it just didn't. I'm real proud of my guys on the team."
ETC.: Bowyer is one driver that doesn't believe NASCAR officials need to clarify the rules on feuds between drivers. "No. We're all professionals," he said. "I think good old common sense solves a lot of that. Retaliation and things like that, it's been in racing ever since I started back in Kansas in a Street Stock car -- that's the nature of the beast when you're racing as close as we are, as hard as we are and you're as passionate about what you do. When you put other people in danger is when things get out of hand. I think both cases kind of got a little bit out of control."
22 KURT BUSCH, Dodge
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 9th, drops a position from last week, 80 points out of the lead.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, four top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine all-star races. He won this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Casting points aside, Busch loves competing in special events like the all-star race. "It's always a time of the season that I really enjoy," he said. "It's a nice break in the schedule when you can spend a weekend at the racetrack not worried about the big picture at all. It's relaxing, yet with all the big money on the line, the adrenalin flows, the tempers flare and it's as exciting as it gets for our sport. The consequences of this race are so different than any other weekend we have once the season gets started and that's really refreshing. If you don't finish the race, you don't lose any points toward the championship. You jump into the all-star race and it's just a whole different atmosphere and attitude. This race is just an entirely different animal. It's a 10-lap shootout at the finish, with a cool million dollars on the line. You can bet that things will surely get heated up and there will be fireworks, for sure."
LOOKING BACK: Finished 14th last Sunday.
ETC.: Not only did Busch win last year's all-star race, he came back one week later to win the Coca-Cola 600 -- sweeping both major May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It was a special race that led to two of the most memorable weekends of my career," Busch recalled. "The way that we won the all-star race last year will always stick out in my mind as quite incredible. Smacking the wall there as hard as we did, you'd have sworn that we didn't have a chance to win it, but we did. Then to come back the next weekend to dominate and win the Coke 600 like we did was such an achievement."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 10th, a three-position drop from last week, 88 points out of the lead in the standings.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win, seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 12 all-star starts. He was fifth last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Winning the race pays $1 million but money isn't everything, according to Stewart. "Yeah, everybody amps it up so much (by) saying there's nothing on the line but money," Stewart said. "Trust me, we all think of the trophy first and the money second. But it's fun to know that you can take extra chances in that race and you know that everybody is going to do it so it just takes the whole level of racing and just takes it up a whole new level that we don't get a chance to do when we're racing (the normal schedule)."
LOOKING BACK: Started 27th and finished 29th in a car that was a "handful" at Dover.
ETC.: With a new track popping up on the schedule in July when the Cup series moves to Kentucky Speedway, Stewart believes the drivers and teams will quickly figure out the new facility. "There are guys who have run the Nationwide race there that know the track," Stewart said. "It's no different than when we all ran our first races at Dover or anywhere else. We'll have a practice day there anyway before we go into it. The good thing is by then you should have a pretty good idea about what you're doing before the race."
5 MARK MARTIN, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only four points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Two wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 21 starts including five in the last seven races.
LOOKING AHEAD: In honor of the team's 25th anniversary, Martin will drive the No. 25 Chevrolet this weekend. "I remember racing against the 25 back in the earlier days of my career," said Martin. "Tim (Richmond) was a great guy, and it's cool to kind of be wearing his same fire suit and taking his car out this weekend. The last time I won the all-star race was in a throwback paint scheme for the (No.) 6 car (2005). Maybe it's a good luck thing."
LOOKING BACK: Martin was quick to praise crew chief Lance McGrew for his decision not to pit under the last caution of the day at Dover. The gamble vaulted Martin into the lead, and while he wasn't able to hold off Matt Kenseth on the restart, Martin was able to finish a season-best second at Dover. "We had a good car, but we were getting ready to finish 15th again and it's been a shame because we have run well a lot this year and finished 15th." After running in the top 10, a problem on pit road had dropped Martin back in the pack before McGrew decided it was time to gamble.
ETC.: McGrew said he can't wait until Saturday night: "I look forward to this race from the time the season starts. I love the energy of Charlotte Motor Speedway --- especially at night. There's a certain intensity yet freedom to not be racing for points and being flat-out, wide-open for the win the whole event. This race is just very exciting. I love it."
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 17 points out of the top 10.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Finished ninth last year for only his second top-10 finish in seven starts. Finished second in the 2008 event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle said "one of the best things about the all-star race is that everyone on the pit crew gets to share the spotlight. They are part of the driver introductions and that's a lot of fun for all of us. Hopefully we'll all learn some things in the all-star race that will help us in the Coke 600 next weekend."
LOOKING BACK: A promising start quickly ended when Biffle reported the throttle was sticking and it was getting worse. The crew was able to fix the problem under the second caution flag of the day, but Biffle lost a lap in the process and was never able to get it back as he finished 19th. "We had a good car as we got to seventh in a hurry (after starting 12th), but we just never caught a break after we got the problem fixed," Biffle said. "We could never get the Lucky Dog deal and get back on the lead lap."
ETC.: Crew chief Greg Erwin said the team plans to run "a different setup (this weekend) than we plan to run next weekend and see how it works out. If we are successful, then we will probably adjust our planned setup for the 600. It is nice knowing it's not a points race and we can kind of relax and have fun with the race this Saturday night."
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 24 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Has finished fourth in the last two events.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin hopes this is the week that he finally gets back in Victory Lane. "We would love to win the all-star race," said Hamlin. "We've been in the hunt the last couple of years, and it would be a big morale boost for the entire team if we can win it. With no points on the line, it is a fun race to just go out and go for it."
LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished 16th at Dover. "It was just one of those days where we never got the car right, but it wasn't bad," Hamlin said. "It just wasn't good. We tried a lot of different things and we were okay, but not good enough to run up front. And track position hurt us. It was just so hard to pass since the track was so, so slick."
ETC.: Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford feel the all-star race is a "perfect opportunity to try something new. A lot of people use this weekend to get in some extra practice for the 600, and we are no different," said Hamlin. "Maybe we can hit on something that will help us this week as well as next week."
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 29 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Three wins and nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon will be trying to become the first four-time winner of the all-star race. He and the late Dale Earnhardt are the only drivers to have three wins in the special event. "We're not racing for points, so it's all about the win," Gordon said. "Drivers are willing to take more risks inside the race cars. The crew chiefs, the engineers and the teams are willing to take more risks in the setups."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon finished 17th at Dover. "We threw a lot of things at it, but we just never got the car to where we needed it to be," Gordon said. "It was just a long weekend. It was just so hard to pass today even with four tires as a lot of people found out at the end. Track position was really a key today."
ETC.: Gordon knows that the all-star race takes a "total team effort, and that's what I love about it. We have the pit-crew competition on Thursday night that determines the order we choose pits. On Friday, we incorporate the crew into qualifying so it doesn't matter if you have the fastest car on the track -- it's about a total team effort for qualifying. And then there are mandatory pit stops during the race on Saturday night. This race, the whole week, really -- shows which teams are strong."
42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 32 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Has only one start in the all-star race. He finished 14th in the 2008 event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya said he is "really looking forward" to the all-star race. "It's only my second appearance in the race. Since it's not a points race we get to go out there and have some fun, try some new things with the car and try to win a lot of money. There's not a ton of pressure on us, and it definitely helps having extra seat time heading into the Charlotte race next weekend."
LOOKING BACK: It was a long, long day for Montoya at Dover as he finished 32nd. He began the day with an extremely ill-handling race car. After a number of adjustments to the car, Montoya told his crew "we are pretty good now." But then he ran into transmission problems followed by a spin in Turn 4 and another unscheduled pit stop for a tire going flat. "Once we got the handling under control, everything seemed to fall apart," Montoya said. "It's just frustrating when you work hard to get the car where you want it to have bad luck hit you. I know things will start turn turning around for us soon."
ETC.: Montoya believes "it is a lot easier if you are a fan to be passionate about NASCAR than anything else. As a fan, you come to NASCAR and you get the see the drivers (up close). I think you are a lot more in touch with the drivers. All the media availability, (and being in the garage when) drivers walk around the garage."
43 AJ ALLMENDINGER, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 33 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Finished 17th in his lone all-star start in 2008.
LOOKING AHEAD: Crew chief Mike Shiplett said that there is one major difference this year when it comes to the Sprint Showdown -- "the cars are impounded by NASCAR after qualifying. If we qualify really well, we'll probably be on the tight side during the race, so we are going to have to find the right balance between qualifying and race trim."
LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger was running down the leaders when he suddenly experienced engine problems. As a result, he finished 37th at Dover. "It was weird because it happened at once and there was no sign of it," a dejected Allmendinger said. "We were going to run them down. The track had gotten really slick and we were coming. This rarely happens. I hate this. I really wanted to do well especially for the King (Richard Petty)."
ETC.: Allmendinger said "All-star weekend is unique because there is so much excitement in the atmosphere. It's just electric. We aren't in the all-star race yet, but I've won the Sprint Showdown before and I'm looking forward to racing my way into the main event again this year. I want to have good momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600 next weekend."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 37 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Has never qualified for the all-star event. Finished fourth in the Sprint Showdown a year ago.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard admits "we would have rather been qualified already for the all-star race, but the Showdown is a lot of fun. There's little to no pressure. Obviously, you still want to run well, but we'll also use it as a test session for the 600. But we want to race our way into the all-star race. I think we have a good shot at it."
LOOKING BACK: Menard struggled all afternoon with an ill-handling race car as he finished 24th. "The track was really, really slick, and we just never found the answer to what we needed today," said Menard. "It was just one of those days where we tried a lot of things but nothing seemed to work."
ETC.: Menard knows "one million dollars (for winning the all-star race) is a big deal, but the pride that goes along with winning it is a much bigger deal. Winning that trophy would be pretty cool. I'd find a really nice spot for it (at his home)."
4 KASEY KAHNE, Toyota
Team: Red Bull Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 42 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One win and two top-10 finishes in seven starts. Win came in the 2006 event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne feels "everybody probably has a little bit different attitude and different expectations for this race. But myself, all I want to do is win. You just have to figure out how to win this race, how to be up there late in the race so that you'll have the opportunity to take tires or not. It's a neat race. I'm glad that we're part of it. As good as our Red Bull cars have been lately, I think we have a great chance to win this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Kahne thought he was headed for his third straight top-five finish when he encountered engine problems with only 69 laps to go. As a result, he finished 36th. "We had a great Red Bull Toyota today," Kahne said. "The car was fast. I was really loose, and we kept working on it. Early on, it was like there was something wrong on the restarts. I over-revved it one time, trying to get it to go. I think that had something to do with why the engine let go, and it was probably a little bit my fault. Kind of a bad deal."
ETC.: Kahne goes by the Red Bull shop every Tuesday. "We have our competition meetings, go over the previous race, the upcoming race, try to look ahead and know what we're getting into," Kahne said. "You want to spend time communicating with your crew chief, trying to figure out things."
56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 46 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Finished second last year for his second top-10 finish in four starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: If Truex is to race in the all-star event this year, he must win the Sprint Showdown for a second straight year. "The NAPA Auto Parts Toyota has been running really well and I think we have a good shot at the repeat," Truex said. "Last year we ran second in the all-star race. I think if we would have had an extra lap or two, it would have been our race and we wouldn't be sitting here having to race our way in."
LOOKING BACK: Truex finished eighth at Dover for his second straight top-10 finish. "I'm satisfied," said Truex. "I was looking for more. We got up to third about the mid-point (of the race). We just lost the handle a little bit. I think some guys got a little bit better. We didn't really fight a major balance issue, we just didn't have the overall grip and the car was bouncing back and forth between loose and tight, and it was hard to tell them what I needed. One lap, it would try to spin out and the next lap it plows. But overall, it was a solid day and a good job by all the guys on the team."
ETC.: Michael Waltrip Racing will hold its fifth annual Fan Fest on Wednesday, May 25 at its shop in Cornelius, NC. Truex will sign autographs starting at 5:30 p.m.
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 47 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Has never qualified for the all-star race. Finished fifth in the Sprint Showdown a year ago
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose feels "the Showdown is exciting, but it's a bit of a crap shoot. We are going to throw an aggressive setup at the DeWalt Ford to give us a chance to get in the all-star race on speed. If we can do that, then we'll enjoy the big show. If we can't do that, we'll just use it as practice and a test for the Coca-Cola 600 the following week."
LOOKING BACK: Ambrose was all smiles after finishing a season-best third at Dover. "It was a great day and a really good car for two tires there at the end," Ambrose said. "I had a fast car today. I thought I had something for them at the end, but the downforce went away and I wore my front tires out (trying to catch and pass runner-up Mark Martin). It's a big day for DeWalt, my best performance for them and a career best for this program (the 9 car). I am really excited."
ETC.: Richard Petty Motorsports will hold its second annual Fan Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 28, from 7 to 11:30 a.m. ET at the shop in Concord, N.C. Ambrose, teammate AJ Allmendinger and Petty will sign autographs for the first 200 fans who donate a 24-pack of pencils to Classroom Central.
6 DAVID RAGAN, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 58 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Has never qualified for the all-star race. Finished sixth in the Sprint Showdown last year after winning the pole position for the event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ragan believes "the Sprint Showdown is one of the biggest races of the year for us since the Daytona 500. We've come so close to winning it the last couple of years and I really think this year is our chance to win it. The Showdown pays no points, so with nothing to lose and everything to gain, we're going to give it our all and go for it."
LOOKING BACK: Ragan had moved into the top 10 (after starting 14th) when he spun out as he attempted to get on pit road for a green-flag pit stop. He backed into the inside wall before getting his car straightened out and limping to his pit stall. Ragan was never able to recover from this mishap as he finished 28th, five laps back of winner Matt Kenseth. "I just locked up the rear brakes a little bit coming into the pits during that green-flag stop," a dejected Ragan said. "That's the first time I've ever wrecked like that getting on pit road. I'm usually the conservative one, but I guess I pushed it a little too hard and it's very unfortunate as I felt like we had a real good chance for a top-10 finish."
ETC.: Roush Fenway Racing will hold its annual Fan Day event on Thursday, May 26, at its corporate headquarters in Concord, NC. Ragan will be signing autographs beginning at 12:30 p.m. with Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. The other Roush drivers and Jack Roush will sign from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 61 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: One top-10 finish in five starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said "Charlotte is obviously a special place to me, because it is where I won my first Sprint Cup race. However, it is different when we come here for the all-star race. It is a no-limits type of race where winning is the only objective. There are no points on the line and second place means nothing."
LOOKING BACK: An unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire just before the halfway mark of the car dropped McMurray two laps off the pace. He was never able to recover as he finished 20th at Dover. "Seems like some days you can't catch a break, as we actually had a pretty good car," McMurray said. "We worked hard all day to bring home a 20th-place finish."
ETC.: McMurray feels the all-star race allows "the teams to have some fun racing in front of our family and friends at our home track. It's all about bragging rights -- getting to race the best of the best. I've been fortunate enough to win races at Charlotte, but winning the all-star race would be huge for our team."
31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 70 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Five top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Burton admits "it's disappointing not to be in it (the all-star race). It's embarrassing not to be in it, you know. To have won over 20 races (in his career) and especially the first half of the year we had last year to not win races. ... But at the end of the day, it is what it is. We'll go over there and we will try to have some fun." Burton must finish in the top-two in the Sprint Showdown to qualify for the all-star race.
LOOKING BACK: Burton thought he was finally going to get his first top-10 finish of the season, but things didn't work out as well as he had hoped at the end of the race as he ended up 11th at Dover. "Like almost everybody else, we thought four tires was the way to go," Burton said. "But I guess we should have gone for just two (on the last pit stop). We had a really good car, probably one that could have finished in the top five. But track position was the key at the end. And all those who took just two tires had it."
ETC.: Burton said it will be hard to have fun this weekend. "This is a weekend to go and have fun, but (by) the same token, it's no fun if you're not in that big race. It's no fun practicing and preparing to run the non-qualifier race, it's no fun. Nothing against anybody in that race, but we've won a lot of races and done a lot of things and it's embarrassing not to be in it."
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Dodge
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 77 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Finished seventh last year for his first top-10 finish in two starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski feels "this is a big weekend for us to show how far we have come as a race team. If we can get in the all-star race (by finishing in the top two in the Sprint Showdown), that will show that we are a much better team than at the first of the year. And I know we are. I think we can make the big race."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski finished 13th at Dover. "We started off the race really well," Keselowski said. "I think we were probably about a fifth-place car, but we kind of lost the handle there around the mid-part of the race. We kept working on it and got back to where we were a fifth-place car again. But I stalled the car on that last yellow. I fought hard on the restart (with 35 laps to go) and got some of it back. Overall, I think it was a solid day."
ETC.: Keselowski is known as being a very aggressive driver. "With no points on the line and knowing you have to finish in the top-two (to qualify for the all-star race), you have to take chances," Keselowski said. "We want to test some things for the 600 next weekend, but we also want to make the big race and have a shot at the big money ($1,000,000). So we are going to go for it."
83 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Red Bull Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 27th, 90 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RACE RECORD: Finished third in the 2005 event for his lone top-10 finish in three starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers must finish in the top-two spots in the Sprint Showdown if he is to qualify for the all-star race for the fourth time. "There is going to be a lot of good cars in the Showdown, and with only 40 laps you are going to have to have your act together from the get-go to make the all-star race," said Vickers.
LOOKING BACK: Vickers was all smiles after finishing a season-best fifth at Dover. "I have to thank the Red Bull guys -- they did a great job with the car. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and the guys made some good calls all day in the pits. All we needed was track position and Ryan gave us that with the two-tire stop at the end."
ETC.: Vickers said the Dover race was a "special race for me. Last year, I didn't make it here. Last year, I was lying in the hospital with IV's in both arms when this race was going on. It feels pretty good to come back and finish it -- and finish it well."