Drivers expect chaos in premier event

It’s that time of year again.

Time to keep fans on edge.

Time to work to perfectly time the winning move.

Time to see how aggressive a huge purse can make a group of otherwise gentlemanly competitors.

Time to see who gets crashed in the battle for the lead.

How far is too far for a driver to go in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night? Apparently, there is no limit.

It’s pretty certain that someone in prime position to win the all-star race isn’t even going to finish it. It’s almost a guarantee that someone is going to get done wrong, that someone is going to stomp away from his destroyed car in utter frustration.

That’s just what happens here. The format for the race is slightly different this year, with four 20-lap segments followed by a 10-lap run for it all. It’s a format that led Dale Earnhardt Jr. to joke that the biggest question Saturday night will be which segment the field is in. But it’s a format he wholly endorses as an improvement that will breed tight racing here at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The real question, though, isn’t about the four segments but, rather, the type of racing the final 10-race shootout will breed. Who will pay when the fireworks erupt?

Even those preaching a more conservative approach admit that fireworks could easily erupt in the final laps.

Greg Biffle, the series points leader, seems relaxed and relieved to not be racing for points this weekend.

Does he agree that drivers get a pass in this race?

“We know there’s going to be a little pushing and shoving and rubbing and grinding going on for that 1 million bucks on the last lap,” Biffle said. “ . . . But my feelings will be hurt if you cost me from winning that 1 million bucks. We all are gonna do whatever we can. We’re not gonna intentionally — or at least I’m not gonna intentionally — wreck somebody, but you’re certainly gonna rough them up and try to maybe stop their momentum a little bit or find some type of advantage or edge if it’s coming down to the checkered flag.”

Still, are drivers more willing to play rough in this race?

Absolutely.

“This is the all-star race,” Edwards said. “I think this is a good night for all of us to just say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go out here and race for the win.’ You don’t want to be an idiot or anything, but there would be less patience. If your car is fast there will be less patience, and I think there will be less patience expected from all of us. That’s good for you guys and good for the fans. It’ll make it more thrilling, but we all know there is a million out there for the winner and I’d hate to guess how much chaos there would be if there was a green-white-checkered, double-file restart for a million bucks.

“That would be insane.”