All-Star race set for 21-car field
|By Diego Mejia||Thursday, May 14th 2009, 09:16 GMT|
Twenty-one of NASCAR's top drivers will compete in the non-points Sprint All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend.
Five former Sprint Cup champions and another 13 race-winning drivers are already set to compete for the US $1,022,975 dollar cheque that goes to the winner of Saturday night's event.
Former champions over the past ten years who are still active drivers, race-winners from 2008 and 2009 and past winners of the All-Star race are all eligible to compete.
The top two finishers of the Sprint Showdown race on Saturday evening and another driver voted by the fans, whose identity will be announced prior to the start of the All-Star race, will complete the field. Seventeen drivers will be fighting for those three additional spots.
All drivers currently in the top 12 in the Sprint Cup standings will be in the race, led by points leader Jeff Gordon, who has won the race three times in the past, tying for most victories with the late Dale Earnhardt.
"The competition is going to be incredibly fierce, and you must push yourself and the car," said Gordon. "The pit crew will be asked to 'step up' and the crew chief will be forced to make some big decisions regarding pit strategy.
"The whole team will lay it all out there on the line and, the fact we've won it three times, it means a lot. It's a big event to win."
The only rookie competing will be Brad Keselowski, who qualified by virtue of his maiden win last month at Talladega. In the past Dale Earnhardt Jr and Ryan Newman both won the race in their debut seasons.
The event sees a few changes to its format for this year, with the 150-mile race divided into four segments. The first one will consist of 50 laps, the second and third will be of 20 and the final shootout will run for just ten laps, with only green flag laps counting.
Drivers will have a mandatory pitstop halfway through the first 50 laps, and they can pit for adjustments, fuel and tyres at the end of the first and second segments. Before the fourth segment there will be a 10-minute pitstop where adjustments can also be done.
The starting order for the All-Star race will be determined through a special qualifying format on Friday, where every driver has to complete three laps and a mandatory four-tyre pitstop. The grid for the Sprint showdown will be set by a regular qualifying session.
Last year Kasey Kahne won the All-Star race after being voted into it by the fans. A week later he went on to take victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at the same venue.
2009 All-Star entry list
Driver Team Car Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford Clint Bowyer Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Jeff Burton Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Kurt Busch Penske Racing Dodge Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Racing Ford Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Kevin Harvick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Kasey Kahne Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Racing Ford Brad Keselowski Phoenix Racing Dodge Bobby Labonte Hall of Fame Racing Ford Mark Martin Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet TBA First placed driver in Sprint Showdown TBA Second placed driver in Sprint Showdown TBA Winner of the Fan Vote