Friday, May 20, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: The All-Star Death Match -- Aside from Junior winning the fan vote, all bets are off.

Here's a little music to set the right mood!!!!

It might not be the Yellow Brick Road, but the SAFER barriers will be painted bright yellow, and no one should be surprised if some tin men and flying monkeys come out to play tomorrow night. Here comes the Sprint Cup All-Star race, and if any racing commentators including this writer thinks he or she can call the outcome – well, let’s just say some will be lucky guessers. Unless somebody shows up with a car like Jeff Gordon’s infamous “Godzilla” from years back, which is almost impossible with the COT templates, it’s every man for himself. Okay, Joe Nemehek, J.J. Yeley, David Stremme, Michael McDonald, and Mike Skinnier absolutely positively won’t make the transfer spot. Likewise, there are some rather questionable additional entries in the showdown. Oh, we have one more secret to reveal, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the transfer spot voted so by the fans.

With all the emphasis on “Boys have at it” and that Bruton Smith’s son, Marcus, President of Charlotte Motor Speedway guaranteed all fines will be paid, wouldn’t it be hilarious if the event turned out to be a nice clean relatively caution-fee events? You can bet the TV cameras will be all over Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick; likewise, how about Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman. Will there be drivers with their eyes set on Jimmie Johnson for his five championships.

So many races through the years have so many memories from Dale Earnhardt’s pass in the grass around Bill Elliot, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip getting up close and personal, or certainly the first night race where Davey Allison was battling Kyle Petty for the win and wrecked as he finished heading to a hospital instead of victory lane. Kurt Busch certainly put on an unstoppable show last year as did Kasey Kahne in his win. For years it stood as Michael Waltrip’s one shining moment when he had to race to make the chase winning his only victory for the Wood Brothers long before his Daytona 500 win.

This is a race for the big fat egos and the great big bucket of cash –points be damned. Nobody’s counting tomorrow night. If ever the notion that the fellow who finished second is just the first of a crowd of losers couldn’t be more obvious. Perhaps eyes should be on Regan Smith who earned his trip winning at Darlington two weeks ago. How sad it is that Trevor Bayne, the Daytona 500 boy wonder had his little medical calamity and cannot race. The famous “legendary” Wood Brothers car will not be in the field. Given their history including Michael Waltrip’s win, that’s a true shame. No stranger to victory lane but struggling this season, keep an eye on #14, Tony Stewart. Why does it seem like he’ll either blow up or win?

Added excitement comes from the race being held in Charlotte, the hub of the sport. Most of the team’s shops are a short commute to the Speedway. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is gleaming in downtown Charlotte. So many of the sports’ great drivers grew up in central North Carolina, this is NASCAR’s big coming out party.

Know that Sunday morning, folks will have lots to talk about from Saturday night’s race. Some say the world’s coming to an end tomorrow. For all but one driver it will feel like that when the checker flag is displayed and if there’s anything that could cause apocalyptic temper tremors, tomorrow’s race could be just the right event.

Here are the guys who made the show:

1 – David Reutimann, #00, Toyota
2 – Jamie McMurray, #1, Chevrolet
3 – Kasey Kahne, #4, Chevrolet
4 – Jimmie Johnson, #5, Chevrolet
5 – Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota
6 – Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet
7 – Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
8 – Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford
9 – Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota
10 – Trevor Bayne, #21, Ford (WITHDRAWN – ILLNESS)
11 – Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
12 – Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet
13 – Mark Martin, #25, Chevrolet
14 – Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet
15 – Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevrolet
16 – Ryan Newman, #49, Chevrolet
17 – Juan Pablo Montoya, #42, Chevrolet
18 – Regan Smith, #78, Chevrolet
19 – Carl Edwards, #99, Ford
20 – TO BE DETERMINED: Fan Vote (Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
21—TRANSFER from Showdown
22—TRANSFER from Showdown

Best of the Rest:
1—Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge
2 – David Ragan, #6, Ford
3 – Marcos Ambrose, #9, Ford
4 – Joey Logano, #20, Toyota
5 – Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet
6 – Jeff Burton, #31, Chevrolet
7 – A.J. Allmendinger, #43, Ford
8 – Bobby Labonte, #47, Toyota
9 – Martin Truex Jr., #56, Toyota
10 – Brian Vickers, #83, Toyota
11—Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, Chevrolet

Oh yeah, the Said-Head’s have their man in the field, watch the #32 Ford for ol’ Boris.

The Rules:

Showdown racers race two laps. The fastest lap determines position.

Sprint Cup All-Star racers must race three laps with a four tire pit stop. The overall time for all three laps determines starting position.

The race will consist of two segments of 20 laps each. After 20 laps, the caution flag waves and teams can elect to pit but lose position. In the 2nd 20 laps, only green flag laps count.

The two top finishers advance to the All-Star race. Fan favorite advances.

All-Star Race
Segment 1 consists of 50 laps with a mandatory pit stop at lap 25 where ALL teams must change four tires. The segment ends with a caution and optional pit stop.

Segment 2 runs 20 laps with caution displayed at end. Pit stop optional.

Segment 3 runs another 20 laps with a ten minute break at the end where teams can make normal adjustments. Cars for the final segment will line up based on the finishing order to Segment 3.

Segment 4: The field will take one lap behind the pace car and enter the pits for a four tire change. The order they leave pit road determines the order for the final ten lap shootout. Only green flag laps count.

Additional Notes:
The last seven races have had seven different winners. Mark Martin has appeared in 21 races, more than any other driver. Martin and Johnson are the only two, two time winners in the field, but Jeff Gordon leads active drivers with three wins (1995, 1997, and 201). Dale Earnhardt is the only other three time winner. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Neman won in their rookie year. Jeff Gordon is the youngest driver to win while his teammate Mark Martin is the oldest.

Final Note:
Technology geeks and couch potatoes rejoice!!! The Charlotte Motor Speedway d├ębuts the world’s largest high definition video display, 200 feet tall and a gadzillion feet wide parallel to the track’s back stretch on the turn four side of the track giving most fans the ultimate TV viewing experience in the universe. So are fans paying to see the race or watch TV? So fans find your racing buddy with the biggest HDTV with a good sound system, and rock out Saturday night.

As the great British philosopher, Sir Elton John once observed, “Saturday night’s alright for fighting.” Does anyone doubt such esteemed wisdom will be called into question at Charlotte Motor Speedway tomorrow night?


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