NASCAR Weekend Preview — All-Star Race and Iowa


This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to the epicenter of the stock car racing world, Charlotte, North Carolina, and will compete at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the 31st annual Sprint All-Star Race and the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, respectively.  The Xfinity Series will travel to Iowa Speedway, as their first standalone weekend of the season will take place.

The All-Star Race is ever-changing in format and star power, but it usually doesn’t lack excitement and great racing.  Here’s the format for this year’s race.  There will be five total segments.  Segments one, two and three will be 25 laps each with all laps (caution laps included) being counted.  There will be optional pit stops during the breaks in sessions, and if teams decide to stay out they will maintain their track position on track.  The fourth segment will be 25 laps as well.

The running order at the completion of the this segment will be determined based on the average finish of the first four segments.  The running order ties will be broken by the finish of the fourth segment alone.  Pit road will also be open for a mandatory four-tire pit stop.  Finally, the order of cars returning to the track will determine starting order of the fifth and final segment, which will be a 10-lap shootout with only green flag laps being counted.

A little confused?  Don’t worry, a lot of people usually are.  But once the race itself begins (Saturday evening on Fox Sports 1 at 7:00 pm), you’ll see how it works.

But wait, there’s more!  There are a handful of drivers that are already locked in to the All-Star Race.  But for those that aren’t, there’s another race taking place on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1: The Sprint Showdown.

The Showdown format will be as follows: two 20-lap segments with the winner of each segment automatically advancing to the Sprint All-Star Race.

But wait, there’s more (again)!  There will also be one driver voted in by the fans via the Sprint Fan Vote.  Fans can vote through for which driver they want to see voted into the big race.  Last season, Josh Wise’s sponsor, Reddit, made a big push and he ended up beating out Danica Patrick into the All-Star Race.  I’m pretty sure he finished dead last, but that’s besides the point.  YOU, YES YOU, HAVE POWER.  SO USE IT!

Anyways, here are some notable drivers that will be competing in the Showdown: Austin Dillon, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.  You can see all of the eligible drivers here:  But to cut to the chase, if you haven’t won an All-Star Race or a points-paying NSCS race in 2014 or 2015, you’ll be entered in the showdown.

Here are the drivers that are already locked into the All-Star Race thanks to a win this or last season: A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.

Some of those drivers have also won this race in the past, but the drivers who are in this race thanks to the previous win in the spectacle are Jamie McMurray (2014), Ryan Newman (2002) and Tony Stewart (2009).  So they, along with the two Showdown winners and the Fan Vote winner, will be racing for $1 million come Saturday evening.

Want some more storylines?  No problem.  Let’s get rowdy, because Kyle Busch is back.  That’s right, Busch, after missing the entire season up until this point due to his injuries sustained at Daytona, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota for JGR.  It was announced that Busch also ran about 300 laps in a rehab test session earlier in the week.  It will be interesting to see how he fares, as most drivers throw caution to the wind in this non-points paying winner take all race.

Brett Moffitt was announced as the primary driver of the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports (formerly driven by David Ragan, who’s in the No. 55 for MWR) as well.

In the Truck Series, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski will be driving for JRM & BKR, respectively, so watch out for them to contend against youngster Erik Jones in that race on Friday night from Charlotte.  The Xfinity Series will be just that, the Xfinity Series, with no cup regulars, on Sunday (2:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1) from Iowa.  There is plenty of action this weekend, and I’m sure, as always, the stars of the sport won’t disappoint.

Now, it’s that time of my weekly preview article … predictions!

I think that Martin Truex Jr. is too fast right now to not win a segment in the Showdown and I think that Kyle Larson will use that high lane to his advantage and both of them will transfer to the Sprint All-Star Race.  I think Danica Patrick will win the Fan Vote (shocker), Brian Scott will get his first NXS win in his career at Iowa and that Brad Keselowski will win in his No. 29 truck at Charlotte.

Now, who will take home the $1,000,000 purse for winning the 31st annual All-Star Race?  It’s hard to bet against the No. 48 or No. 4 on 1.5 mile tracks, and that’s why I’m picking Happy Harvick to win his second career All-Star Race.