If It’s May, It Must Be All-Star Tweak Season
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – The only things certain in life are death, taxes and the annual tweaking of the format for NASCAR’s annual Sprint All-Star race.
Among the changes to this year’s running of the event is a potential, whopper cash payout and a throwback theme during time trials.
If a single driver is running at the front of the field at the conclusion of each of the five segments during Saturday night’s All-Star event, he will be rewarded with $2 million and a large trophy.
Worst case, the overall winner is assured of walking away with $1 million.
But fresh off his Southern 500 win at Darlington Raceway last weekend, Matt Kenseth claimed on Friday that money isn’t an incentive for him to push his No. 20 Toyota a little harder.
“I’ve never been in a race that I didn’t want to win, whether it paid any money, you paid to be in the race or you’re getting paid to race,” Kenseth said. “Certainly, it’s an awesome payday if you can win.
“I look at it several different ways: it’s the All-Star race and you want to win. But I think a really big part of it too is being ready for (next weekend’s Coca-Cola) 600.
“(Saturday night) is the only practice in the condition the track is going to finish up the 600 in. That’s really your only chance to gather up information and figure out what you’ll have next week.”
The other major twist in the format occurs Friday night. That’s when there will be no speed limit as drivers steer onto pit road for a mandatory four-tire stop during qualifying.
Prior to the fall race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990, there was no speed limit on pit road during NASCAR events.
But that all changed that Sunday afternoon following the death of a crew member on Bill Elliott’s team.
The following season drivers were ordered to run a slower pace as they entered pit road.
Kenseth expressed relief on Friday that he didn’t race during an era when pit road was treated like a race track.
“It’s remarkable to me that more people didn’t get seriously hurt on pit road not having a speed limit and getting to the pits,” he said.
“I’m glad that I didn’t have to do it with no pit road speed. I think it could be pretty crazy and dangerous and a lot of people standing out on pit road.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like today if there wasn’t a pit road speed. I’d think you’d have a lot wrecks on pit road.”
During practice Friday afternoon, Kurt Busch was clocked at 141 miles per hour as turned off Turn 4 and entered pit road. The normal pit road speed at Charlotte is 45 mph.
Kyle Busch took credit on Friday for the change in the All-Star format which rewards a driver trying to win each segment compared to last year’s agenda that favored dropping to the rear of the field during the middle of the race, which was won by Jimmie Johnson.
“I don’t know if you have my transcript from last year, but I said the rules were stupid and they need to change it to this year’s rules so I take full credit and responsibility for them changing the rules,” Busch said. “I think the rules are right this year. Last year, you win a segment and you roll in the back.
“We all knew that and that was the strategy you have to play. Jimmie (Johnson) played it the best obviously. For this year, that’s entirely out the window. You have to run each segment as hard as you can.”
Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne tangled near the end of Saturday night’s Southern 500.
Kahne wound up nursing his No. 5 Chevrolet to the finish after slapping the Turn 2 wall.
Busch managed to avoid any damage and appeared destined to win until he suffered a cut tire during the final laps, forcing him to settle for a sixth-place finish.
It was the third time this season the two drivers have swapped paint.
“Whether or not we touched (at Darlington), I think that’s insignificant because I’m not racing to wreck Kasey Kahne,” Busch said. “But Kasey Kahne did crash because of me, so it’s a part of hard racing at the end of the race and I hate that it keeps being the same guy.”
Since Saturday night’s All-Star race is a non-points event, will Kahne be looking to even the score with Busch?
“I don’t think Kasey is that kind of guy,” Busch said. “But if it happens, I’ll understand.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment