NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race is not your typical professional sports exhibition.
Despite not counting toward season points, it’s not all fun and games. Competitors don’t act buddy-buddy or attempt flashy moves just for show.
The reason why?
Its winner takes home $1 million.
Jimmie Johnson knows the feeling of competing in, and winning, the event featuring NASCAR’s top drivers. He will attempt to add to his record four NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race wins Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).
“It’s a very rewarding night, a night the team really enjoys,” Johnson said. “There’s a different atmosphere with the pressure being off and a million reasons to have fun after.”
The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has earned his wins record through his ability to navigate the All-Star Race’s unique format.
This year, there are four 25-lap segments followed by a final 10-lap shootout. Drivers start the first segment in order of their best times in an All-Star-specific qualifying format. They will take three timed laps with one four-tire pit stop included. On the pit stop there is no pit road speeding penalty enforced. Aggregate total time will set the starting lineup for the race.
During the race, there are yellow flag periods between the four segments. Cars may enter pit road between segments 1 through 4, but will not retain their running position. The running order at the completion of the fourth segment will be repositioned based on the drivers’ average finish in the first four segments. Ties in average finish will be broken by finish in the fourth segment. Cars must enter pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop between segments 4 and 5, and the leader after 10 green flag laps in segment 5 takes home the $1 million.
“Without a doubt you know that you beat the best of the best. With the varying strategies that take place and the segments and how many laps and all the different things we've had over the years, there hasn't been one set path to get there,” Johnson said.
One of Johnson’s main challengers will be his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, three-time NASCAR Sprint All-Star race-winner Jeff Gordon, who would love to go out on top in what will likely be his final appearance in the event. In the three seasons Gordon has won the All-Star Race – 1995, 1997 and 2001 – he also captured the Sprint Cup championship.
“The All-Star event is just one of those races where you go all-out,” Gordon said. “With no points on the line, it's about pride and honor and just kind of showing your competitors what you can do.”
Johnson’s longtime crew chief Chad Knaus echoed Gordon’s sentiments, saying:
“If the All-Star Race paid one dollar, I’d still want to win it.”