Monday, Sep 26

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will compete in the Sprint Showdown and the Sprint All-Star Race at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway to kick of “10 Days of Thunder” in the Charlotte, NC area. This year’s edition of the race will feature a new format and new rules package for the teams. The Sprint Showdown will be run on Friday evening before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, North Carolina Education Lottery 200, whereas the All Star race will be run on Saturday evening.  Drivers will be striving to compete for $1 million and bragging rights among the teams located in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. 

25 drivers will compete in the Sprint Showdown, and 20 drivers will compete in the Sprint All Star Race. Segment winners in the Sprint Showdown, who will no longer have to race in the showdown, will automatically transfer into the race on Saturday. The Sprint All Star Race field will consist of those drivers who won a points race in 2015 and thus far in 2016, as well as previous All-Star race winners, and former series champions. 

With help from the drivers, the Sprint Showdown and All Star race will feature a format agreed on by the drivers to help draw the fans attention to this prestigious event. The Sprint Showdown will be two 20 lap segments followed by a final 10 lap dash to the finish. The starting order for the showdown will by practice speeds. The lineup for the second and third segment will be set by pit road order following a mandatory pit stop of a minimum of two tires. 

For the All Star race, two 50 lap segments and a final segment of 13 laps. The starting order for the first segment will be set by qualifying, that will include a no speed limit pit road and pit stop, a staple for this race. Segment one will include a mandatory green flag pit stop at any point during this segment with a two tires minimum. At the end of segment one, a three to five-minute break will take place where all cars are required to pit and take a minimum of two tires. Segment Two will be set by the order coming off of pit road. Another mandatory green flag pit stop must occur like segment one, but this has to be done before lap 85. After segment two ends, a three to five-minute break will happen. During the break between segment two and three a random draw will occur. Either numbers nine, 10, and 11 will be drawn during this break. Whatever number is drawn will help determine whether the top nine, top 10, or top 11 will be required to pit for a mandatory four tire stop. Pit road will be closed to the other cars during this time. Those with older tires will be in the front, and those who had to pit will be required to race their way to the front during the final 13 lap segment. Only green-flag laps will count in the third segment, as well as NASCAR Overtime rules. 

Although this event features a new format, it will also feature a change in the aerodynamics of the car. In addition to the 2016 low downforce package, NASCAR has announced changes to take more downforce off the cars. The first change has to deal with the cooling fans under the car. Teams used the fans to create more downforce for the car. This change was used to help take off downforce and reduce the cost. The second change to the aero package for this race deals with rear tow alignment. This adjustment will decrease the skew to zero degrees in the cars’ setup.  This change is expected to help reduce corner speed and the side force on the cars. 

Goodyear will be bringing the “Support Our Troops” Speedway radials to this weekends event in Charlotte, which will feature a new tire setup for more grip. Teams in the All-Star race will be granted 11 sets for the weekend. Teams in the Sprint Showdown will have seven sets of tires, where if a driver transfers to the All-Star event, they will receive four additional sets. The left side tires have a recommended PSI of 25. The right front tire has a recommended PSI of 54, while the right rear has a recommended PSI of 50. The left side tire code contains more grip due to a tire compound change. The right side tire codes will be a single tread compound that offers more grip as well. 

In this week’s press releases, drivers are excited to begin a two-week homestand as they race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the no. 78 Toyota, talks about what racing at Charlotte means to him. “These two weeks feel special, no question about that. We’re home, I get to sleep on my Denver Mattress and we’re racing for a lot of money and prestige,” said Truex. He added, “Charlotte is such a fast racetrack, a fun track with plenty of character. In order to be successful at Charlotte you have to have a great car and drive your butt off. The asphalt is one of the most challenging surfaces since they paved it a few years ago. It’s just something about that asphalt that is different from any place we go to. When you have a fast car it’s a cool place to race, but there are challenges at Charlotte, especially how bumpy it has become in turns one and two the past two years”

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the no. 47 Chevy, talks about what it means to race into the All-Star Race. “The day goes so quick. Obviously, where we are at right now we are going to have to race our way in. It’s a place that we can go try a couple of small things and more than anything just see if it’s the right direction going into the Coca-Cola 600. There’s not really a lot that you can go test there.  It’s definitely a race that you want to show up at and have good speed in the car. If you have good speed, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t come back with the 600 car and have the same type of speed. That’s what I look at going into that race.”

Tony Stewart, driver of the no. 14 Chevy, will compete in his final Sprint All-Star race. He talks about what winning this race means. “Well, the greatest thing about it is, if you win the thing from a car owner’s standpoint, which I now know very well, it’s a great way to pay bills. It helps that out quite a bit. This weekend’s a fun event. It’s not a typical Cup race, by any means. The format is strictly set up for an exciting finish for the fans. It’s cool. It’s a big deal when we come to Charlotte and it’s not because of anything more than the fact that the guys who work at the shop every day and  don’t get a chance to go to the racetrack, they get a chance to go to Charlotte. They get to come see their racecars that they work on during the week. Instead of just watching them on TV, they get to be there, they get to see what the road crews are doing, and they get to be there first-hand. And that’s a big sense of pride if you have a good night. And to be able to celebrate with guys who never get to go to the track, if you can win a race at Charlotte, it’s big. This weekend, we’re racing for $1 million. That’s definitely nothing to pass off lightly.”

Aric Almirola, driver of the no. 43 Ford, talks about racing into the race on Saturday. "It's always fun racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We would have liked to already qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race with a win, but the Showdown is a great opportunity for our team to show the fans and our competitors in the garage what we can do. Being able to race our way in would be great momentum for our team going into both the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 the next weekend. I've run well in the Showdown in the past, so I feel confident that our team can get there and we race under the lights on Saturday night."

Kyle Busch, who will drive the no. 75 Toyota in honor of M&M’s 75th anniversary, talks about his expectations for the new format and aero rules this weekend. “I’m looking forward to it. This is always a pretty cool race and it has good atmosphere around it. The crowd gets jacked up and, of course, there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can. You get some practice runs in, get some good practice in and make sure your car feels good to you. And you try to work on your speed, of course, as best you can. Qualifying – that’s certainly going to be interesting again this year. I think, all in all, it’s a fun event. We always enjoy coming to Charlotte and getting these two weeks – with the All-Star Race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 with the longest event. It’s kind of two different ends of the spectrum at Charlotte and we’re hoping to finally get a win in the Sprint Cup car with our M&M’S Camry at least once over the next two weekends there”

Action from the Charlotte Motor Speedway will begin on Friday, May 20 for Sprint Showdown first and only practice at 1:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 1.

TV Schedule:

Friday, May 20
1:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown final practice, FS1
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race final practice, FS1
7 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sprint Showdown, FS1

Saturday, May 21
7 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1
8:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay - All-Star, FS1
9 p.m., NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, FS1

A back flip and a sandwich is what Carl Edwards will have after the Coca-Cola 600. After pitting on a caution with 60 laps left in NASCAR’s longest race, the newest driver at Joe Gibbs Racing was able to save enough fuel to win his 24th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Edwards held off former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle after leaders Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr., amongst others, headed to pit road within the last 35 laps. In doing so, the Missouri native has scored his first triumph with Joe Gibbs Racing after recording one top 10 in his first 11 races in the No. 19 Toyota. The victory marks Gibbs’ 117th win in the Cup Series, and gives Edwards a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Truex, who led a race-high 131 laps, which is the fifth largest amount of laps led in his career, finished fifth at Charlotte. The Furniture Row Racing team was in position to contend with Hamlin for the win, but after the final pit stop, he was a lap behind Edwards. However, he continues to sit second in points with 11 top 10s in 12 races.

Hamlin had to be sent to the infield medical center following the race after experiencing a migraine headache in the late stages of the race. After short pitting due to a loose wheel, he finished eighth on an evening where he led 53 laps.

Rounding out the top five were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., pole sitter Matt Kenseth and Truex.

Kyle Busch made his return to the Cup Series during the All-Star Race last weekend, but the Coca-Cola 600 was his first time back in a points-paying event. Busch ran inside of the top 15 early on, but struggled with a loose condition. As the race continued, he moved into the top 10, and evidently cracked the top five – running as high as second during the 600-mile race. He finished 11th, which is considered a victory as he told reporters following the race that he experienced no pain throughout the race.

Jimmie Johnson spun twice during the race. Getting lucky on his first spin – similar to Kansas – he was headed back to the front of the pack. However, on Lap 273, the No. 48 car got loose coming off Turn 4, and hit the SAFER Barrier entering pit road. Johnson finished 40th, 30 laps down.

“We came in with an aggressive mindset to bring an aggressive set-up in the car, drive aggressively and take chances,” Johnson said after the second incident. “We just don’t have anything to lose. Unfortunately, we didn’t get long enough into the race for the aggressive set-up to come into play. Another 30/40 laps we would have had the car right where we wanted it.  I just didn’t make it there.”

Running in his final Coca-Cola 600, Jeff Gordon flew in from Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon. Gordon drove the pace car in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, and finished 15th at Charlotte.

 

For the past several years he has been in the NASCAR Nationwide series but no wins or championships to show for it, but that could all change this year. Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, spoke with me briefly during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway to explain why 2013 is his year. Coming over struggles and riding an up and down rollercoaster is something that has become fashion to Annett, but he wants to make this coaster to keep on going upwards.

The 2012 season was the best on record for Annett who finished fifth in points, and whose highest finishing position was fifth as well. “Could look back last year and say yes for sure, but then there could be other years that we don’t,” Annett said when asked about the Nationwide series having a Chase format similar to the Cup series. This debate has been going on for a couple of years of whether the other two big National series, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks, should have a chase format. It looks like with NASCAR’s rule of choosing one series to run for the championship, it has helped solved the points battles in all of the series. “We were just missing that little bit” Annett says looking back on the 2012 season, “need to come off more competitive and put that into the other guys’ head.”

Looking towards this season, Annett could not come off more excited to get the season started and underway as he goes for wins and the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship. “It is going to be tough,” Annett mentioned about the competition this season, especially with Trevor Bayne in a full time ride with Roush Fenway, not to mention that team has won back to back titles in the Nationwide series. Annett is most looking forward to racing at Daytona because of the prestigious that goes into that event as well as getting to Phoenix to prove early that he is a contender this season. “Championship is our goal, as long as we are here we are battling, but we do need to win first” Annett continued on speaking about his shot at battling with drivers such as Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr, and Bayne.

The Richard Petty driver also spoke on how it is to drive for NASCAR’s King, Richard Petty, “It’s amazing, fun work off the track with charities, get to interact with lots of people. He has taught me how to treat people and that the fans are why we are here. I am just fortunate.” Annett moved to RPR at the beginning of the 2012 season after Rusty Wallace Racing closed down their Nationwide division at the end of 2011. Some of the charity events that Annett gets to be involved with include golf tournaments and go kart races. Being the King, Richard Petty has his own karting event called the King’s Cup which is about three hours in length and helps raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp; a camp founded in memory of Richard’s grandson Adam Petty. The King’s Cup is a race that is held at Victory Lane Karting (VLK) and Annett spoke highly of the facility saying, “Victory Lane Karting is where you can say you raced,” meaning if you want a feel as to how it feels to race in the Nationwide series check out VLK.

Is 2013 going to be Annett’s season? Is he going to finally win a Nationwide series race? Will he contend and possibly take the title from Roush, after winning it two years in a row? Only time will tell, but you can count on Annett to be at the front each time he takes to the track as he is determined more than ever to prove he belongs in the highest ranks of motorsports.

For photos from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway please click here.

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