Kevin Harvick Striving for All-Star Excellence

No points are earned for competing in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, but it is a $1 million payday for the winner. Thus, there is nothing to lose and some serious dough on the line in the 30thrunning of the invitation-only exhibition race Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Who gets into the All-Star field are race winners from the 2013 and 2014 seasons, All-Star Race winners and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions from the past 10 years, the top-two finishers from Friday night’s Sprint Showdown – a last-chance race to make it into Saturday night’s main event – and the winner of the fan vote.

While Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) already has All-Star status, having won the race in May 2007, a victory Saturday night would put him in some elite company. Only six drivers have won the annual event more than once. Harvick would join some of the biggest names in the sport – Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte and Mark Martin – as drivers with multiple All-Star wins.

Drama is always at a premium when the race’s competitors have a million reasons to go to victory lane. And Harvick’s 2007 win was no exception. He started fourth in the final segment but Jeff Gordon, who started first, got a bad start and Harvick capitalized by taking the lead. Perennial All-Star Race-winning contender Jimmie Johnson stalked Harvick over the closing laps, lying in wait should Harvick slip up. When it was evident Harvick was laser-focused on bringing home the win, Johnson made a last-turn, last-lap attempt to claim the victory but came up short in his efforts to deny Harvick the victory.

This year’s All-Star format will include four 20-lap segments followed by a 10-lap, winner-take-all dash to the finish. After each of the first three 20-lap segments, teams have the option to make a pit stop before the next segment begins. The fourth 20-lap segment will be followed by a mandatory four-tire pit stop. The lineup for the final 10-lap segment will be based on how they leave pit road after the stop.

It’s a simple format, really – checkers or wreckers, bring back the trophy or bring back the steering wheel.

With his ticket into the postseason already punched thanks to his two Sprint Cup victories in 2014, Harvick has headed to the racetrack each week feeling less pressure and relishing the opportunity to race aggressively for additional wins. Most of the rest of the drivers in Saturday night’s race will have to temporarily give up their points-paying, play-it-safe mentality, which means Harvick may find himself with a bit of an advantage as he’s been able to embrace the All-Star Race-winning mentality for several weeks, now. 

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Steven B. Wilson

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