(PhatzRadio / USA Today) — CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR is turning its Sprint All-Star Race on May 19 into a high-speed chess match with format changes that nearly guarantee a strategy-laden affair.
The event will be split into five segments, with four 20-lap stints followed by a 10-lap sprint to the $1 million prize. A mandatory pit stop will precede the last segment, and the winners of the first four segments will be guaranteed to enter the pits in the top four starting spots (provided their cars are on the lead lap).
Because there is no requirement for tires (which tend not to wear quickly at Charlotte Motor Speedway), it’s expected to be a battle of which driver can execute a stop and go the quickest in exiting the pits.
“(That) will mean everything,” 2008 All-Star winner Kasey Kahne said Tuesday in a news conference at the 1.5-mile oval. “In 10 laps here, if you start anywhere out of the front two rows, you probably don’t have a shot at winning. To have the best shot at winning the All-Star Race, you’ll want to win one of those (segments).”
Teams likely will put a heavy emphasis on studying the timing lines used to monitor pit road speeds. Drivers are able to maximize their speeds by assessing the timing lines, and the art has proved beneficial to past wins by Jimmie Johnson (Martinsville Speedway) and Brad Keselowski (Bristol Motor Speedway).
Pit selection for the race also is critical. That again will be determined by the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, which is held May 17 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
Crew chief Steve Addinigton, who has made the pit calls in Tony Stewart’s two wins in 2012, said that competition would be critical to race strategy, as would tire management and strategy throughout the field entering the last segment.
“The guys in that top five or six are going to be the ones with the pressure on them to decide if they want tires,” he said. “There’ll be a guy in eighth, ninth, 10th that’s going to gamble going for a million bucks who will do a splash of fuel, (or) a stop and try to get clean air and get away from everyone else.”
This is the eighth format change in the All-Star Race, which started in 1985, and the first time it’s featured five segments (the previous maximum was four).
“This format change will give a little more incentive to the drivers to win these segments,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. “It’ll keep the focus on pit crews and how they perform and also the strategies the crew chiefs must come up with to try to win. We think the last 10-lap shootout will be one of the best and most competitive we’ve had.”
Series and race sponsor Sprint also is keeping an online fan vote to determine a wild card position in the race. Fans also will be able to submit videos introducing their favorite drivers, and Sprint will use them during pre-race ceremonies.
NASCAR tweaks All-Star Race format, puts emphasis on pits is a post from: PhatzRadio.com
Be sure to check out other great articles at PhatzRadio – A New Voice In Sports Talk Radio With Rock, Jazz, Soul, R.