Last Saturday night’s running of the Sprint All-Star Race was all about getting to race for a million dollars without the worry of collecting those precious Sprint Cup points. It was supposed to be the night there would be as many fireworks on the track as there were in the sky once the checkered flag waved.
That just wasn’t the case as Carl Edwards took any suspense out of the final 10-lap segment as he was clearly the class of the field. The only fireworks that we got to see came courtesy of Edwards when he attempted a million dollar burnout in the grass of the front stretch of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
What followed was one of the oddest post-race scenes in recent memories as the Roush-Fenway driver hit something in the infield that caused the front end of his car to be demolished. It was a rare scene, but the euphoria of the moment was more than enough for Edwards and his team to put it behind them as his car was being towed, yes towed, to victory lane.
The scene capped off one of the best all-star events in any professional sport, and set the stage for what is to follow this Sunday night in the running of the longest race on the entire Sprint Cup schedule, The Coca-Cola 600. The 600 is the sport’s endurance race that begins in the Carolina evening and doesn’t see the checkered flag until long after the sun has set.
Carl Edwards would seem to be the favorite going into this Memorial Day Weekend’s annual race after his strong performance on Saturday, but pulling off the Charlotte double is a tough act to accomplish. Kurt Busch did capture both checkered flags last season, but he was only the seventh driver to ever accomplish going back to back at Charlotte.
The extra 100 miles of racing translates into 400 laps around the mile-and-a-half track and since the temperature will drop once the sun goes down, the drivers and their teams will be chasing the ever-changing track conditions until the very last pit stop. The extra laps will also mean that the pit crews will be under the gun a few more times as the unique length of the event puts even more of a premium on quick pit stops as track position becomes more and more important with every stop.
All of the demands that the race puts on the individual teams make the event one of the crown jewels on the entire schedule. A win on Sunday can go a long way into turning a season around as well as giving a team the momentum that it needs during the long and hot summer months that can eventually lead to a birth in the Chase with the opportunity to run for the title.
PIT NOTES: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was unable to drive his way into the All-Star Race on Saturday but it was a long forgone conclusion that his fan base would see to it that he got in by winning the Sprint fan vote. Jr. has quietly put together a good year that now finds him in fourth place even though he is yet to visit victory lane. Good news for Jr.’s fan continues as apparently Rick Hendrick and Jr. have started talking about an extension of his contract that would keep him in his #88 Chevrolet after his present five-year contract runs out after the 2012 season. Hendrick was quoted as saying most of the major points have been worked out and that both of them are committed to each other. The length of the new agreement should be between three and five years.
HALL OF FAME: This week the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte will induct its second class with the addition of Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson and Lee Petty. This will be the last year that the HOF will induct its new members in the month of May. Beginning in 2012, the induction of new members will be moved to January. By moving up the induction date, voting for that class will be held on June 14 at the HOF. With only 10 members now in the Hall, the list of individuals up for consideration for enshrinement still reads like a Who’s Who in the sport. A lot of interest centers on Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough, who had very similar careers but have yet to get the votes needed to be enshrined.
Race Preview Event: Coca-Cola 600 Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5 mile tri-oval, 24 degrees of banking) Date: May 29, 6 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: PRN Defending Champion: Kurt Busch