The race format for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was unchanged, but on Tuesday, the speedway announced that an extra $1 million will be given to a driver if he or she wins all five race segments.
The race will still be broken into four segments of 20 laps and a final 10 lap segment, but instead of being based on the finishing order of the fourth segment or how the drivers came off pit road between segments, the final segment will be determined by a driver's average finish in the first four segments.
Why's that? Well, last year, Jimmie Johnson laid back during the middle of the race. He won the first 20 lap segment, which ensured that he'd lead the field to pit road before the final 10 lap segment. So in that time between, Johnson was extra cautious at the back of the pack and he and crew chief Chad Knaus perfected the car's setup. After leading the field down pit road, Johnson then stormed to the lead over the final 10 laps for the win.
Will this extra $1 million incentive ensure that a driver and team don't lay back a la Johnson and Knaus? Probably not as much as the average finish of the first four segments will. While the addition of cash is nice, the average finish caveat would have likely been enough to prevent a strategy like Johnson and Knaus'. (Which was absolutely brilliant given the rules of last year's race.)
The race will feature one mandatory four-tire pit stop and race winners from 2012 and the 2013 races before the May 18 event, drivers who have won an All-Star Race in the past 10 years, two drivers from the Sprint Showdown and the Sprint Showdown driver not in the top two who wins the fan voting for the final spot.
The continued inclusion of the fan vote brings up an interesting question: how likely is it that Danica Patrick will make the All-Star Race? If Patrick doesn't win a race before the event or get in the top two, it's reasonable to assume that she would be the favorite at the moment for the fan vote given that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is automatically in the race after winning at Michigan last year. Unless Patrick fans don't participate in the voting, it would likely take a concerted grassroots effort on the behalf of another driver to overtake her in the voting.
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