COMMENTARY | There's just something special about NASCAR's all-star race.
It's not something you can describe exactly, more like a feeling. Whether you're a fan or a driver, this is a date you circle on your calendar every year as one to look forward to and count down the days until it happens.
The all-star race we're going to watch on Saturday, to the drivers, is like your parents going out of town for the weekend; meaning it presents you the perfect opportunity to have a ridiculous amount of fun with no consequences.
You can let your hair down, and not worry about a wrecked racecar hurting you in the points.
If someone makes you mad on track, you can respond right back.
If you've got a grudge against someone (Kasey Kahne, here's your chance if you see Kyle Busch), you can knock some sense into that competitor who's been ruining your past few Sundays with their on-track shenanigans.
The nighttime setup makes it even better, as things tend to be a little crazier once the sun goes down and the moon goes up. Drivers will do whatever they have to do to win, especially with a couple million bucks on the line. In addition to the million for winning the overall race, a driver who wins all five segments of the 2013 race would take home another million bucks. Not a bad bonus if you can get it, and this is a great way to discourage the sandbagging that segment winners did last year after taking a segment.
I love racing of all kinds, and the all-star race is one of the the most exciting nights of the year in all of racing. Only the truck series race coming soon on the dirt at Eldora this summer, which will be one for the history books and a ton of fun for everyone involved, is more anticipated by the fans and drivers in 2013.
The fans get to play their part, too, voting in a driver who hasn't qualified for the race via winning a race, championship or a previous All-Star race.
This year, it's a safe bet that a certain someone - Her name rhymes with Panica - is going to be that someone who gets voted in. It's a popularity contest and she's pretty good at winning those.
Oddly enough, she could be a wild card in this year's event. If Danica makes the race via fan vote, she'll be in a race she really has no business being in (but you can't get mad at her for that, as that's just the way the rules are set up). She'll either pull the unthinkable and survive the mayhem that may ensue in front of her and get a solid finish. Or she'll be in the way and cause problems for the legitimate 'all-stars' competing in this event.
It could get interesting, either way.
The 'Open'What was once known as the Winston Open (and now called the Sprint Showdown) is possibly my favorite part of the night. All the folks who haven't qualified for the all-star race battle each other down to the wire, with the top 2 finishers earning spots in the main event. This is where you'll see the guys like Juan Pablo Montoya, Aric Almirola, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Landon Cassill, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr. and others racing their tails off just for a chance to continue their evening.
A win in this qualifier event can lead to big things, such as when Michael Waltrip won the qualifier and went on to win the all-star race back in 1996. This was years before he claimed his first win in a points-paying Cup race.
So come Saturday night, buckle up NASCAR fans, grab a cold one (or twenty) and enjoy the race. With all that money and no points on the line, there's no telling what's going to happen.
Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past 5 years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu
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