In 2009, new team owner Tony Stewart used a win in the Sprint All-Star Race - his first win in the special event and his first win as a team owner in the Cup Series - to kickstart a season that ended with four wins and a sixth-place finish in points. In 2012, the statistics are quite a bit different - Stewart sits 21st in points with just one top 10 finish in 11 races - but a win by Stewart in the multi-million-dollar event, taking place Saturday night, May 18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, could bring Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing back to a happier place.
Stewart needs something to boost his season - Stewart, who is notorious for not winning until later in the Sprint Cup Series season (case in points: his five wins in 2011 came during the 10-race season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup), earned his only top 10 finish this season at the second race at Phoenix. Since then, Stewart has seen good finishes fall by the wayside for various reasons, including on-track incidents with Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway and Kurt Busch at Richmond.
Stewart-Haas needs a boost as well - Stewart-Haas Racing also seems to be facing some pressure in its first season as a three-car team. In addition to Stewart's problematic season, Ryan Newman, in spite of five top 10 finishes, is stuck in 17th in points, due in most part to four finishes outside the top 30 in the other six races. Danica Patrick, facing a tough rookie season with her main competition being her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., came out swinging early in the season, winning the pole for and finishing eighth in the Daytona 500, but has since looked like an ordinary rookie, save an impressive 12th-place finish at Martinsville.
Joe Gibbs Racing also seeking All-Star luck - Another team with a Stewart connection, Joe Gibbs Racing (where Stewart began his Cup Series career) is part of a surprising statistic - the team has never won in the Sprint All-Star Race. First-year JGR member Matt Kenseth did win the non-points event in 2004 as a member of Roush Fenway Racing. Hard-charging Kyle Busch has appeared in seven All-Star Races, finishing only three of them - three of his four DNFs were due to accidents. Denny Hamlin, the third JGR driver, is just coming back from a back injury and is looking at the All-Star Race as a way to get back into "racing shape."
Who to watch at the Sprint All-Star Race - Which drivers have the best records in the All-Star Race? Hendrick Motorsports duo Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have three wins a piece, but there teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., with one win and 10 top 10 finishes in 13 races, is one of the most consistent drivers no matter what format the race takes on. Kenseth, well known for his consistency, is also on par with Earnhardt Jr., with one win and nine top 10 finishes in 12 races - he also has two poles in the event. In terms of qualifying, Busch leads all active drivers with three poles - all coming as a member of JGR (2008, 2011 and 2012).
The Sprint All-Star Race goes green Saturday, May 18 at approximately 9 p.m. ET, following the running of the Sprint Showdown event for non-race winners at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Sources: "Statistical Advance: Analyzing the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race," NASCAR Media, May 13, 2013
"Storylines: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Weekend," NASCAR Media, May 13, 2013
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
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