Carl Edwards is the one driver in the garage who can claim to be most recently familiar with winning the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. But just one week ago, he admitted he wasn’t completely familiar with the event’s new format.
At Darlington Raceway last weekend, Edwards was asked about his hopes for an All-Star repeat and his thoughts about the new five-segment schedule for the annual non-points race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I don’t know . . .,” Edwards replied. “What is the new format?” As the tweaks to this year’s race were explained to him, a slight grin crossed his face: “Oh, that’s cool.”
Edwards figures to be more familiar with the nuances come Saturday night, when he defends his title in the 28th edition of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (SPEED, 7 p.m. ET).
Edwards, currently mired in a 44-race winless streak in points-paying events, last performed his signature victory backflip in this race last season. Although an all-star win wouldn’t count toward ending the second-longest drought of his career or increasing his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points total, the $1 million winner’s purse and bragging rights would go a long way toward giving his Roush Fenway Racing team a boost.
This year’s race will have four 20-lap preliminary segments with a final 10-lap shootout. A pit stop is mandatory before the final leg of the race and the four preliminary winners (or highest finishers, in the event a driver wins multiple segments) will receive the advantage of entering pit road first for the final stop.
“That’s going to make those first races really important,” Edwards said. “If you look at the way the racing is right now, you start up front and you’ve got a huge advantage. That’s a great way to address that issue.
“We started, I think, first or second in the last segment last time and that was a huge advantage for us. I don’t know if we would’ve been able to win if we started back in the pack. That’s going to put a premium on those first segments. I think you’ll see guys really, really battling it out.”
The level of competition promises to be as hectic as ever, which is a departure from the all-star exhibitions of other sports. The seven-figure payday for the winner plays no small role in ramping up the intensity.
“Any time they put that much money in front of anybody, it’s going to cause things to rise to another level,” said Kevin Harvick, the 2007 winner of the event. “Take the points away from that and you really have some unique scenarios that have come up over the past several years in all-star races.”
The night will also feature the Sprint Showdown qualifying race, where the top two finishers will transfer into the main event. One other driver will be selected for the all-star race through a fan vote to complete the exclusive 23-car field.
The Race: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 1
The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET
TV: SPEED, 7 p.m. (ET
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps