Sports

This Week in Auto Racing May 15 - 17

(SportsNetwork.com) - It's an all-star weekend for NASCAR, as the Sprint Cup Series holds its all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Camping World Truck Series is also at Charlotte, while the Xfinity Series runs at Iowa Speedway.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race - Charlotte Motor Speedway - Concord, N.C.

One of NASCAR's stars will be a million dollars richer on Saturday night.

The annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race will take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and this year's event will feature 20 more laps than previous years. There are no points awarded, but the race winner collects at least $1 million.

This race now features five segments for a total of 110 laps. Segments 1 through 4 are 25 laps each, and the final is a 10-lap shootout to the finish.

The field for the 2015 all-star race will consist of 20 drivers. Seventeen of them have presently locked down a starting position. The three remaining spots will be decided following Friday night's Sprint Showdown (40-lap preliminary event).

In the Sprint Showdown, the winner of the first 20-lap segment will advance to the all-star race. That driver will not compete in the second 20-lap segment.

The winner of the second segment will also move on to the all-star race.

After the conclusion of the Sprint Showdown, the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote will be announced, with that driver securing the final eligible position in the all-star race.

Twenty-nine drivers are entered in the Sprint Showdown. Nineteen-year-old Chase Elliott is among those on the entry list. Elliott, the defending Xfinity Series champion, made his first two career Sprint Cup starts this season -- Martinsville (March 29) and Richmond (April 26). He will drive the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin Truex Jr., currently second in the Sprint Cup point standings, will also compete in the Sprint Showdown.

Qualifying for the all-star race will be held on Saturday, shortly before the start of the event. The total elapsed time from three laps around this 1.5- mile track and a four-tire pit stop (with no pit-road speed limit) will determine the starting lineup.

With the exception of 20 more laps added to the race, the format remains the same from last year. All laps (green flag and yellow flag) will count in each of the first four segments. Only green laps will count during segment 5.

The running order at the completion of the fourth segment will be repositioned based on the average finish for the first four segments. Ties in average finish will be broken by finishing position in the fourth segment. All cars must then enter pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. The order of cars returning to the track will determine the starting order of the fifth segment.

Jimmie Johnson holds the record for most all-star victories with four (2003, '06, '12 and '13). Johnson has already won three races this season, including last weekend's event at Kansas. All three of those victories have occurred on 1.5-mile tracks.

"Without a doubt, you know that you beat the best of the best," Johnson said of the all-star race. "With the varying strategies that take place and the segments and how many laps and all the different things we've had over the years, there hasn't been one set path to get there. It's a very rewarding night, a night the team really enjoys. There's a different atmosphere with the pressure being off and a million reasons to have fun after."

Jamie McMurray won this event for the first time last year. McMurray, the driver No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, grabbed the lead from Carl Edwards with nine laps left and then held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick at the finish.

This race will mark the return of Kyle Busch, who missed the first 11 Sprint Cup races this season due to a fractured right leg and left foot he sustained during an accident in the Feb. 21 Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Busch made the announcement of his return to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on Tuesday.

"I know everybody has been anxious to know when I would return, and it would have been great back in February to say we were looking at the all-star race, but truthfully, not a lot of people would have bet I could be back by then," Busch said. "I think it's a great race to come back to. For one, it's shorter. It's a non-points event. There are mandatory cautions after every 25 laps, so it gives me an opportunity to take a breather."

Camping World Truck Series

N.C. Education Lottery 200 - Charlotte Motor Speedway - Concord, N.C.

The Camping World Truck Series will run its fifth race of the season on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

After winning last Friday's 250-mile race at Kansas, two-time defending series champion Matt Crafton increased his lead in the standings to 17 points over Tyler Reddick. Erik Jones is only one point behind Reddick, while Crafton's ThorSport Racing teammate, Johnny Sauter, is 22 points out of the lead.

Charlotte is the third 1.5-mile track on the series schedule this season. Crafton has won the first two races on a mile and a half -- Atlanta and Kansas.

When the series ran at Kansas, Erik Jones started on the pole and dominated the race by leading 151 of the first 161 laps. But Crafton was the one who prevailed in this fuel-mileage battle.

A round of pit stops occurred during a caution with 55 laps remaining, and teams had hoped to go the distance without pitting again. Jones ran out of fuel while leading with six laps to go and ended up finishing 11th. Crafton grabbed the top spot with just two laps to go when then leader Daniel Suarez was out of gas as well.

Crafton led a total of six laps in his win at Kansas, a track that was repaved and variable banking of 17-20 degrees added in the turns in 2012.

Charlotte has 24 degrees of banking in all of its turns, and it underwent a repaving in 2006.

"This place (Charlotte) is going to race quite a bit different," Crafton said. "The transition getting into turn 1 is a lot different than Kansas, and Kansas has a really smooth transition getting in turns 3 and 4. They're a mile and a half, but they race a lot different.

"The tires have got a lot of grip and the track is fairly new, so the side-by- side racing - you'll definitely see a little bit more of it here than you did at Kansas, just because it's so hard to race side-by-side at Kansas."

Crafton scored his first career Truck Series win at Charlotte seven years ago. He will be competing at this track for the 13th time. Charlotte is considered the "home race" for Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck teams since most of the teams have their race shops/headquarters based in the area. ThorSport Racing, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, is located in Sandusky, Ohio.

"It's really cool always coming to Charlotte and racing here," Crafton said. "Duke (Thorson) always takes a lot of pride in coming down here and beating these guys in their own backyard."

Crafton finished second to Kyle Busch in last year's truck race at Charlotte.

Thirty-five teams are on the entry list for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. David Gilliland, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski are those Sprint Cup Series regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Kahne, making his first truck start since April 2012 at Rockingham (67 races ago), is driving the No. 00 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

Xfinity Series

3M 250 - Iowa Speedway - Newton, Iowa

Sunday's 250-mile race at Iowa Speedway will be the first "stand-alone" event for the Xfinity Series this season.

The Sprint Cup Series will hold its annual all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night, and the Camping World Truck Series will run at that same track on Friday night.

Five drivers will attempt the Charlotte/Iowa combo this weekend. Three of them -- Brandon Jones, Erik Jones and John Wes Townley -- are entered in the truck race, and the remaining two -- Landon Cassill and Chase Elliott -- are entered in the Sprint Showdown (the preliminary event for the all-star race), which is scheduled for Friday, just prior to the start of the truck event.

The distance between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway is a little more than 1,000 miles.

Heading into the Iowa race, Ty Dillon holds a nine-point lead over Chris Buescher. Dillon finished eighth in the most recent Xfinity race two weeks ago at Talladega. Buescher placed sixth there.

Elliott, the defending Xfinity champion, fell 37 points behind Dillon after he finished 37th at Talladega due to an early-race accident.

Rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. is also 37 points in back of the leader.

Elliott Sadler, who is presently seventh in the point standings (-48), has finished in the top-10 in each of his eight Xfinity races at Iowa. Sadler won at this 0.875-mile track in August 2012. He is the only driver on the entry list that has previously won a race in the series here.

"Statistically, I've done pretty well (at Iowa)," said Sadler, who is driving the No. 1 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing this season. "I celebrated in victory lane in 2012, grabbed the pole three times and finished in the top-10 in each of my eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts."

Forty teams are on the entry list for the 3M 250.