Roger Diez: A lot of dough on the line at Charlotte today | NevadaAppeal.com
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Roger Diez: A lot of dough on the line at Charlotte today

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

Somebody is going to leave Charlotte Motor Speedway a million dollars richer tonight – $1,024,658 to be exact. Jimmie Johnson, the only driver to have won the event twice in the last 12 years, is looking to add that to the record $3,136,666 that he has already taken home from the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star races.

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Nineteen drivers have qualified for the race, but Daytona winner Trevor Bayne has been pulled due to ongoing health issues which include blurred vision and fatigue. Three drivers also will transfer from the Sprint Showdown: the winner and runner up, plus the driver with the most fan votes who finishes on the lead lap of the race, which consists of two 20-lap segments. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not eligible this year for a guaranteed berth in the All-Star race, but he’s a good bet to receive the most fan votes.

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The All-Star race itself will be run in four segments, with a few special tricks thrown in. Teams must make a green flag, four-tire pit stop during the first 50 lap segment, which will end with a caution flag and an optional pit stop. The second segment, 20 laps, also will end with a caution and optional pit stop. Segment three is also 20 laps, but will end with a 10-minute break, during which teams may add fuel and make chassis adjustments. Then things get interesting, as they will restart in single file, with all teams making another mandatory four-tire stop and the lineup for the final 10-lap segment determined by the order in which teams leave pit road. So fast pit work will be critical to winning this race. Only green flag laps will count for the final segment.

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There may very well be some fireworks, too. Feuding drivers Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are on probation for points races, but the probation apparently doesn’t apply to the non-points All-Star race. If you recall last year’s All-Star, Kyle and teammate Denny Hamlin got into it, with Kyle telling his crew that somebody had better keep him away from Denny after the race. If tempers boil over tonight, Kyle will probably be begging someone to keep Harvick away from him!

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Coverage of the Sprint Showdown begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon on SPEED, with the All-Star race starting at 6 p.m.

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It’s also a big weekend for open-wheel racing fans, with Indy pole qualifying scheduled for today and Bump Day Sunday. All the full-time IndyCar teams will be on hand, as well as some part-time operations and a few unemployed drivers wandering Gasoline Alley with helmet in hand, hoping to get into somebody’s spare car for a shot at making the field on Bump Day. Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves set fastest practice time for the week on Friday at 228.611 miles per hour. He will be going for his third consecutive pole, having set a four-lap mark of 227.970 a year ago. Danica Patrick was quickest of the four female drivers who will attempt to qualify. Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, and Simona de Silvestro are the other three. De Silvestro had a serious crash in Thursday’s practice, suffering burns to both hands, but is expected to make a qualifying run today. And former Formula 1 and NASCAR driver Scott Speed has a ride for Indy and the season finale in Las Vegas.

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Qualifying begins at 8 a.m. today, but predicted thunderstorms and a 60 percent chance of rain may interfere with the schedule. VERSUS will carry qualifying, and ABC will televise the race next Sunday.

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Formula 1 is racing this weekend at Barcelona, followed by Monaco next weekend. The FIA’s ban of off-throttle exhaust blowing (used to create more downforce) was supposed to take effect this weekend, but has been delayed until after the Canadian Grand Prix. Apparently Red Bull has the most efficient system for keeping up the pressure off-throttle, which explains in part their fantastic qualifying and racing results. And in other F1 news, Fernando Alonso has renewed his contract with Ferrari through 2016.