For the first the qualifying race for those not in NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star race will be run on Friday night. The 40 lap shootout, broken into two 20 lap segments will decide two of the final three spots in the All-Star race. The final spot goes to the fan vote winner.
“The Showdown is really something because you do those 20 laps and you see where your car is and see where you are on the track and that determines if you want to pit, stay out and take a chance to start up front with no tires,” said AJ Allmendinger, a past winner of the Showdown. “You think you have got a good enough car or you have to make changes to your car to try to run up into the top two. So, it makes it interesting. I hate to say that I’ve been in the Showdown every year, but I have raced my way into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star a couple times and hope to do the same Friday night.”
It’s hard to glean much from past Showdown winners, because most to the top drivers don’t have to race in it since they have already qualified for the All-Star Race. But every once and a while you get a driver like Clint Bowyer this season who is on a little bit of a winless streak, and have to try to race their way into the big race.
Drivers in this year’s Showdown who have won before, that’s a pretty short list consisting of just one- Allmendinger, though he has two Showdown wins. Two more drivers in the field have wins at Charlotte, Casey Mears at the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 and Bowyer in the 2012 Bank of America 500.
Other teams in the Showdown to keep your eye on include Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola, Rick Stenhouse, Jr and rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. All are in equipment more than capable of winning this race.
"We're in the Sprint Showdown and we're giving all we've got, especially as far as cars and engines,” said Dillon. “We'll be pushing the limits. It's two 20-lap heat races and it will be a wild one, I'm sure. Everybody wants to get into the Sprint All-Star Race so they have a shot at earning that million dollar pay out. It means a lot to our team and our guys. We'll be fighting hard for every spot we can in the Sprint Showdown and see what we can get."
Dillon will lead the field to the green flag a little after 6pm Central on Friday night. Allmendinger, Larson, Bowyer and Ambrose make up the rest of the top five on the grid.
Patrick is likely to snag the fan vote spot if she doesn’t race her way in.