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This Week in Auto Racing May 16 - 18

<p>Sprint Cup Series</p>

Sprint Cup Series

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

There's a million reasons why a driver wants to win the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The winner of Saturday night's race will collect at least $1 million. There are no points awarded, but someone can earn bragging rights for winning at "home," as most NASCAR teams are based in the Charlotte area. The Sprint Cup Series is competing here this weekend and next. The Coca-Cola 600 -- NASCAR's longest race of the season -- is scheduled for May 25.

Jimmie Johnson has profited very well from the all-star race. Johnson holds the record for most wins in it with four, including victories the past two years. In 2013, he joined Davey Allison as the only drivers who have won this event in back-to-back years. Allison accomplished the feat from 1991-92.

"If we were able to win a third consecutive all-star race, that would be something," Johnson said. "I would love to have that honor."

Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion, has yet to win a race this season.

In 2003, Johnson won the all-star event and then scored his first victory in a points-paying race that season the following weekend in the 600-miler.

"Momentum is very helpful, and a race win does a lot for teams," he noted. "I think we've been knocking on the door throughout the year. It would be a nice boost, shot in the arm for the team if we were able to do so."

The field for the 2014 all-star race will consist of 22 drivers. Nineteen of them, including Johnson, have presently locked down a starting position. The top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown (40-lap preliminary race) and the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote will also advance into the main event.

This year, the Sprint Showdown will take place on Friday night, prior to the 200-mile Camping World Truck Series race here. The Sprint Fan Vote winner will be announced immediately after the showdown. The preliminary race had been run on Saturday night in the past.

Qualifying for the all-star race will be held on the same day as 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. For the first time, the top-two finishers in the showdown and the fan vote winner will participate in qualifying rather than automatically start from the rear of the field.

The format for the all-star race remains the same from last year.

Segments 1, 2 and 3 are each 20 laps, and all laps are counted. Drivers can pit during the caution period between each segment, but those who do will not retain their position on the track.

Segment 4 is 20 laps as well, will all laps counting. Running order at the completion of this segment will be repositioned based on the average finish of the first four segments. A mandatory four-tire pit stop then follows, with the order of cars returning to the track determining the starting order for the final 10-lap dash to the finish.

Only green-flag laps will be counted in segment five.

With a million dollars on the line, it's no holds barred during the 10-lap shootout.

"It definitely changes things," Johnson said. "I think people are willing to take more risks and opportunities if they're there. You're really looking from second to first. I think second place, if he's in reaching distance of the leader, will certainly do what he can for $1 million and no implications in points."

Jeff Gordon, who is Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, has won the all-star race three times, but it's been 13 years since his last victory in it. Gordon claimed his first win of this season last weekend at Kansas Speedway.

"I love racing at Charlotte, and to be at home and race, it's just one of those races where you go all-out, and it's more about pride and honor and just kind of showing your competitors what you can do, so we're going to be pushing really, really hard to follow this [win at Kansas] up with a great performance there," Gordon said.

Twenty-three drivers are on the entry list for the Sprint Showdown, including rookies Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ryan Truex and Cole Whitt. Danica Patrick, entered in the showdown as well, won the fan vote last year. Patrick posted her career-best finish in Sprint Cup with a seventh-place run at Kansas.

Camping World Truck Series

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

After finishing second last week at Kansas Speedway, defending Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton is back atop the point standings.

The series will run its fourth race of the season on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Crafton enters this 200-mile event with an eight-point lead over Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday, the four-time truck champion.

Kyle Busch won the truck race at Kansas, which was held at nighttime for the first time. It featured nine cautions -- all for accidents. Hornaday and Peters were involved in the first wreck, occurring on lap 2.

"The biggest reason why you saw so many wrecks last week is the track had all the grip in the world and the tire was really hard and you're relying 100 percent on aero - aero that's holding you down, and when you do get in traffic they shut off," Crafton said. "I think you see quite a few of these drivers that haven't been in that situation like that at Kansas, and that was one thing I really focused on doing was getting in an eight-truck pack. I did it last week at Kansas to see how hard they were going to be to drive."

Crafton won last year's race at Kansas and took over the points lead. He sat first in the standings for the remainder of the season, en route to his first championship.

Crafton has competed in each truck race at Charlotte since the series started competing here in 2003. He scored his first career truck win at this 1.5-mile track in 2008.

"I always look forward to coming to Charlotte," he said. "It's the site of my first win, and it's really cool because the majority of the teams are based out of the Charlotte area and our team is based out of Sandusky [Ohio]. Everybody has their pride of coming to Charlotte to try to win in their own backyard, and to be able to come here and try to steal the pride from those guys is very cool. We did it a few years back."

Crafton, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota for ThorSport Racing, has scored eight top-10 finishes at Charlotte. He placed fourth here last year.

Busch has the most truck wins at Charlotte, including victories in 2010, '11 and '13. He did not compete in the 2012 race.

Truck teams did not practice at Charlotte on Thursday due to rain. Busch led the way in the only practice here on Friday morning with a lap at 180.820 mph. Crafton was fifth on the charts at 180.138 mph.

Thirty-three teams are on the entry list for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. Busch, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski are those Sprint Cup Series regulars entered. Keselowski is expected to make his first truck start of the season.

Nationwide Series

Get to Know Newton 250 - Iowa Speedway - Newton, Iowa

Chase Elliott has a very busy, yet exciting weekend ahead of him.

On Saturday, the 18-year-old Elliott will graduate from Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Georgia and then fly back to Iowa Speedway following his graduation ceremony to qualify for Sunday's 250-lap Nationwide Series race.

"I'm really excited for both parts [graduation and racing]; it will be a different weekend than normal for sure," Elliott said.

Nationwide teams practiced at this 0.875-mile track on Friday. Elliott led the way in the morning session with a lap at 134.690 mph.

Elliott, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports and son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, is the current leader in the Nationwide point standings. He's only one point ahead of Elliott Sadler, who won the most recent race in the series two weeks ago at Talladega.

Last month, Elliott scored back-to-back victories at Texas and Darlington and then finished second at Richmond. He finished a season-worst 19th at Talladega after being involved in a six-car crash in the closing laps there.

This will be the first time Elliott competes in a Nationwide race at Iowa. He has two Camping World Truck Series events to his credit here, finishing fifth and 31st last year.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I'm excited to get out there. I've raced there a few times. We've had some good runs, some bad runs, some runs in between, so hopefully our NAPA [sponsor] team can try and put a good one together and just try to keep growing."

This will be the first "stand-alone" race for Nationwide this season. The Sprint Cup Series is holding its all-star race at Charlotte. The Truck Series is there as well.

Ryan Blaney is scheduled to compete in Friday night's 200-mile truck race at Charlotte and then head to Iowa for the Nationwide event.

"I love doing double duty," Blaney said. "This is the first time I've raced at one track one day and then have to fly to another track the next. It's pretty neat, a different variety of racetracks. That's cool."

Forty-One teams are on the entry list for the Get to Know Newton 250. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET.

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