The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race from Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the wildest events each season, and the 2014 edition will be no different.
With the top names in the sport going to battle in the 30th edition of the annual event, the $1 million prize will be awarded to the winner. The competition spawned by a purse that big will result in some of the fiercest racing all season.
The All-Star race is the definition of checkers-or-wreckers.
Here is all the vital viewing information for the festivities and the driver to watch on Saturday night.
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Saturday, May 17
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
|Drivers Already Qualified||Car No.|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
|Martin Truex Jr.||78|
While the above 19 drivers already qualified for the All-Star race—a win over the last year, a previous series championship or a win in this event previously guarantees a spot in the event—there are still three spots open.
The first two remaining spots will be filled by the winner and second-place finisher from Friday night's Sprint Showdown qualifying race. The final spot in the All-Star race will be claimed by the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.
Driver to Watch on Saturday: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There are several drivers with momentum on their side coming into this Saturday’s All-Star race, but few have the right mix of talent, equipment and confidence that veteran driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. possesses.
While Earnhardt Jr. only has one victory this season (a monumental win at the Daytona 500), he has managed to rack up six top-five finishes, including a fifth-place finish last Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
As a previous winner in this race—he was victorious in his rookie season (2000)—Earnhardt has the experience on this track and in this event to steal the show once again. Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte talked about the importance of the All-Star race:
Ok, back at the office... Prep continues for the All Star Race a million and one reasons to win. 1,000,000 💵 and Bragging rights #racersego— Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte) May 14, 2014
Many drivers would be happy with the way the team has performed this season, but Earnhardt is always looking for more. At times the driver’s comments can come off as overly critical, but his drive to get better is why the No. 88 car is annually in the championship hunt.
Earnhardt Jr. told Bob Pockrass of SportingNews.com about his performance at Kansas and his unhappiness despite finishing fifth:
The first half of the race up top, we were just flying. We were too tight all weekend and working on front grip all weekend. I knew when the temps came down, the bottom would get faster and we were going to be in trouble and we got real tight at the end of the race. We had been working on front grip all weekend. I knew it was going to be tough to run well tonight because of how bad the car pushed all weekend. That really kind of bit us there at the end.
Unfortunately for Junior, Charlotte Motor Speedway hasn’t always been the kindest track to the veteran. In 28 career races at the track, Earnhardt has averaged a 19.43 place finish, ran his way into the top 20 17 times and totaled four DNFs. He has never won a points race at the track.
For Earnhardt, Charlotte really is about checkers or wreckers.
With no repercussions to pushing the car too far and coming up short (other than a torn-up ride), Earnhardt Jr. will have the chance to build more momentum coming out of the All-Star race and carry that into the next portion of the schedule.
Predicted Finish: Earnhardt Jr. Wins the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race
*Stats via NASCAR.com.