Saturday night, the Sprint Cup Series will host its annual All-Star race. This is a non-point counting race, where you are racing for nothing but money. The winner of this race receives a one million dollar payday.
Currently, with Trevor Bayne's withdrawal from the competition, there are just 18 drivers qualified for the race, with three other drivers earning their way into it on Saturday night.
The 100-lap event gets broken down into four segments, including a wild 10-lap shootout to end the night. While I don't know for certain who will win the race, I can at least begin to narrow it down.
Currently, I see just five drivers that I would consider favorites to drive away with an extra million dollars.
First and foremost would have to be the race's defending winner, Kurt Busch. Somehow, Busch managed to win the 2010 All-Star race after hitting the wall multiple times and having more electrical tape on the car than decals. Yet he walked away one million dollars richer.
Busch has already shown twice this year that he is capable of winning non-point counting races, that aren't full field events. He was the winner of both the Shootout, as well as one of the Gatorade Dual races earlier in the year at Daytona.
Busch started the year off red hot. He started with four consecutive top-10 finishes, and was the points leader after his blazing start.
He has since cooled off, posting just a single top-10 in the last seven events, but a return to Charlotte may be just what the doctor ordered for the 2010 winner.
It's hard not to consider Jimmie Johnson a favorite regardless of what type of race it is, or where it's being run. But when the races is at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it's pretty much a no brainer.
The 2010 All-Star race didn't end the way Johnson would have liked. Running near the front, he spun out late in the race, and was relegated to a disappointing 13th place finish, the last car on the lead lap.
However, his career at Charlotte is sparkling. In 19 career starts here, Johnson has six wins, and has finished inside the top 5 more than half of the time. And only one time in those 19 starts has Johnson failed to lead a single lap, and that came in his first trip to the speedway.
It's safe to say that Johnson knows his way around Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin's career at Charlotte isn't anything glamorous. In 11 starts, Hamlin has just four top 10s, with only one of those being a top 5. Yet for each of the last two seasons he has run very well in the All-Star race and been a factor right up until the end.
Last season, Hamlin and his teammate Kyle Busch had a little on track incident where Hamlin blocked Busch as he was trying to make a pass for the lead. That didn't set well with his teammate, and the two drivers reportedly had a heated discussion about it after the race.
The 2011 season has been a struggle for Hamlin and his team, but a week off from points racing, and just having the opportunity to go out and race might be what they need to turn things around.
It also doesn't hurt Hamlin's chances to have a team that won the pit crew challenge for the second straight year.
Kyle Busch has dominated the 2011 season. He has two wins, sits third in the point standings and has led the most laps so far this year, by a sizable margin.
He also goes into Charlotte having posted top 10 finishes at this track in seven consecutive appearances. He led laps in all but one of those races as well.
After being a factor for much of the 2010 All-Star race, Busch was involved in a late race yellow, and was forced to finish in 14th place.
While the All-Star race hasn't always been kind to the younger Busch brother, it is hard to bet against him the way he has been running this season. And besides, regardless of where he finishes, he seems to always leave us with something to remember in this race.
Speaking of a driver that is running well this season, how about Carl Edwards? Edwards is the current points leader, and scored a win earlier in the year. This is coming off a 2010 season that saw him win the final two races of the year.
Edwards has been decent at Charlotte throughout his career, but the last few trips to the mile and a half speedway haven't been too exciting. He has scored seven top 10 finishes in 12 starts, but none of last years three races at Charlotte (including the All-Star race) resulted in a top 10.
In fact, last year Edwards had to rely on the fan vote to even be a part of the All-Star race. After being involved in an accident, Edwards was straddled with a 21st place finish, which was last place in the event.
This season though is a different story. Edwards has earned his way into this competition, and comes in red hot. He has been leading the points for five straight weeks, and has been the leader a total of seven weeks this year.
He has failed to lead laps in only two of 11 races this year, and has posted a series high, nine top 10 finishes up to this point. There is no doubt that Edwards should be on everyone's radar as a threat to win his first All-Star race.