Twenty-two drivers will put the pedal to the metal in the 29th running of the 2013 NASCAR All-Star Race on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It figures to be a wild ride as usual this year, with plenty of storylines leading up to the big race. There are several new rules this year that should lead to plenty of discussion. Some are already causing controversy.
Here's a look at some of the latest buzz surrounding the 2013 NASCAR All-Star Race.
Pit Road Speed Limit Lifted
This year, NASCAR has lifted the speed limit on pit road for qualifying at the All-Star Race, sacrificing safety for entertainment value. According to David Newton of ESPN.com, the 45 mph speed limit is no more, which could lead to drivers flying through pit road at speeds of over 100 mph.
Driver Greg Biffle said of the change, via the ESPN.com report, "It's like, 'Hey, can you make it from the balcony into the pool without hitting the pool deck?' There's one way to figure it out. You can do all the calculating you want, but you've just got to try it."
Biffle was clearly in favor of the new rule, via NASCAR writer Reid Spencer:
There hasn't been a whole lot of controversy surrounding the lifting of the speed limit, which is a bit surprising considering the move to make NASCAR safer in recent years. It is worth noting that crews won't be allowed to leave the pit wall until the car comes to a complete stop, per Dustin Long of MotorRacingNetwork.com.
All I can say is, good thing this rule is just reserved for qualifying. I can't imagine this happening during an actual race.
Sprint Fan Vote Winner of Showdown Gets a Boost
This year, the winner of the Showdown's Sprint Fan Vote will be allowed to advance to the main event without being on the lead lap provided the car is in "raceable" condition, according to David Newton of ESPN.com.
This is the change that has incited the most controversy. It's being called the "Danica Patrick Rule" by critics. Patrick has finished on the lead lap in just two of 11 races this year.
David Ragan, who advanced to the All-Star Race by shocking at Talladega Superspeedway, said, via the ESPN.com report:
I don't think that's right. You need to be competitive. It's a contradicting rule. So you can't be torn up and get in, but if you're slow and not on the lead lap, why should you be in the All-Star race?
The All-Star race is supposed to be about the best of the best.
It should be said that, while this rule was just announced, at the start of the year there was no mention of the top vote getter having to finish on the lead lap, per an entry blank examined by USA Today Sports. The top vote getter did have to finish on the lead lap in 2012, but that wasn't the case from 2007-11.
Either way, it hurts Patrick; it gives fuel for her detractors who feel she doesn't belong as a full-time NASCAR driver.
Emphasis Placed on Strong Finish
In previous years at the All-Star Race, you could have a comfortable lead through the first four 20-lap segments and feel good about your chances to emerge victorious.
But this year, cars will be repositioned after the fourth segment, based on the average finish of the first four segments, according to NASCAR.com, via Yahoo! Sports. Drivers will then go through a mandatory four-tire pit stop and begin the fifth and final segment based on the order they returned to the track from the pit stop. In that regard, even the pit crews will be seen as All-Stars. A quick change that boosts a driver to victory will spotlight the crew.
Bryant Douglass of BeyondTheFlag.com tweeted about the rule in February:
I personally love this rule. Yes, you should be rewarded for a strong first four segments, but it makes it more exciting to see drivers compete neck and neck for the entire race. This should only boost the event's popularity throughout the nation.