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This Week in Auto Racing May 18 - May 20

This Week in Auto Racing May 18 - May 20

This Week in Auto Racing May 18 - May 20
May 15th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - NASCAR puts on its annual All-Star showcase this Saturday night with more than $1 million on the line. Meanwhile, IndyCars will attempt to fill out its 33-car field for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.


Nextel Cup

Nextel All-Star Challenge - Lowe's Motor Speedway - Concord, NC

With a week's respite from the stress-filled "Chase for the Nextel Cup," the NASCAR drivers and teams will spend their time where?

At the track, of course.

However, this week it will all be for fun, ego...and a barrel full of money.

The Nextel All-Star Challenge is an invitation only event run on Saturday night where only winning is important. No more "thinking about the big picture." On Saturday night, the teams race for the $1 million prize that goes to the winner.

The field is made up of drivers and owners who have won at least one race during the preceding year, any past series champions (last 10 years), past Nextel All-Star Challenge winners (last 10 years), the winner and runner-up of the 2006 Nextel Open and the winner of a "fan vote."

The current field of eligible drivers includes: Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers.

To this list will be added three drivers. The winner and runner-up of the Nextel Open run immediately prior to the All-Star Challenge and a driver picked by fan vote not already in the race.

The All-Star Challenge will have a new format this year consisting of four 20- lap segments. Teams will have the option of pitting after the first 20-lap segment of the event, giving up their respective on-track position by doing so. A mandatory 10-minute stop will follow the second 20-lap segment. Teams will resume their position at the start of the third segment. Following segment three, all remaining participants on the track will circle the track under caution. Each team will then conduct a pit stop under race-like pitting conditions. The order of the teams exiting pit road will serve as the starting lineup for the fourth and final, 20-lap segment. The final 20-lap shootout should be the highlight of the evening with cars battling for the top prize and bragging rights.

The All-Star Event has been held every year since 1985, all of them at the Lowe's Motor Speedway with the exception of the 1986 edition held at Atlanta.

Nine times in its history, the All-Star winner has gone on to capture the series championship. The last to accomplish the feat was Jimmie Johnson last season. Prior to that Jeff Gordon won both the All-Star Challenge and the Cup in 2001 and also pulled off the "double in 1995 and 1997. His three "doubles" equals the record of Dale Earnhardt who did it in 1987, 1990 and 1993.

NASCAR arrives at its traditional mid-season break with Hendrick Motorsports dominating all phases of the game.

The team has won the last four races and eight of the last nine events. Johnson, the 2006 Nextel Cup Series champion owns four wins, 2007 points leader Gordon has won three times and Kyle Busch won at Bristol. That's eight wins in just 11 events and all five races run with the Car of Tomorrow.

"We've won some that we shouldn't and we didn't win others that maybe we should of," said Gordon in the post-race press conference at Darlington.

"I'll always constantly try to get better and while I do think that some other guys are going to figure some things out close the gap, I still feel confident that we've got room to improve as well," Gordon continued.

That is a very scary thought for the other teams, that a team which has won eight of 11, can improve.


Quaker Steak & Lube 200 - Lowe's Motor Speedway - Concord, NC

Mike Skinner brings a 108-points lead into the race having finished fifth or better in all five Craftsman Truck Series events to date. He opened the season with a fourth-place finish at Daytona, then won three consecutive races before finishing fifth at Kansas two weeks ago.

The No.5 Toyota driver has led laps in every race and a total of 423 out of 750 laps for the year.

However, Skinner has not had much success at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. He has yet to finish higher than 15th at Lowe's despite winning two poles and leading in all three of his starts for a total of 80 laps. His 28.5 average finish is much worse than Todd Bodine who sits second in the championship. Bodine has yet to win in 2007 after winning three times in 2006 en route to the series title.

Bad news for Bodine and the other championship contenders, Skinner led all drivers in the most recent test at Lowe's. Thirty-five teams took part in the test with most teams bringing two trucks to try on the 1.5-mile oval of Lowe's. Skinner had the fastest lap at 179.158 m.p.h.

Interestingly, it is not a Craftsman Truck Series driver that is the two-time defending Quaker Steak & Lube 200 champion this week, it is Nextel Cup driver Kyle Busch. Busch edged Terry Cook both times - by 0.149 seconds in 2005 and last year by a whopping 3.154 seconds.

"When you run second, it isn't a bad deal," said Cook. "But when you run second to the same guy two years in a row, you start wondering what you have to do to beat that guy."

By winning Friday's race, Busch would become just the fourth driver to win three consecutive races at the same track. Brendan Gaughan won four straight at the Texas Motor Speedway while Jack Sprague (Phoenix) and Ted Musgrave (California) won three in a row.

"Its going to be really tough," Busch said. "You have plenty of good guys out here. We're just trying to work with what we have to make it three in a row."

The race is set to drop the green flag on Friday night at 9 p.m. (et).


Qualifying - Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, IN

With 22 drivers already in the field, the IndyCar Series will return to Indianapolis to fill out the remainder of the 33-car field. They will use Saturday to complete the grid and Sunday will be "Bump Day."

There will be no $100,000 on the line (goes to pole winner Helio Castroneves), but with a spot in the most important race of the season on the line, there will still be plenty of pressure and excitement.

Some of the drivers yet to qualify include: Jimmy Kite, Roger Yasukawa, P.J. Jones, Marty Roth, Jaques Lazier, Jon Herb, Al Unser, Jr., Stephan Gregoire Phil Giebler and Milka Duno.

"The plan is that I will be in the car on Wednesday," said rookie Duno trying to be the third female to qualify for this year's race. "The guys are working very hard."

The Venezuelan crashed on Friday and did not attempt to qualify over the weekend.

The "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is set to drop the green flag on Sunday, May 27th.

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