|NASCAR drivers still crave $1 million prize|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 21 May 2011 12:44|
``It's great to go out there and race for no points and a million bucks,'' 2010 winner Kurt Busch said. ``It's a great atmosphere.''
Added his brother, Kyle Busch, who was to start from the pole Saturday night: ``People say you either bring home the check or the steering wheel.''
NASCAR's All-Star race has been around since 1985, and the winner's share increased to $1 million in 2003 when Matt Kenseth was labeled a ``Million Dollar Man.''
The prize hasn't changed since. In fact, the total purse has dropped to just under $3.2 million from a high of more than $3.3 million in 2009.
While the top prize dwarfs the $314,311 Matt Kenseth took home for winning a regular Sprint Cup race at Dover last week, the payout is less than many major events in other sports.
The PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship, about 20 miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway, paid winner Lucas Glover just under $1.2 million earlier this month. A week later, K.J. Choi took home $1.7 million for winning The Players Championship.
In tennis, the men's and women's winners at Wimbledon each earned $1.54 million apiece last year and the U.S. Open paid $1.7 million each.
NASCAR drivers also usually only get a percentage of the winnings, with the rest going to their team.
Yet, eight years later, a $1 million payday - $1,018,300 to be exact - still brings plenty of suitors.
``This is a lot of fun to be able to qualify for a race like that,'' said Clint Bowyer, who was to join Kyle Busch on the front row Saturday. ``It's a big race.''
NOW THAT'S A BIG TV: Tony Stewart was hoping to avoid watching television while he worked Saturday night.
It's hard not to gaze at what Charlotte Motor Speedway bills as the world's largest high definition TV.
``It's massive,'' Stewart said.
At approximately 200 feet wide and 80 feet tall, the 165,000-pound Panasonic TV was installed over the past few months. It rises 110 feet above the track along the backstretch on a 500,000-pound steel frame.
The TV is about 30 percent larger than the big screen Cowboys owner Jerry Jones installed at the team's new stadium, which had been the largest HD screen.
``Jerry Jones has not called,'' track president Marcus Smith said Saturday.
The track tweaked the Cowboys a bit by inviting former Dallas star Ed ``Too Tall'' Jones to the topping-out ceremony in March.
``The first lap down the backstretch you looked to see what it's going to look like,'' Stewart said after practice Friday. ``It'll be interesting to see what it looks like (Saturday) night when we finally have a chance to see it all lit up.''
LOYAL REGAN: Regan Smith's surprise victory at Darlington earlier this month may present opportunities to move to a bigger, more established race team.
But Smith plans to stay at upstart Furniture Row Racing, a one-car team that's not based in Charlotte, but in Denver - 1,600 miles away from almost every other team.
``I think there's something to be said about loyalty that maybe doesn't stick around all the time in this sport sometimes,'' said Smith, who is signed through the end of the 2012 season. ``I'm perfectly happy where I am. I'm sure stuff will be said and things will be out there, but it's only one win.''
It was a memorable one for Smith, who had never won a NASCAR race. That along with six top-five qualifying efforts this year have brought speculation that bigger teams could come after the 27-year-old former Sprint Cup rookie of the year.
Smith insists he's happy where he is.
``We've all got a lot of time and effort put into it,'' he said, ``and they have certainly stuck behind me,''
FUTURE ALL-STAR?: Cole Whitt wasn't on the track Saturday night, but there remained a buzz about the 19-year-old rising star.
Whitt finished third in Friday night's Truck Series race at Charlotte behind Sprint Cup regulars Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer and took over the points lead. The Red Bull Racing development driver is the first rookie and the youngest driver to sit on top of the standings in the lower-tier circuit.
``We've been fast,'' said Whitt, who was second a week earlier at Dover and has five top-10 finishes in seven starts.
The success comes as the Alpine, Calif., native prepares to drive in the third Nationwide Series race of his career next week at Charlotte. He'll drive in place of Ryan Truex for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing in a deal that came together recently.
``This is an awesome surprise. I had no idea this would happen,'' Whitt said. ``I've been having a blast learning the tracks in the truck, but this is great. It's my dream to get to the (Sprint) Cup Series, and now I'm a little closer.''
LUG NUTS: Former President George H.W. Bush will appear in a video tribute for the late Lee Petty when the racing family patriarch is inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Monday night. ``I don't think my grandfather would ever have expected anything like this,'' said Kyle Petty, Lee Petty's grandson, ``because the president recognizing a NASCAR driver's accomplishments was so far outside of the realm of what he thought possible back then.'' ... Fellow Hall of Fame inductees Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore and David Pearson will sign autographs at the Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte on Sunday afternoon. ... Country music singer Brad Paisley attended the race to unveil a video for his hit single ``Old Alabama'' that includes NASCAR's Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick.