All-Star on Saturday, Champion come November?

Tony Stewart Won the All Star Race in 2009

Tony Stewart celebrates after winning the 2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the one million dollar prize in his first season as an owner/driver (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, Getty Images Sport)

The road to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami (Nov. 19-21) makes a pit-stop in Charlotte this Saturday, as the Cup contenders compete in the Sprint All-Star Race prior to resuming points racing with the Coca-Cola 600 during Memorial Day Weekend.

Any time they are on track, NASCAR’s elite drivers are looking to gain momentum in their pursuit of clinching a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21. Tickets to see NASCAR’s Champions crowned this fall in Miami go on sale July 3; for more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

The field for Saturday’s All-Star Race is comprised of former Sprint Cup Series Champions, All-Star Race Champions and Sprint Cup race winners from 2009 and 2010. This year’s participants competing for the $1 million, winner-take-all purse include All-Star Race winners Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2000), Mark Martin (1998, 2005) and Tony Stewart. Just don’t tell them it’s an “exhibition”….

“A lot of work goes into it, and a lot of cars get torn up," said NASCAR’s most popular driver, Earnhardt Jr. “There's a lot of people really upset afterward because it's all about winning. That's the only thing that matters.”

Heading into the weekend, there were as many as three spots up for grabs in for Saturday’s All-Star Race: Two spots were to go to the drivers who finish first or second in the Sprint Showdown preceding the All-Star Race; and a third spot goes to the driver voted in by the fans. To vote, text “vote” to 7777 on your Sprint phone or visit NASCAR.com. Voting ends one hour prior to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, scheduled to start about 8 p.m. (EST) Saturday night.

One driver looking to work his way into the field was South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya, competing in his third Sprint Cup Showdown in hopes of reaching his second career All-Star race. Montoya made the field in 2008 on the merit of his 2007 Sprint Cup victory at Infineon; he drove to a 14th-place finish at Charlotte that year.

“The way I look at it, it is good practice for the week after,” Montoya said. “If we get in, good. If we don’t, we have to really focus on the [following weekend’s Coca-Cola 600] and get some points for the Chase.”

For this year’s All-Star race, votes sent by Sprint customers via text were to count twice. And according to the NASCAR title sponsor, the brash Colombian—perhaps aided by his more than 145,719 Twitter followers—entered All-Star week a Top 5 vote-getter in the fan vote.

Montoya sat 112 points back of Chase qualification after Race 12 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 19-21. Tickets to see NASCAR’s Champions crowned this fall in Miami go on sale July 3; for more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

Montoya, Earnhardt, Martin, Stewart and all of NASCAR’s elite will take part in the Sprint Showdown Saturday night (7:30 p.m., SPEED), followed by the All-Star Race itself. The next points-race stop for the Sprint Cup contenders is Charlotte on Sunday, May 30 (5:45 p.m., FOX TV), for Race 13 of 36 en route to crowning the Sprint Cup Champion in Miami Nov. 21. Tickets to see NASCAR’s Champions crowned this fall in Miami go on sale July 3; for more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

On the Move: South Florida’s Montoya

Montoya in his All Star Debut in 2007

“Should be fun. It is always a fun weekend because there is no pressure.”
--South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya, seeking a spot in Saturday’s All-Star Race (shown here during his All-Star debut in 2008)

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya will participate in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown in hopes of driving his way into the second All-Star Race of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. The driver of the No. 42 also can earn a spot in the race as the fan-vote winner. To vote, text “vote” to 7777 on your Sprint phone or visit NASCAR.com. Voting ends one hour prior to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, scheduled to start about 8 p.m. (EST) Saturday night.

Montoya made his first career Showdown start in 2007, but it was merely a cameo as a Lap 1 wreck relegated him to a 29th-place finish. He earned his first participation in the All-Star race itself in 2008 based on his 2007 victory at Infineon and drove to a 14th place finish. That same win at Infineon kept him eligible for the 2009 Sprint Showdown affair, where Montoya started ninth and finished 12th.

“We normally run pretty good there,” Montoya said of Charlotte. “I really don’t pay too much attention to that [exhibition]. The way I look at it, it is good practice for the week after. If we get in, good; if we don’t, we have to really focus on the [May 30 Coca-Cola 600] and get some points for the Chase. That is the most important.”

Montoya continues his points-race pursuit of the Sprint Cup Series Championship—to be crowned Nov. 21 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway—with Race 13 of 36 at Charlotte on Sunday, May 30. Tickets to see NASCAR’s Champions crowned this fall in Miami go on sale July 3; for more information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

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http://twitter.com/JPmontoya

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