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Sprint All-Star Race: Hendrick Duel in the Cards?

Sprint All-Star Race: Hendrick Duel in the Cards?

by May 17, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One million dollars are on the line this Saturday as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series readies up for its second exhibition race of the year, the Sprint All-Star Race.

When it comes to the Charlotte Motor Speedway on All-Star weekend, there is no other team that has dominated this race in the past several years more than the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports crew for Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is a four time All-Star Race winner and is the victor in the past two runnings of the event. Hendrick Motorsports as an organization are red-hot as they head into the All-Star break with the team having earned two victories in the 11 races run so far and with Jeff Gordon currently sitting on top of the points standings. While teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have provided the team with their two victories thus far, the No. 48 crew has a rather noticeable goose egg in their wins column as we approach the second third of the season.

Statistically, Charlotte has proven to be one of Johnson’s strongest tracks on the calendar. Johnson has 10 (if you include the All-Star events) career victories and an average career finish of 11.6 at the track. Even though there are no points on the line for Johnson and his crew, a win in the Sprint All-Star Race for the No. 48 team could provide the spark needed to jumpstart their regular season.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to Johnson’s recent dominance in the event will come from Gordon himself. Other than Johnson, Gordon is the only other driver in the field for Saturday night’s race with more than one Sprint All-Star Race victory to his name. Gordon is coming off of a win at Kansas with the points lead still in his possession and heads to a track where five of his 89 points victories have come from. Though the last time Gordon won at Charlotte was in 2007, the No. 24 team’s 1.5-mile speedway package has been stout through the early goings of the season with Gordon’s average finish on the three 1.5-milers this season being 4.0.

One organization that will be looking to break through and earn their first ever All-Star Race victory is Joe Gibbs Racing. All three of JGR’s drivers, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth, will participate in Saturday night’s race and all have victory on their minds. Kenseth is the only former All-Star Race winner on the team – he won the 2004 event for Roush-Fenway Racing. Like Johnson, Kenseth is thus far winless this season and is looking for a big finish that can vault the team towards earning some victories before the Chase begins.

Hamlin was the only JGR Camry to place inside of the top-five in the lone practice for the race, running the third-quickest time of the session with a lap that was 42-thousandths of a second slower than session leader Earnhardt Jr’s time. Unlike Kenseth, Hamlin has never won at Charlotte before in his career but has proven to be successful on similar-shaped tracks such as Atlanta and Texas in the past.

Team Penske heads to Charlotte with a pair of drivers who have won on 1.5-mile speedways early on in the season, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Neither teammate has ever won the All-Star Race but Keselowski is a former Charlotte winner – his win coming in last fall’s 500-mile event. Although his teammate is a former winner at the track, Logano has proven to be a more consistent racer at Charlotte with six top-10 finishes coming in 10 career races at the track. Penske’s 1.5-mile program is looking unstoppable at the moment and with two fast drivers at the wheel of their cars the organization just may earn their third career All-Star Race victory.

The Sprint All-Star Race will air live on FOX Sports 1 on Saturday night with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m ET. MRN will be providing radio coverage for the event as well. If you’re looking to attend the event you may purchase tickets as www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

Make sure to check in with The Fourth Turn on Twitter (@TheFourthTurn) throughout Saturday night’s event for live coverage from our very own Hunter Thomas, who will be present at the track.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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