See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: Kevin Harvick couldn't quite catch Denny Hamlin in Saturday's All-Star Race. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver says he was not frustrated by finishing second, and looks ahead to the Coca-Cola 600 . ... @nascarcasm recaps the race in photos, as only he can, and Weekend in GIFs will allow you to relive the action in a fun way. TUESDAY: Power Rankings presented by John Deere got another shakeup this week -- yes, there's a new No. 1. Who do you think it is? Plus, check out Denny Hamlin 's imaginary Facebook page created by @nascarcasm. Senior writer Holly Cain features "Catwalk for a Cause," the annual charity event Martin Truex Jr . and girlfriend Sherry Pollex held last week. WEDNESDAY: Check out which paint schemes will be on display at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 . Plus, learn more about the history of CMS in our track photo gallery. And stay plugged in to NASCAR.com throughout the day as the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 is selected. THURSDAY: Cars are on track at Charlotte, and we'll have live leaderboards for you to follow. In honor of Throwback Thursday, we'll look back at Dale Earnhardt's first ever premier series win -- which came 40 years ago, at Charlotte. Brad Norman and George Winkler debate whether the annual 600-mile event needs to be shortened. FRIDAY: Coming out of the All-Star break, NASCAR.com presents some of its superlatives from the season so far. Also coming this week: Senior writer Kenny Bruce reports following his visit to the HScott Motorsports shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina ... the High Heel Dash (yes, you read that correctly) is Thursday, and we're previewing the event -- and who's in it -- on Tuesday ... High 5 (Wednesday) gives you some of the best NASCAR-related content from throughout the week, while Friday's Driver Reports clues you in on who has the best chance to win at Charlotte.
We debate the format, location and much more The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is a non-points event that has seen its format change a bit over the years, but a win carries some weight and plenty of financial gain -- the winning driver gets $1 million. But does the event need a bit of a shakeup? Does holding it at Charlotte Motor Speedway each year make sense? What enhancements or adjustments could be made? Or does nothing need to change? Join NASCAR.com's RJ Kraft and George Winkler as they debate whether changes are needed. Kraft: Let's get this thing going. I'd like to see the eligibility opened up a bit and for fans to have more than one vote. In baseball, hockey and basketball, fans get to vote for the starting lineup, so let's give them more say in this exhibition event. Let's say they can vote on five spots since All-Star events are supposed to be geared more toward the fans. Even more than that, let's open the field up to drivers in all three series. Yes, they have to run in a Sprint Cup car, but wouldn't it be awesome to see Chase Elliott or Darrell Wallace Jr . or Erik Jones or Matt Crafton have a shot to take on the best of the best and win the $1 million prize? I also like the idea of having the two other national series champions automatically eligible for the field. An All-Star event is about having the very best in the field, while also allowing fans to see who they want to see, so let's make it a 30-car event. Winkler : RJ, I like the idea of bringing more power to the people, and the way you have envisioned it allows for more fan participation without completely turning it into a popularity contest. But something I'd like to mention is about the lap segments. I've always felt that things just start to get warmed up racing-wise around Lap 20 or 25, and the way it's set up now with the first four 25-lap segments, that's when it's time to stop. So I'd vote for fewer segments that last a bit longer to let some of the drama build. However, I love the final 10-lap segment as it is because it's like an extended green-white-checkered finish where you don't know what you'll see happen next. Kraft: Part of the reason, to me at least, that the All-Star Race does not have as much shine as it could is because it is held at the same track every year, and it's a track that already holds two points events a year. If you want to keep drivers close to home, how about some of the local short tracks in North Carolina, or bring back a place like Rockingham to hold this special event? If you want to keep the event on a track that already has a Cup races, then how about a rotating mix of Martinsville, Darlington, Bristol and Charlotte? Those sites are close enough that drivers would get close to the full two weeks at home. Another option: Since Kansas is currently the week before the All-Star Race, could holding the event at Iowa Speedway work, since the teams are already in the Midwest? People have been clamoring for Iowa to get a race in the top series, so maybe some short-track action in the All-Star event would be a perfect test to see if a points race should come to the track. Winkler : Those are all good ideas, RJ, especially Iowa since it's a gem of a track, but here are some reasons for keeping the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte. First, Charlotte is now considered the hub for NASCAR and as such deserves to host an event like this. The Hall of Fame is in Charlotte. The majority of the team shops are in Charlotte. Heck, you and I work in Charlotte, RJ, as do many others for the company. But most importantly the majority of the drivers call Charlotte home. The NASCAR schedule is challenging to say the least, and it has to be extremely difficult for the families of the participants. To be able to have two weeks where the teams are home is invaluable, and you can see it on the drivers' faces at the track. They seem so happy to be able to recharge, refresh and sleep in their own beds for a change. And since NASCAR has always prided itself on being a family-oriented sport based around its star drivers, it makes perfect sense to have the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on back-to-back weeks in the Queen City. Kraft: That's a good point George . One addition to add a little more fanfare for the event would be something similar the MLB's Futures Game or the NBA's Rising Stars Game. Perhaps a 50- or 75-lap shootout event with some of the young drivers in the national series or perhaps the field is comprised of current NASCAR Next and Drive For Diversity drivers and some alumni of the programs. That would be a nice way to get those programs more exposure. Winkler : I'll take it one step further and ask: How about we add a celebrity race? Or what about a burnout contest judged by Blake Shelton and Shaquille O' Neal? Who wouldn't want to see that? But I think what everyone wants to see come back is the pit crew challenge. The precision and power that those guys show on a regular basis is amazing, and they certainly deserve to have their time in the spotlight. And to see all of these things in the same place, on the same night would make the event even more appealing than it already is. Kraft : Yes, pit crews are the unsung heroes and are often one of the biggest reasons for a driver being in position to win a race. It would be great to see them showcase their skills on this stage. Winkler : In closing, and this goes to all the mamas and papas out there, let's start the race earlier. The thing I always hear people say about the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is that it's a great family event, particularly for the young kids because it gives them a taste of what the sport is all about without there being a big investment of time. So why not start the race earlier so it doesn't go past the kids' bedtimes? I've got to tell you, if you keep mama happy, then everyone's happy -- because mamas usually hold those purse strings. Know what I'm saying, RJ? Kraft: Speaking from personal experience, George ? Nevertheless, that was well said by a family man himself. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Our experts debate whether a classic race is due for change
See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: During the rain delay at Kansas, Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he was in "big trouble." See how the No. 88 team rallied for a top-five finish. And with the race in the rearview mirror, @nascarcasm offers his race recap -- in photos -- as only he can. TUESDAY: Expect Power Rankings presented by John Deere to get another shakeup this week -- will Jimmie Johnson rise to No. 1? Plus, check out 'Six-Time's' imaginary Facebook page created by @nascarcasm. NASCAR.com's Jessica Ruffin will explore the plan for some of Hendrick Motorsports ' pit crews for the first stand-alone event of the season, with the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa Speedway . WEDNESDAY: Check out which paint schemes will be on display at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Sprint All-Star Race. Plus, learn more about the history of CMS in our track photo gallery. THURSDAY: Trucks are on track at Charlotte, and we'll have live leaderboards for you to follow. In honor of Throwback Thursday, we'll look back to Jeff Gordon 's win in the 1992 All-Star race, plus take a historical look at the standings entering the All-Star Race during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup era. FRIDAY: Get all the on-track action slated for Charlotte throughout the day and evening, including the Sprint Showdown practice, qualifying and race; All-Star Race practice; and Truck Series qualifying, and the race itself. Also coming this week: In Tech Talk, senior writer Kenny Bruce hits the high notes of a busy on-track week ... RJ Kraft and George Winkler will debate the All-Star Race format ... we'll look back on same of the best paint schemes in the history of the All-Star Race.
See who our staff members pick to take the checkered flag Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their picks for the Great American Race below. Who do you have? Let us know in the comments section. Zack Albert Denny Hamlin . Joe Gibbs Racing cars have shown plenty of oomph so far in Speedweeks, making Matt Kenseth another Daytona favorite. Sunday, it should be Hamlin's turn in Victory Lane. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr. Strong all week, and probably as pumped as he's ever been about his team and his car. Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson. Pat DeCola Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been unstoppable thus far at Speedweeks, but he's coming off one of his worst seasons to date -- making Johnson the rare "dark horse favorite." The No. 48 Chevrolet swept both Daytona races in his 2013 championship season but hadn't finished higher than 20th in the six Daytona races prior to that. Still, I've got a feeling. Stu Hothem Dale Earnhardt Jr. After last Saturday's first practice, the defending Daytona 500 champion said he had the fastest car in the field. On the 20th anniversary of the last back-to-back winner (Sterling Marlin) going to Victory Lane, Earnhardt will join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough with three or more wins in the Great American Race. RJ Kraft Carl Edwards. The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been as strong as the Hendrick Motorsports fleet during Speedweeks, with the veteran showing plenty of speed. It will be the organization's newest driver that brings Joe Gibbs his first trip to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 since 1993. Brad Norman Tony Stewart. His car is fast, and Stewart seems more like the 'Smoke' of old than at any other point over the past two years. Plus, he's just due for a good break at Daytona. Jessica Ruffin Jeff Gordon. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is starting from the pole position, has a dynamic duo of Hendrick Motorsports teammates helping him in the front and his No. 24 Chevrolet SS has showcased its speed the entire week. But above all, with this event marking his final Daytona 500, Gordon has plenty of motivation to take the checkered one last time in the Great American Race. Taylor Starer Jeff Gordon. The four-time Cup champion is starting his final Great American Race as a full-time driver from the pole — what more motivation does he need to do well? Three previous Daytona 500 wins under his belt doesn't hurt, either. George Winkler Dale Earnhardt Jr. He becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 since Sterling Marlin in 1995. Junior's car has looked fast all week -- he won in the Daytona Duels -- and he has a strong history in this race (series-best 99.6 driver rating, two previous Daytona 500 wins). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
Testing the theory that anyone can win this weekend
Driver actively involved with military causes; will adorn truck at Charlotte Brad Keselowski couldn't have imagined a trip in 2008 to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, would still be affecting his life today. But then again, the young driver couldn't have predicted what he would hear, see or experience in that hospital either. "I went through there in the hospital and it damn near made me cry walking past all these other guys," Keselowski recalled. "At the time, I was 23. There were guys that looked like they weren't going to make it and they were my age. "I think that rattles you pretty hard, at least it did me." Less than a year later, another experience with a close friend left Keselowski shaken once more, but a bit more certain of his eventual calling. "I had a friend, a close friend, who I remember spending New Year's with in 2009," Keselowski said. "He got deployed two weeks later, was in the Middle East … and he got blown up within the first month or two. He came back and when I saw him, that's when I knew. "All these things, it felt like kind of karma or the universe was pushing me this direction. I'd say that's what got me to where I am. Once I started the events and spent time with these people, I could relate to them so well." With a nudge from the universe, Keselowski launched the Checkered Flag Foundation in 2010 -- a 501(c)(3) organization that helps support military personnel and hosts various events to raise funds and awareness. • • • His foundation was the reason Keselowski was standing in the middle of the upscale David Yurman jewelry store at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday night. Proceeds from the store's sales that evening benefited Charlotte Bridge Home, a local foundation that supports veterans and helps former military personnel ease the transition between service and their return home. "Tonight's event is about, one, having fun; two, raising attention; and three, helping to raise funds in the process for Charlotte Bridge foundation, which is a foundation that's dedicated in a very similar fashion (to the Checkered Flag Foundation) to help servicemen, servicewomen here locally in Charlotte … trying to find a home, trying to get back on their feet," Keselowski said, addressing the group on Tuesday night. "It's a cause that we're near and dear to as well, and we're glad and proud to help support them." The night's guests included foundation members, friends, NASCAR personnel and several veterans. One of the attendees was Charlotte Bridge Home's Veteran Outreach Specialist Tommy Rieman, a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient who Keselowski refers to as a "general badass." "The way (Keselowski) sets himself up above the other drivers by coming out and doing things like this, showing that he cares for veterans, he leads by example," said Rieman, whose military service was recognized by President George W. Bush during the 2007 State of the Union Address. "So every veteran appreciates him … You've just got to love a guy who puts on a NASCAR event at a fine jewelry store." Rieman met Keselowski during one of the ride-alongs that the driver often gave to military personnel in the Checkered Flag Foundation's infancy. Surrounded by spotless glass cases filled with sparkling gems, the pair engaged in a lengthy conversation on Tuesday as the night was winding down. Staying past the event's scheduled hours while working the room, Keselowski seemed to know a little about each of the foundation's members. "He's a veteran who was in the Vietnam Era," Keselowski said, pointing out the organization's founder Thomas Norman with whom he had just exchanged goodbyes. "He was (U.S. Army) Special Forces and for some reason, he got ranked up so quickly they wouldn't send him over because he was too important ... Feels like to me that there's some kind of feeling that maybe he needs to do something back. So he's done all kinds of different things. He started this (foundation) here I would say four years ago -- a lot of growth, right?" With the fame, fortune and stature that arrives with being a professional athlete, Keselowski shares a similar feeling of wanting to give back. "Sports in general is very decadent, it always has been," Keselowski said. "There's something to be said for that, as an escape. But those that live in the escape, I always feel like, maybe have a greater responsibility to do something outside of it. "I sit back and look at the Tom Brady situation from this weekend and how much noise that makes in the media landscape. Then you think of so many other significant things going on the world right now that get zero recognition. So in that sense, I feel like those of us that are fortunate enough to get that recognition -- for good or bad -- always have to spread it to other areas." This weekend, Keselowski's No. 29 Ford in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series featured Careers for Veterans on the hood in Friday night's NC Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , in which he finished fifth. For Keselowski, it's another way to raise awareness for the cause that speaks to him. "I read this really great quote -- I think it's from Kevin Spacey, the actor -- about how fortunate he was to ride the elevator up to where he is and how important it is to send the elevator back down," Keselowski said. "And I thought that was really inspiring. "I'm not curing cancer. I make a very good living doing something that's decadent. I couldn't look myself in the mirror every morning, especially as I get older, knowing that I rode the elevator to the top and didn't send it back down with something so decadent as driving a car. "I'm very fortunate to have rode the elevator up." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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