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All-Star Weekend

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We've got an outstanding weekend of NASCAR fun with the Sprint Showdown qualifying race on Friday and then the All-Star race on Saturday night where $1 million will be given away to the winner. Of all the All-Star game formats in all sports, NASCAR's version is without a doubt the best because it's all business. No points are involved, but with a massive paycheck waiting in the winners circle, it tends to make drivers give a little bit extra and let it all hang out.

There are 17 drivers eligible to participate in the 110-lap All-Star race with three other drivers having two different ways to become eligible. The winners of the two 20-lap segments in Friday's Showdown advance and another will make it by fan voting. The All-Star race is split up into four 25-lap segments followed by the final 10-lap dash for the cash where no jalopies are in the way.

With bad cars out of the equation, the favorites’ probability to win on the high-banked 1.5-mile track just went up, which means Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are going to be harder than ever to slay. The duo has combined to win the past seven races on 1.5s with Johnson taking three of four this season. Harvick won at Las Vegas and finished second in the other three.

Those two also have some great history at Charlotte with Johnson winning seven times, including last years Coca-Cola 600, and he’s also won the All-Star race four times, the last coming in 2013. Harvick has won at Charlotte three times, including last fall, and won the All-Star race in 2007. Good luck picking against them.

However, Jamie McMurray came away with the win last season and paid out at 40/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $4,000). It was his only win of 2014 and he didn‘t get credit for one officially, but he did take home a big $1 million check. Last season, McMurray hadn’t shown much on 1.5s prior to the All-Star race and the Penske Racing and Jeff Gordon were running extremely well. Johnson and Harvick were the co-favorites at 5/1.

Is there somebody like McMurray in this years race?

The most likely driver to give the No. 4 and No. 48 a run for their money this week isMartin Truex Jr. but he’s not even eligible for the All-Star race. He has to either win the Sprint Showdown qualifying race or get voted in by the fans. Dale Earnhardt Jr has already tweeted out to his bazillion followers that Truex Jr. is his vote. Truex Jr. should be expected to win the Showdown, which features all the jalopies.

Kyle Larson would be the most likely other candidate to advance and Danica Patrick will probably win the fan vote if Truex Jr. doesn't need it because of winning.

Last week at Kansas, Truex Jr. led a race-high 95-laps and fell victim to rain delays and late cautions. He absolutely dominated the race, but finished ninth after getting stuck behind Kurt Busch who had a bad final restart.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won this event as a rookie in 2000, but nothing since. You won’t be getting great odds him, maybe 10/1, but so far so good for the No. 88 on 1.5s this season where he’s finished fourth or better in all four events -- third-place three times. He’s been just a notch below Harvick and Johnson.

The funny thing about all three of Johnson’s wins is that he took over the race at the end of all three. He’s a closer is every sense and leads the series with the most wins. It’s one of his better career performances just because he wasn’t stellar in practices like he was in years past and won. His 23 wins on 1.5-mile tracks is a NASCAR record.

All-Star Race Top-Five Finish Prediction:

1) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
3) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (18/1)
4) #4 Kevin Harvick (7/2)
5) #22 Joey Logano (7/1)

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