*Editor’s Note: On Saturday night, NASCAR’s Sprint Fan Vote concluded with a record 2.4 million votes cast. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the runaway winner, competing in NASCAR’s main event for the 11th straight year due to the generous assist from his fan base.*
One driver hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race in eight years. The other? He’s finished just eight Cup races _his entire career._ But with the right fan support, along with the generosity of NASCAR’s title sponsor both could be on equal footing with the big guns come stock car racing’s biggest exhibition: the 26th edition of the All-Star Race Saturday night.
Bobby Labonte, the 2000 series champ and second-year driver Landon Cassill are just two of the long list of drivers eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote. One of the sponsor’s most popular ideas, it leaves the last spot open for the main event a popularity contest; whomever fans choose, _American Idol_-style from a list of drivers not already qualified gets to slug it out for a cool $1 million plus at Charlotte Motor Speedway, host of NASCAR’s mid-May festival for all but one year since its inception in 1985. The driver who accumulates the most votes and finishes the Sprint Showdown qualifying race (think of it like a “B” main) with a car in raceable condition will earn a promotion into Sprint’s All-Star main event.
“The Sprint Fan Vote,” explains Tim Considine succinctly, Director of Sports Marketing for the company, “Provides fans with the unique opportunity to help set the starting field for one of the most exciting races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.”
How can they do it? The best way is through one of the phone company’s newest innovations, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile application. Accessed by 2.5 million unique users in 2010, the easy-to-use cell phone product gives fans instant access to anything from real-time race leaderboards to in-car audio for all NASCAR Cup Series drivers and officials. Breaking news and insights from your favorite experts come standard, anyone from NASCAR.com folk to Miss Sprint Cup’s behind-the-scenes coverage straight from the track! Most importantly, for fans on the go live coverage of certain practices, races, and SPEED programs are offered, including the All-Star Race in its entirety Saturday night.
But the best part of the Mobile app comes in how you can customize it towards your favorite driver. Real-time race alerts keep you up-to-date in a way the television cameras can’t, a full-time assistant for your one within the field of 43 while Twitter updates and personalized articles keep you connected once the checkered flies. Free with any Sprint phone, existing customers can simply text NASCAR to 7777 (standard rates apply) or visit Sprint.com/speed to become a part of the action.
The numbers so far in the voting underscore how quickly Sprint’s new innovation has gained a strong market share within the fan base. Of the more than 1.9 million votes that have been cast since the contest opened for business March 23rd – a new record – connecting through cell phones, not laptops have proven to be the method of choice for NASCAR Nation. In fact, those mobile numbers are up a whopping 350% year-to-year, the first of several records that signifies a long-term shift is underway in the way we communicate.
“This year, for the first time since the Sprint Fan Vote was introduced, more votes have been cast using Sprint handsets than through the online portal,” adds Considine. “It’s a strong indication of how we’ve been able to use our technological innovation at Sprint to connect with millions of avid race fans.”
Some might say this year’s vote is a coronation of sorts, Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a heavy favorite to make it through after losing automatic eligibility for the big race this year. But that’s merely motivated fans of others to pull the upset, with Labonte’s veteran supporters headlining a top-5 voting list that includes A.J. Allmendinger, Earnhardt, Joey Logano, and “comeback kid” Brian Vickers who, just one year ago was sitting in a hospital bed with his career in doubt.
Saturday, he’ll have a chance at Victory Lane if he can convince enough people to dial in his name. Believe me, Vickers is working overtime along with dozens of others who are no stranger to special strategies to make the field. In the past, Allmendinger has even resorted to delivering pizzas at Talladega for votes and having his wife promise he’ll “bring sexy back” – all at a chance at etching his name on top of a trophy made for fans.
Don’t think these drivers can do damage in the big race? 100 laps is plenty of time to work your way up from the rear of the field, especially when split into four segments of 50, 20, 20, and 10 laps apiece with one ten-minute break included within for major adjustments. Already, this innovation has produced a race winner, *Kasey Kahne* completing the worst-to-first honor in 2008 and wasting no time in thanking the people that got him there.
“The fans put us in the All-Star Race and hopefully we made them happy,” he said after exiting his vehicle that night. “Twenty-fourth to 1st, that’s the best that we can do.”
So now it’s time to be like Kahne and give maximum effort. Don’t sit on the sidelines while reading this article; if you’re not voting, are you doing the best for _your_ favorite? Without a Sprint phone, there’s still ways to get involved last minute by visiting NASCAR.com or checking out the Sprint Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the race. And if you’re lucky, when the curtain opens on Saturday night’s All-Star starter you’ll find yourself with the ultimate reward: watching your driver duke it out, no-holds-barred with champs like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon but without the pressure of points or major penalties on the line.
“1 thing no other sports can compete with NASCAR on,” Tweeted driver Regan Smith, no longer Fan Vote-eligible after his Darlington victory launched him into the big race already, “Is the intensity of our All-Star event.”
With the sheer numbers of fans voting for their favorite, picking up their Sprint phone and dialing in to do their part it’s hard to disagree.
*Note: To be eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote, drivers must be approved by NASCAR for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition and have met all other eligibility requirements. Those requirements include finishing in the Top 50 of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship point standings; competing in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Event during the 2010 season; or attempting to qualify for the 2011 Daytona 500.*
*Eligible Fan Vote Drivers Expected To Compete:*
A.J. Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Todd Bodine, Jeff Burton, Landon Cassill, Derrike Cope, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Brad Keselowski, Brian Keselowski, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Andy Lally, Joey Logano, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, David Ragan, Tony Raines, David Stremme, Martin Truex, Jr., Brian Vickers and J.J. Yeley.
*Past Sprint Fan Vote Winners:*
*2004* – Ken Schrader
*2005* – Martin Truex, Jr.
*2006* – Kyle Petty
*2007* – Kenny Wallace
*2008* – Kasey Kahne (won main event)
*2009* – Joey Logano
*2010* – Carl Edwards
“Sprint Customers: Download Sprint Mobile And Cast Your Fan Vote!”:http://sports.sprint.com/speed/?ECID=vanity:speed
“Another Way To Cast A NASCAR Fan Vote”:http://www.nascar.com/promos/allstar/2011/
_This article is a sponsored advertisement. All rights reserved._
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