Are you ready? This weekend marks the most recent running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race in its newest format. Come Saturday night, 20 drivers will take to the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway to go for broke in exchange for a solid paycheck and a nice projection of what their Labor Day weekend could be like when the series returns for the points-paying Coca-Cola 600.
It seems the race has lost its luster a bit in recent years; if you haven’t seen someone on social media ask why it even exists yet, just wait, because you will — unless you’re one of those folks yourself. But on tradition alone, it’s tough to imagine the season without it, especially when put up against other sports, which also toss in an All-Star event into their seasons in some way, whether smack in the middle or at the end of regulation.
With 15 drivers already locked in to the event (five will join them after Friday night by winning either one of the three segments of the Sprint Showdown, for which 25 additional drivers are entered, or through a fan vote), it’s easier than ever to sit down and take a glance at the histories in the All-Star Race of those already eligible. All 15 who have a guaranteed spot have raced in the event at least five times before, with the leader, Tony Stewart, about to start his 18th and final such race before he retires at the end of the season.
Often times when one looks at driver statistics at Charlotte, the results are missing at least one thing: All-Star Race records. And that’s fair, of course; after all, it’s its own animal, a shorter event than the two contested there during the regular season with a smaller field. With that in mind, let’s rank the 15 entrants into 2016’s All-Star Race — somewhat arbitrarily, of course; is this your first day on the Internet? That’s what we live for these days — based on some of their career stats in this event.
15. Martin Truex, Jr.: Doesn’t have the worst average finish of entered drivers, but he’s close, at a 13.6. Just one top 5 and two top 10s in five races — which doesn’t sound bad, until you remember, yeah, there’s only around 20 drivers in each of these races.
14. Brad Keselowski: The 2012 Sprint Cup champion hasn’t quite broken out in the annual exhibition show just yet. In seven starts, he has four top 10s and just one top 5.
13. Kyle Busch: Weird to see Kyle Busch this low on any ranking, right? Yeah, but let’s be frank: the 2015 champion just hasn’t clicked during the All-Star Race yet, with three top 5s and five top 10s in 10 starts. Hey, he does have three poles, though, which not only ranks him first among active drivers but also second all-time behind Bill Elliott’s five. Also has led 212 laps, second among entered drivers. Good with the bad?
12. Jamie McMurray: Would probably be a little lower — just one top 5 and three top 10s in nine starts, but that one top 5 is a win, coming in the 2014 race. That’s gotta count for something, yeah? Plus, he’s certainly gained the reputation of a driver who can drive into Victory Lane in the big events — the All-Star Race included here, even though it doesn’t really, you know, count.
11. Kasey Kahne: A check in the win column, thanks to the 2008 event. Otherwise, fairly forgettable, with an 11.3 average finish and just five top 10s in 12 starts.
10. Joey Logano: Hasn’t been terrible at this thing — four top 10s in five starts — it just feels strange to rank a driver with no wins in the race much higher than this, especially when everyone else from this point on has won at least once. He’ll change that eventually, one imagines.
9. Carl Edwards: One All-Star Race win to his credit, coming in 2011. Otherwise, he’s more along the lines of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch, with an average finish of 11.1.
8. Ryan Newman: Roared onto the All-Star scene with a win in 2003 in just his second full-time season in the Cup Series. None since, with a 10.6 average finish overall. Eh.
7. Denny Hamlin: Rises up the list considerably merely because he finally checked an All-Star Race win off his bucket list last season. Before then, he was looking at two top 5s and five top 10s in eight starts. Nothing amazing.
6. Kevin Harvick: Tied for third most starts among the 15 locked into the show, and he has nine top 10s to show for it — not bad at all. Hasn’t won it, however, since 2007.
5. Kurt Busch: He’s either really good or very much not, with a win, six top 5s and eight top 10s in 14 starts. Pulled into Victory Lane in an All-Star capacity in 2010.
4. Tony Stewart: The current All-Star Race starts leader among active drivers (the most all-time? Mark Martin, with 24), Stewart’s claim to fame aside from the three championships that basically ensure him entry is a 2009 All-Star Race win. Plus, like Kurt Busch, when he’s on, he’s on, with eight top 5s and nine top 10s in 17 races.
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: He’ll top 10 you to death, that’s for sure. Earnhardt rarely has a bad All-Star Race, with 13 top 10s in 16 starts to go along with his 2000 win and five top 5s. Yo, 2000’s been a long time, though. What gives, Junior?
2. Matt Kenseth: That’s right, someone else in the field with one All-Star win to their credit. But Kenseth can add to that the best average finish in the bunch at 6.1. Seven top 5s and 12 top 10s? Not too shabby either.
1. Jimmie Johnson: Ugh, making this list was pointless, wasn’t it? How can you beat the guy who’s won this thing four times, more than anyone in race history, let alone among active drivers? Oh, well, whatever. Enjoy the Jimmie Johnson Show on Saturday.
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