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This week in motor sports

Gearing Up

May 16, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

What's happening in motor sports heading into this weekend:

1. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series holds its annual All-Star Race Saturday night that pays $1 million to the winner.

The race is broken into four segments of 25 laps each at the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., where the series holds the Coca-Cola 600 a week later.

The field includes winning drivers over the last 12 months, former All-Star winners, series champions of the last decade who are still active and one driver voted in by fans.

It also includes the drivers who finish first and second in a qualifying race earlier Saturday called the All-Star Showdown.

This year's entry list includes 2007 All-Star winner Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon (who will be going for a record fourth All-Star victory), Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle's older brother Kurt Busch.

Kurt noted that the race doesn't pay points, so drivers don't have to be conservative in fear of not finishing.

"When the green flag waves for the final 25 laps, you can fully expect to see all hell break loose," he said.

2. Kyle Busch, of course, is the series' hottest driver, with three wins in the 11 points races so far this season -- including last week at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Darlington also was the 125th career Cup start for Kyle Busch, who drives the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

But the Busch brothers' sibling rivalry surfaced again this week when Kurt's publicists noted that by the time Kurt had run his 125th Cup race, he already had accumulated nine career wins while Kyle has only seven so far. Kurt, driver of the No. 2 Dodge for Penske Racing, also won the 2004 series title.

Kyle, though, has more top-five finishes than Kurt through 125 races (37 to 25) and more top-10 finishes (59 to 45).

At last year's All-Star Race, the brothers crashed into each other in the final segment, knocking both out of contention.

3. Speaking of Kyles, veteran driver Kyle Petty will again take a summer break from the Cup series. Two-time series champion Terry Labonte and Chad McCumbee will take turns driving his No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge.

Petty, 47, will miss the June 1 race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway to attend his daughter's wedding, then miss the next six races to reprise his 2007 stint as a NASCAR television analyst.

McCumbee will drive in two races, at Dover and at Chicagoland Speedway July 12, with Labonte driving in the other five races. Petty will return for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

4. Drag racing legend John Force, who recently scored his 1,000th career elimination-round win, is the defending funny car winner at this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn.

His daughter Ashley remains second in funny car points after she became the first woman to win a funny car event last month by defeating her father in his 500th career start.

Reigning champion Tony Schumacher is the point leader in the Powerade Series' top-fuel class again this year, and Brandon Bernstein is the defending top-fuel winner at Bristol.

5. In local racing Saturday night, late-model stock cars head the program at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, which also will have a big-screen TV for viewing the Cup series' All-Star Race. Late models also are featured at Perris Auto Speedway while Ventura Raceway hosts a USAC Western Midgets race.

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THE RACES

*--* NASCAR SPRINT CUP Nextel All-Star Challenge *--*

When: Sprint Showdown schedule: Today, qualifying (Speed, 2 p.m.); Saturday, race (Speed, 4:30 p.m.); All-Star Challenge schedule: Today, qualifying (Speed, 3:15 p.m.); Saturday, race (Speed, 6 p.m.).

Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway (quad-oval, 1.5 miles, 24 degrees banking in turns), Concord, N.C.

Race distance: Sprint Showdown, 60 miles, 40 laps; All-Star, 150 miles, 100 laps.

*--* NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS N. Carolina Education Lottery 200 *--*

When: Today, qualifying (Speed, 12:30 p.m.); race (Speed, 5 p.m.).

Where: Concord, N.C.

Race distance: 201 miles, 134 laps.

*--* NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSN. Thunder Valley Nationals *--*

When: Today, qualifying, 1 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m., tape); Sunday, eliminations, noon (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m., tape).

Where: Bristol, Tenn.

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All times Pacific

Associated Press

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

Dale Jarrett, former NASCAR champion, on coming out of retirement one last time to compete in the series' All-Star race:

'This race is for the fans and it's a great way for me to say thank you to them.'

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STAT OF THE WEEK

Mark Martin, above, will tie Rusty Wallace for the most consecutive appearances, 19, in NASCAR's All-Star Race on Saturday. Martin also was the race's oldest winner, at 46, when he won in 2005.

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Want to be part of Peltz's motor sports Q&A? E-mail him a question at james.peltz@latimes.com.

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