All-Star quandary – Lag back to get tires or charge?

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — The race in the middle of the 20-car field in tonight’s Sprint All-Star Race could prove fascinating and show what teams think is the best strategy to win $1 million.

With either nine, 10 or 11 drivers required to pit for tires before the  final 13-lap segment, teams are left to ponder if they’d rather have old tires and track position or four fresh tires and start deep in the field.

“I could be totally wrong … but I think everybody is going to race for 12th in the second segment, and I think that’s going to be very interesting,’’ Matt Kenseth said.

Should 11 teams be forced to pit, the car in 12th will then be the leader. All teams that pit will start behind those that do not.

“It’s hard to me to wrap my arms about racing for 12th,’’ Kevin Harvick said.

NASCAR stated in the drivers meeting that the 100 percent rule is in effect. Rule 7.5.a states: “NASCAR requires its Competitor(s) to race at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in the Event.”

What adds intrigue to tonight’s race is what will the tire do. With rain canceling Friday’s track activity, drivers have only the laps they ran Saturday morning to asses the new tire.

Although Kyle Larson won the final 10-lap segment in the Sprint Showdown after changing only two tires before that run, Chase Elliott chased him down from sixth with four fresh tires and nearly won the race.

Larson, along with Elliott and Danica Patrick, who both got in via the fan vote, ran all 50 laps in the Sprint Showdown. Those three have run the most laps on these tires than any other competitor.

Kyle Busch ran the most laps in Saturday morning’s All-Star practice at 30 laps. The only other drivers who ran more than 20 laps in the morning practice were Jimmie Johnson (27 laps), Kevin Harvick (23) and Brad Keselowski (21)

“Looks like tires mean something, which is good, I guess,’’ Busch said. “Being out there and running with new tires, the car has got a lot of grip and drives really good and it kind of falls off. It really falls off about lap 15 or so, really starts to take a hit.

“Those guys that are going to be on 15-plus tires after the end of the second segment versus the guys that are going to have the opportunity to take four for the final segment, it’s going to be a hell of a race. I think we’re going to see a lot of comers and goers in that segment, which is what this package and this program is intended to show.’’