It's All-Star time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Race winners from 2008 and 2009, past all-star champion Kevin Harvick, past series champion Bobby Labonte, the two top finishers in the Sprint Showdown preliminary race and the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote compete Saturday night in Charlotte for $1 million.

Coming into Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend, 18 drivers have qualified for the Sprint All-Star race. Of those, only one is an All-Star rookie -- Brad Keselowski, who pulled an upset win last month at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year's All-Star race was won by Kasey Kahne, who got into the race by winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Kahne is the only NASCAR driver ever to win the All-Star race after being voted in, and the momentum carried him to victory the following week in the Coca-Cola 600. Fans can participate in the Sprint Fan Vote online at www.NASCAR.com through Friday.

Kahne isn't exactly having a stellar year and a trip to victory lane might be what the doctor ordered to get his team back into contention to make the Chase.

One driver who is having a great year, however, is Mark Martin. Martin was assured of being in the All-Star race via his 2005 victory in the event. Active drivers who are event champions from the previous 10 years are invited. But Martin didn't need the past-champion clause thanks to trips to victory lane this year at Phoenix and Darlington, and he comes into the event as a favorite.
Both newly formed teams at Stewart-Haas Racing will also be represented in the All-Star race thanks to Tony Stewart's 2008 win at Talladega and Ryan Newman's victory in the 2008 Daytona 500.


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Complicated in format, but always fun to watch, this year's All-Star race will begin with an opening segment of 50 laps. Teams must make a mandatory four-tire pit stop under green after they have completed the first 25 laps of that segment. The caution flag will be thrown at the completion of the 50 laps, with a pit stop allowed if teams elect to stop.

The second segment consists of 20 laps, with an optional pit stop allowed at the completion of the segment. The third segment is also 20 laps, followed by a 10-minute break during which adjustments may be made to the car. That will set the stage for a 10-lap dash for the cash.

The action starts Thursday night at Bobcat Arena in Charlotte. Crews for drivers who have qualified for the All-Star race compete in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, broadcast at 7 p.m. on SPEED. Crews will vie for team and individual honors, as well as cash. Team finishing position will determine pit selection for Saturday's All-Star race. The No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota was last year's winning crew.

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at esiska@yorkdispatch.com.