Sprint Showdown Lowdown

Jeff Burton

Jeff Burton has appeared eight times in the Sprint Showdown and won the 2003 edition of the race. (Photo: Getty Images)

A field of 23 drivers will try to race their way into the main event in Saturday night’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Sprint All-Star Race preliminary will transfer two drivers after the two 20-lap segments to the feature race and a chance to win $2 million. The top two finishers in the Showdown will be added to the 19 drivers already eligible for the five segment main event.

Veteran Jeff Burton, who has appeared eight times in the Sprint Showdown and won the 2003 edition of the race, shared his view of how to approach Saturday night’s event and the its impact on his team.

"I think it is always big-picture racing,” said Burton. “Obviously, we want to win the Sprint Showdown, qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race and win it too, but every practice session and qualifying run we make that weekend gives us the opportunity to learn more about our 1.5-mile program. We must go in with the mindset that we want to win the race and qualify for the big show.

“If we do win the race and transfer over, it helps you out for the following week as well. Where else do we get to race the week before in a non-points paying event other than Daytona International Speedway? It doesn't happen very often and gives us a great opportunity to learn something."

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray has enjoyed a solid opening to the 2013 season that he hopes will carry over into the annual exhibition race weekend. He also believes the Showdown will serve a dual purpose as a testing ground for next week’s Coca-Cola 600 when the regular season picks up again.

“The Sprint Showdown will hopefully serve as a bit of a test for our team to get ready for the 600 the following week,” said McMurray. “That’s not to say we aren’t going to race hard and try to make the transfer to the ‘main event’. These races are always a lot of fun for the fans, because if you make it to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race with a winner-takes-all format, there will be some excitement.”

McMurray’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who scored a top 10 finish last weekend at Darlington, believes his team has an opportunity to make some noise early Saturday night before moving on to contend for the big prize.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve competed in the All-Star race so I’m hopeful we can race our way in during the Showdown,” said Montoya. “We tested at Charlotte earlier this year and our Target Chevy was really good so I think we have a legitimate shot of getting into the All-Star race and winning some money.

“These races are always fun. Less pressure and it gives you some additional track time to get ready for the big race the following weekend.”

In addition to the first pair of finishers, another driver will be put into the All-Star lineup through the Sprint Fan Vote. Although she certainly hopes to earn her spot behind the wheel, Danica Patrick – who has been among the top five vote getters – would rather transfer through a good on track performance.

“I don’t know. I think about it from a fan’s perspective and I think you want the driver you cheer for to be out there, of course, but you want a good race,” said Patrick. “Hopefully, they think of me when they think of those two. We always have the opportunity to race in, as well.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last month on our mile-and-a-half car and we need to. Let’s hope it all comes together by the All-Star Race.”

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