Charlotte Motor Speedway alters May schedule, moves Showdown, All-Star qualifying

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 28, 2014 


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie driver Austin Dillon will appear on Wednesday’s episode of ABC’s “Nashville,” at 10 p.m.

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— Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Tuesday it will alter the schedule of its annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star weekend, moving the Sprint Showdown to Friday night, May 16.

The top two finishers in the Showdown qualify for the All-Star race. Fans also get to vote one driver into the race, the results of which also will be announced that Friday night.

Qualifying for the all-star race will move to Saturday, May 17. The Sprint All-Star Race has a $1 million payday to the winner. The track’s annual Truck series race will stay on Friday night.

“These changes mean fans get even more bang for their buck,” Marcus Smith, CMS’ president and general manager, said during Tuesday’s stop on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

Smith also announced country music singer Jake Owen will perform a prerace concert May 17.

Drivers eligible for the all-star race: Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch.

Dillon does TV: NASCAR driver Austin Dillon will guest star in an episode of ABC’s “Nashville” at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

On the show, country superstar Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) surprises music legend Rayna James (Connie Britton) by showcasing James’ brand on a Cup series car at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I feel most comfortable in a race car, but it’s cool to have experiences like this where you can be on the set of a popular television show and meet new people,” Dillon said. “The director kept telling me to slow down because I was reading my lines too quickly. I guess I do everything fast.”

Sponsor trouble for Burton: Last-minute sponsorship problems could derail Jeb Burton’s season in the NASCAR Truck Series.

A team spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that if the sponsor is unable or unwilling to fund the Turner Scott Motorsports team, then the organization will have to “review” its options.

Reports surfaced Monday that the company would not be Burton’s sponsor for 2014. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service raided Cherokee Tobacco LLC, the parent company of Arrowhead Electronic Cigarettes, seizing business records.

Burton, the son of former NASCAR driver Ward Burton, had a successful rookie Truck season in 2013, earning a win and finishing fifth in the standings.

The team spokesperson said the organization hoped to have an update on the situation soon.

Where is Martin Truex Jr.? Part of Tuesday’s Media Tour included a visit with the Furniture Row Racing team. However, the area where Martin Truex Jr. normally would have been seated was filled with a cardboard cutout of the driver.

Where was Truex? On vacation in Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean. Truex joined the conversation via Skype – likely a Media Tour first.

“Look behind me, it’s not snowing,” he said. “I’m pretty happy.”

Truck Series addition: Tyler Young will compete full time in the Truck Series with his family-owned team, Young’s Motorsports.

Young, who made his series debut in 2012 and has 11 starts, competed in Hobby Stocks, Sports Modifieds and Modifieds in his native Texas before moving to North Carolina in 2008 to pursue a NASCAR career.

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