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Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle 1-2-3 for the All-Star start | NASCAR Racing Breaking News: Trackside Live, Every Week, Every Sprint Cup Race - MikeMulhern.net


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Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle 1-2-3 for the All-Star start

   Kyle Busch: Five All-Star races, four DNFs. Will this one be charmed? He's not only one of the busiest racers in NASCAR but he's also on the pole for the start (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   Kyle Busch, the Vegas kid that Vegas oddsmakers figure to be Saturday's All-Star favorite, made the bookies look good by winning the pole Friday night for the 9 p.m. ET start.  
   Pit road -- because drivers had to make four-tire stops during the qualifying runs -- was a big factor in pole runs. The pit crew for Busch's teammate, Denny Hamlin, won Thursday's official pit crew competition, but Hamlin and his guys weren't as successful Friday.

   On the other hand, Clint Bowyer, whose tire changers won Thursday's individual competition, fared better, helping Bowyer take the outside of the front row for the start of the 150-mile sprint, which pays $1 million to win.
   And Greg Biffle, who hasn't had a good luck spring, may see his fortunes turning here. He and teammate Carl Edwards will share the second row.
   This non-points event is something of a throwaway race for drivers, who don't usually lose much if they lose, so can throw caution to the wind.
   However several drivers have been embroiled in controversies the past few weeks, most notably Kevin Harvick and Busch, and Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman.
   Harvick and Busch are on probation. But Biffle was curious if NASCAR could take points away from either Harvick or Busch for anything they might do in Saturday night's All-Star race.
   The answer: Probably so. Even though it's a non-points paying event.
   A while back NASCAR suspended Junior Johnson's entire race team for four races for a violation in the All-Star event.
   Harvick himself says he's still unsure of the rules he'll have to race under here, being on probation with Busch for their Darlington altercation: "I'm still confused whether I am on probation or not on probation…I'm just going to go race and see what happens."
   And Harvick pointed out controversy like that is good for the sport: "Check the TV ratings from last week, and check the TV ratings on every racing show for the last two weeks, and you'll see they are way up."
   Busch himself dismisses the entire flap as in the past: "My priorities are to go out on the track and race everybody as hard as I can, as clean as I can, and do my job to try to win races."
   Bumping and crashing "is a part of NASCAR racing and has been for years," Busch says. "Unfortunately there seems to be a following between Kevin and me and what's going to happen next.
    "To me he's just another competitor on the track. I race them all the same, and give them all the room they give me.
    "I don't foresee any further incidences…but that's from my side. 
     "I've forgiven and forgotten."
    Harvick, meanwhile, says he and one-time antagonistl Edwards have made some peace. Not so long ago the two were at each other's throats, literally, after a few run-ins.
   "Carl and I sat down and had a brief conversation in Daytona, talked about some things, and just tried to move on from where we were," Harvick said. "It's been fun to talk to him and see what kind of person he is.
    "Sometimes that stuff just happens, and sometimes it doesn't."
    "I thought it was a good conversation, and we decided to move forward and try to start over," Edwards said. "I thought that was a pretty good deal."


   Clint Bowyer: hot stuff this spring, and now outside of the front row for Saturday's All-Star (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Busch is one of the heavy favorites here this weekend, but he dismisses that: "I've never won a Cup race here, so I wouldn't favor myself.
    "You can be really fast here, and feel like you're going to win…and then all of the sudden you don't."
    After all last fall here Busch led the most laps but lost to Jamie McMurray.
    So Busch says he's figuring Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are two to watch. Maybe Tony Stewart, though Stewart is in a slump. And probably Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
    Of course there is more to the All-Star race than just car and driver.
   Attitude, for one.
   "You can be a lot more aggressive," Busch says. "That may be the reason I've gotten myself in trouble -- trying to push it as hard as you can. You get yourself on somebody's inside and get spun out, or spin out, or on their outside, or try to make a move and get squeezed in the wall….
    "The tires we've had here at Charlotte the past few years, it's really hard to pass. You hardly ever see somebody just drive up and pass.
    "So you try to get as much as you can on the restarts. Your first two laps after a restart, you get what you can get…from there you're pretty much going to run single-file."


  Greg Biffle: so far upstaged by teammates, but fast in All-Star qualifying (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


NASCAR's Brian France offered some words on the state of the sport Friday, and used the opportunity to promote the new downtown Hall of Fame, which hosts the official induction of its second class Monday night.
   But France pointed to some of the problems still facing this sport.
   "I can't say we've turned the kind of corners I'd like to see this sport turn," France said. "But we're hiring some of the best talent we can find to tell the NASCAR story to all these new media.
   "Have we achieved all we want? No. But a lot of other sports, and all motorsports, would like to have our problems. But our problems are our challenges, and we'll meet them head on."
   France says Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket sales are up for both the All-Star race and next week's 600.
   However Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials report ticket sales for the summer's Brickyard 400 are off.
   There have been indications that relationship between NASCAR and Indy might not be all that great, but France dismissed that: "The relationship is fine.
   "Obviously there were a couple of years where we didn't have our best day. And they've had management changes, and they're trying to figure that out.
   "There are going to be some markets, based on the economy, where we will be off in attendance. And there will be a lot of places where we'll be on in attendance. Like here. And Phoenix. Kentucky will be sold out. And Iowa will do very well, all the Midwest.
   "We know the economy isn't perfect, in Michigan and Florida and California. When our fans are going through tough times, we'll work with the tracks to get ticket pricing and other things to help that cost.
   "Dover (with off attendance Sunday) had a tremendously bad weather forecast, and it was a miracle that they got the Saturday and Sunday races off at all. There was no walk-up.
   "We are realistic that some things will take time. And there aren't many sports that aren't being affected in attendance. And high gas prices are another issue for our fans.
   "I don't think we ever had a time where we didn't think our core fan wasn't important. We have a job to do, to satisfy the core fan, and we are also trying to be appealing to new fans. And sometimes there is a different path you have to be on. But they're never very far apart.
   "We'll always keep our eye on the ball.
   "But we are attuned to how young people are taking in their favorite sports, and that's very different than it was 10 years ago, or five years ago."
   One current issue is how NASCAR is handling the Nationwide series. This season NASCAR has barred Cup drivers from getting Nationwide points, though that still hasn't changed the dynamic where Cup drivers win most of the Nationwide races.
   "You'll see us taking a slow, steady look making sure we're getting the most out of the Nationwide series…which needs to be analogous to college football, in being able to build stars who can come from Saturday to Sunday," France said.
   "This (barring points to Cup drivers0 was a big step, but not the only step. And we'll be looking at ways to enhance the young drivers and their talents, and new owners. So we don't just get this percolation of Cup drivers to where it homogenizes Saturday and Sunday."
    France says he's like the improved level of competition he's seen over the past year: "That's the steak on the plate.
   "You've seen some resurgence by the drivers who mean most to the NASCAR fan base, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is fourth in points and contending for wins and looks like he can contend for the championship."
   And France rejected Tony Stewart's complaints that drivers might not understand exactly what the rules are these days, insisting "This shouldn't be a big surprise in how to read us.
   "If there's contact, that's NASCAR racing. That's our history. Earnhardt and Elliott going through the grass…
   "Drivers know us well enough to understand.
   "But there will still be subjectivity (in NASCAR rulings).
   "Emotions are higher….great for the sport, though there are limits we believe to how far that can go, and we showed that recently.
   "The Kevin Harvick incident, where you saw us take action.
   "And you saw us take some action with Juan Pablo and Ryan Newman.
   "You can't go around with a missile out there, a weapon. But we are a contact sport…and we are putting it more in the drivers' hands. And when they go over the line, we'll deal with that."


  The boss, Brian France, speaks, and concedes the economy is still tough to deal with (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

          The starting lineup for Saturday's preliminary Showdown Sprint (top two advance)



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