No Sprint Cup points will be on the line tonight when Tony Stewart and his NASCAR competitors take the track for the annual All-Star Race in Charlotte, N.C.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t be big for the Columbus native and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. A $1 million payday is on the line for the winner.
“It’s an event for the fans, and that’s something that’s very important to us; but there’s a lot of bragging rights, too,” Stewart said in a news release. “Charlotte is an area where 95 percent of the Cup teams are based. So when you go there, you want to run well.
“You’re able to have guys come from the shop that don’t get a chance to travel,” he said. “They don’t get a chance to come to the racetrack very often and see the fruits of their labor. So for them to come to the All-Star Race and see their cars run, especially when you have a good night, it really pumps up your organization. You do it for your fans, but at the same time, you do it for your organization and your team. That’s why the All-Star Race is important.”
The $1 million for the winner doesn’t hurt the competitive level. Stewart, who will be competing in his 16th All-Star Race in his 16th Sprint Cup season, won the event in 2009, his first triumph as a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Well, the greatest thing about it is, if you win the thing from a car owner’s standpoint, which I know very well now, it’s a great way to pay bills,” Stewart said. “It helps that out quite a bit. This weekend’s a fun event. It’s not a typical Cup race, by any means.
“The format is strictly set up for an exciting finish for the fans,” he said. “It’s cool. ... And to be able to celebrate with guys who never get to go to the track, if you can win a race at Charlotte, it’s big. This weekend, we’re racing for $1 million. That’s definitely nothing to pass off lightly.”
Stewart has struggled this season. His best finish is fourth — two months ago at Bristol (Tennessee) Motor Speedway. He won the pole in Texas last month, placing 10th in that race.
Stewart’s last win was June 2 at Dover (Delaware) International Speedway. He was injured in an Aug. 5 dirt-track race in Iowa and missed the final four months of the season.