Over the years, the preliminary event to NASCAR’s All-Star race often has been little more than one last chance for also-rans to make the big show. But this year’s Sprint Showdown on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway is loaded with talent. The 30-driver field includes four drivers in the top 12 in Sprint Cup points, including Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, and plenty more of NASCAR’ top drivers and teams. Among those in what is being called the strongest Showdown field ever are Bill Elliott and the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford team. Elliott is a former All-Star winner, from 1986, and the Woods won the race in 1996 with Michael Waltrip driving their car.
Some might look at the Showdown, with its two 20-lap segments, as a good test session for the more lucrative Coca-Cola 600 the next week. But not David Hyder, the crew chief on the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane car. He’s known in the garage as an “all in” kind of racer, one who brings his best effort to the track every week and isn’t satisfied unless his cars are racing for the win. “I’m very serious about what we’re doing here,” he said. “I’ve hand-picked the people on this team, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done. “And we’re constantly changing these cars. If we can find anything better, we’ll do it.” Hyder said the key on Saturday night will be to give Elliott a car that runs its best on new tires due to the race’s short format. “Hopefully we’ll have it so it will take off tight enough that Bill can drive it but not too loose on the new tires,” he said, adding that the Showdown is the kind of race that requires more aggressive driving than a regular Cup race. “They’ll have to drive with both feet,” he said.
Hyder is encouraged because he’s bringing back the same Fusion that Elliott drove at Texas Motor Speedway last month. In that race Elliott turned some of his best lap times of the weekend on a short run in the closing laps. The non-points, comparatively short Showdown will allow Hyder and crew to take some chances they might not try in a regular race. And that’s important since there are no more test sessions at Sprint Cup tracks scheduled this season. “I am trying some different things since this is somewhat of a freebie,” he said. “We’ll put some things on the edge and hope they don’t break.”
You can still vote for Bill Elliott to be the Fan Vote Winner for the Showdown by visiting www.woodbrothersracing.com and click on the Vote for Bill icon. Coverage for The Sprint Showdown and All-Star race begins on Saturday night, May 22 at 7:00pm on SPEED