Charlotte Motor Speedway alters May schedule by moving ‘Showdown’

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 28, 2014 

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

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

— Charlotte Motor Speedway announced on Tuesday it was altering the schedule of its annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star weekend, moving the Sprint Showdown – a qualifying race for the all-star main event – 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 will also be announced that Friday night.

Qualifying for the all-star race will move to Saturday, May 17, before the race, which includes a $1 million payday to the winner. The track’s annual Truck series race will continue to be held on Friday night.

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

Smith also announced country music star Jake Owen will perform a pre-race concert on Saturday.

Drivers already 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 guest stars in a new episode of ABC’s “Nashville” on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EST.

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 planned 2014 season in the NASCAR Truck Series.

A team spokesperson confirmed to the Observer on Tuesday that if sponsor Arrowhead Electronic Cigarettes is unable or unwilling to fund the Turner Scott Motorsports team this season, then the organization will have to “review” its options for the season.

Reports surfaced on Monday that the company would not be serving as Burton’s sponsor for the 2014 season. 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 season in Trucks in 2013, earning a win and finishing fifth in the series 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 members of the Furniture Row Racing team. However, the area where driver Martin Truex Jr. would normally be 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 in 2014 with his family-owned team, Young’s Motorsports.

Young, who made his Truck Series debut in 2012 and has 11 career 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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