More drivers will be around for the end of this year's NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, the sport's all-star event scheduled for May 22 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, under format changes announced Tuesday.
Gone is the "Survival of the Fastest" format used last year, when the event was still called The Winston, in which drivers finishing at the back of the pack were eliminated after the first two segments of the three-segment event.
"It's an all-star event and all the stars should participate," Lowe's Motor Speedway president H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler said. "That's what the fans come to see."
The race will continue to be run in segments of 40, 30 and 20 laps, with the winner after the final segment collecting a first-place prize of approximately $1 million.
This year, however, an inversion of the field will be moved from between the first and second segments to the end of the first segment, with a number between six and 12 to be drawn at random to determine how deep the inversion goes after segment 1.
Another change is that all former winners of the all-star event who are still active will be eligible for this year's event. Previously, only winners from the past five years were eligible.
That adds Mark Martin, the 1998 winner, and Geoffrey Bodine, the 1994 champion, to the list of race winners from 2003 and 2004 who're eligible to compete. Under the rules as announced Tuesday, there are now 23 drivers eligible.