All-star event worth watching


Nearly every professional all-star sports event is schlock.

A memorable aspect of the 2007 NFL Pro Bowl game was when a sleazeball bilked many folks in Clark County -- including a youth group -- out of money they had paid in advance for travel packages to the game in Honolulu

It's an annual affair where players worry more about getting burned by the sun than the score.

NBA All-Star week lowlights? Let's start with the shootout at a Las Vegas strip club during the overly hyped visit by the sport's giants in 2007.

In baseball, the most memorable All-Star Game was in 1970 when Pete Rose bowled over catcher Ray Fosse at home plate. Rose's reckless abandon was like Kyle Busch battling Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a race lead two weeks ago. Both resulted in controversial crashes.

Rose is the only all-star from the ball and stick community who would have the right mind-set to compete in NASCAR's all-star get-together.

Rose, who should be in the Hall of Fame, must have loved it when Kyle Busch and brother Kurt crashed into each other last year when they were in position to win the million-dollar winner's share in the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race XXIII.

That's why Saturday's All-Star Race never should be called an exhibition -- it's the lone pro sports specialty event worth watching.

A $1 million payday -- actually $1,012,975 -- awaits the survivor of 24 drivers who won't be worrying about championship points or manners. It's 100 laps in 25-lap segments around the 1.5-mile oval at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., for the big bucks.

The size of the winner's share is second to that of the Daytona 500 winner.

No punches will be pulled, but perhaps a few will be thrown.

All-Star week around Charlotte gets bigger each year, starting with Thursday's pit crew challenge.

The on-track action features qualifying for pit position and starting spots today. Saturday afternoon features the Pennzoil Victory Challenge "burnout" contest.

Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson were invited to compete in similarly prepared cars provided by the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Each driver will begin from a standing start, complete a drag-racing style burnout, then execute 360-degree "doughnuts" before racing to a "finish box" in Victory Lane. Scores will be determined by time and style points awarded by unnamed judges.

A check for $10,000 will go to the best "burnout." Maybe Aaron Fike should have been invited to compete.

Fike is the dishonored former NASCAR truck series driver who was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR after he was found in possession of heroin last year. A few months ago, he admitted to having shot up with "H" before races.

NASCAR inspectors catch it when a race car is a half-inch too low or half-inch too high, but no one with NASCAR could catch a driver with nonasphalt track marks. No one even became suspicious at races when Fike would listen to the Grateful Dead during the national anthem.

The only drawback of All-Star weekend is you won't be able to watch it unless you have a satellite dish or digital upgrade with Cox Cable. Speed TV (Digital 329) has exclusive rights to the telecast. But if you are more than a casual NASCAR fan, you probably already have Speed for its bounty of original race programming.

This is the first of two special weeks for fans around Charlotte, where nearly all teams are based. Various activities continue through the May 25 Coca-Cola 600 Cup points race there.

It's a great three days of activities.

NASCAR needs to name the Charlotte-area track the permanent home for its All-Star race. With the NASCAR Hall of Fame scheduled to open in Charlotte within the next few years, there's no better place for the million-dollar race.

Adding Fike, a recovering druggie, to the "burnout" roster at least would mean the event had something in common with other sports' all-star contests.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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