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Veteran crew chief and former team owner Ray Evernham says the new format forces teams to have a fluid strategy.

“Nobody can sit here and say this is what we’re going to do. You’ve got to perform on the fly,” Evernham said.

Evernham said track position is vital.

“I would want to keep my car in the top four positions,” he said.

The field currently consists of 20 drivers, but will grow to 23 when the green flag drops Saturday at 9 p.m.

Included are race winners from last season through the May 12 race at Darlington and previous All-Star race winners from the past 10 years. Three more will be added Saturday before the race _ the top two finishers in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown as well as the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote, which is almost guaranteed to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. should he not qualify in the preliminary race.

A.J. Allmendinger captured the pole for the Sprint Showdown after running what he said was “the perfect lap” in qualifying Friday night. He’ll start on the front row alongside Martin Truex Jr.

Despite not winning a Sprint Cup race since 2008, Earnhardt remains the most popular driver in the NASCAR series and used the fan vote to advance to All-Star race last season.

He knows that any win, even a non-points All-Star race, would provide a huge boost.

“I think it would get people excited; it would get our team excited,” Earnhardt said. “It would really help build confidence. I remember when we won here in 2000 how much confidence it gave me. Winning this kind of event would do wonders for our team.”