RACE STRATEGY – Veteran NASCAR crew chief and former team owner Ray Evernham has a prolific history at Charlotte Motor Speedway, complete with three NASCAR Sprint All-Star race wins and four Coca-Cola 600 wins.

So when Evernham talks race strategy, today’s crew chiefs might want to listen in. Since none of them were present during Evernham’s informal visit to the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center Friday, we took notes for them.

“We used to try and keep our cars as light as we could, keep the fuel level low and things like that,” Evernham said. “You keep the air pressure pumped up, keep tape on… to run 10 qualifying laps in a row.”

Evernham spoke quite a bit about the importance of the final 10-lap segment, but he said the overall format changes should tweak the excitement in the All-Star Race.

“I think the format forces you to use some strategy.” said Evernham, “Nobody can sit here and say this is what we are going to do. You have got to perform on the fly.”

But Evernham said the most important thing Saturday might be as simple as track position.

“If I were coming here now, I would want to keep my car in the top four positions,” Evernham said. “Whether or not you would have to take two tires or four tires… that was always the key. Sometimes you can win it on two, sometimes on four. Of course, you could never make that decision until you see how the night went and who you had to race for it.”

EDIBLE ART – The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage looked like the set of Iron Chef for a while Friday afternoon while chef Joe Poon carved up watermelons, creating likenesses of onlookers, photos and nearby NASCAR officials.

The watermelon carving came courtesy of the partnership between driver of the No. 08, Ross Chastain, who is sponsored by the Florida Watermelon Association. Chastain will compete in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

TOPS IN THE PITS – Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 pit crew earned its driver an advantage by winning Thursday night’s Sprint Pit Crew Challenge. Johnson’s crew edged Denny  Hamlin’s team, allowing Johnson first pick of pit stall location for Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“They’re still on cloud 9,” Johnson said Friday in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center. “Winning last night puts us in a good position, and hopefully (Saturday) night we’ll have a good night on track to help us take advantage of that.”