All Star Race in the books
With no points at stake and thus no possible affect on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, the Sprint All-Star race has become known for some exciting racing with teams fighting for the one million dollar prize.
This year’s Sprint All-Star race was run in five segments. The first four were each 20 laps in length and new for this year is that the winner of each segment guarantees himself a spot in the top four when the cars come down pit road for a mandatory pit stop prior to a final 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
Kyle Busch would lead Joe Gibbs Racing efforts tonight with a fourth-place finish, while Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag in 20th. Joey Logano, who did not automatically qualify for the All-Star Race, competed in the Sprint Showdown earlier in the evening, but his sixth-place finish was not good enough to earn him a spot in the premiere event tonight.
For the second consecutive year Busch qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on the pole and through the early portion of the opening segment he appeared ready to claim victory following the first 20 laps of the night. Unfortunately the 48 car proved to just have enough to take the lead and Busch would have to settle for second after one segment. Various pit strategies would shuffle the field after each segment and Busch would battle a mostly loose handling race car throughout the night. The team made changes after each of the first three segments and a caution in the middle of the fourth, allowed a final opportunity to work on the car. When Busch came down pit road for the mandatory pit stop the team made the decision, as did many others, to simply make a stop and go stop with no adjustments or tire changes. He would restart the No. 18 Camry ninth with 10 to go and impressively drove his way forward but without another caution to help bunch the field again late, Busch would have to settle for a fourth-place effort.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in third and was also strong through the first segment of the night as he raced inside the top five. Crew chief Darian Grubb would elect to not come down pit road following the first 20-lap segment and the move paid off when Hamlin was able to restart in the top spot. He appeared set to capture victory in the night’s second segment, but unfortunately Matt Kenseth was able to get around the No. 11 Camry late and hold on to win it and earn late-race track position that came with it. Hamlin would also battle a mostly loose handling race car and although the team made adjustments the quick stops and short segments made it difficult to find the right balance. Hamlin had to restart 13th with 10 laps to go and was able to keep the car clean and work towards next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. He would officially finish 20th.
Logano would start his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota 13th for the Showdown race which took place earlier in the evening. The top two finishers of the race were able to transfer into the Sprint All-Star race. Unfortunately, Logano would find his No. 20 Camry was tight in the center of the turns and was not able to move into a top spot during the 40-lap race, which was run in two 20-lap segments. He managed to finish sixth.
Jimmie Johnson captured the victory, while Brad Keselowski finished second, Matt Kenseth third, Busch fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series remains at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27. The race will begin at 6 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 5:30 PM. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 90.