Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson’s crew threw down a money stop before the final segment, gaining him multiple spots and providing him the track position needed to try and win the race.
In a Nutshell – Kurt and Kyle Busch led the four segments that don’t pay the big money while Jimmie Johnson led the last one. The new rule about average finish position determining the order of entry for the final pit stop made things very exciting as competitors actually raced the entire event.
Dramatic Moment – On the restart for the final segment, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne ran roughly two laps side-by-side, battling hard for the clean air that would determine the finish of the race. Once Johnson took the lead, though it was over.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
Jimmie Johnson has won the All-Star race four times. That is more than anyone. He broke a tie with his car owner Jeff Gordon along with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. While his history is still being written, and it is hard to judge where he’ll finally wrap it up, there is no doubt that Johnson deserves to be in the conversation about the greatest of all-time. In a related note, there were quite a few boos coming from the stands when Johnson was celebrating on-track after the checkers. Rest assured he’s not the first or last uber successful driver to receive that treatment.
Racing on 1.5-mile tracks is not the most exciting of NASCAR events. While the folks at Charlotte try hard to add intrigue, the bottom line is fast cars on a cool track with tires that don’t fall off is not a recipe for excitement.
For those people in attendance at the race, for the second time in three or four years, a pre-race stunt went awry. The stunt driver was supposed to land on some old junk cars but landed on the pavement instead. Might be time to either hire new stunt drivers or buy more cars to land on. Never heard during the race or post-race how the driver was doing.
Danica Patrick won the Sprint Fan Vote. Be careful what you ask for… you just might get it. Fan votes have nothing to do with talent or justification. They are all about popularity. With Dale Earnhardt, Jr. having qualified for the race already, there was no doubt that Danica would win the vote. The rules were even changed to eliminate a driver having to be on the lead lap, at the end of the Sprint Showdown just in case. How did Danica do in the big race? She was the last car among those still running, although at least she stayed on the lead lap all night.
Bruton Smith offered an extra million dollars to the winner if they led all five segments. Is there a more sure bet than that one? No way someone is going to lead all five with the current car on this track.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Kurt Busch and upstart Furniture Row Racing had probably the best car on the track all night before a botched final pit stop. Busch fell back to fifth, a disappointing conclusion although he showed everyone the No. 78 car will be a threat during the 600.
Kyle Busch, once again, led a bunch of laps, probably had the best car on track during the middle of the event, but came up short when the checkered flag flew. Busch endured another week where he was a contender for a large portion of the race only to come up short (third).
2013 Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski made a whole lap and half in the All-Star Race before his rear end let him down. There is always testing involved at this event. Pretty sure the test on the No. 2 got a big unhappy face.
Mark Martin was running around the likes of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and it ended up biting him in the butt. Stenhouse bounced it off of the wall coming onto the front straight and bounced into Martin, sending the veteran spinning through the infield. While Martin soldiered on, initially he ended up out of the race after 87 laps completed.
Clint Bowyer was mixing it up at the front of the field and looked like he might be a car to deal with in the end. Unfortunately, he got shuffled out of the mix at the beginning of the third segment and was never heard from after that.
Greg Biffle was in the conversation early during the night. Some pit strategy mired him back in the field a little bit and he ended up bouncing his car hard off of the wall. His team put in a yeoman-like performance to keep him in the running, but the damage left him a mediocre 15th.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson was behind Brad Keselowski and a couple of other cars when the 2012 champ had his issues on lap 2. While it cost Johnson a couple of spots, he was still in the running and slowly made his way through the field. Clawing his way forward, slowly but surely earned him the fourth position coming onto pit lane for the final pit stop. His team ripped off an 11.8-second performance and got him out second, making the difference in what became a record-setting victory.
Jamie McMurray finished a very quiet eighth place on Saturday night after dominating the Sprint Showdown, leading all 40 laps to earn a spot in the field. As often happens with the Showdown winner, McMurray worked his way through traffic to eventually score a top-10 result when the race was said and done.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and McMurray advanced from the Showdown to the All-Star race. Fortunately for both of them there were no cautions other than the midway flag, so they only had to endure one restart. Had they had to do more, they might have ended up in far different positions in that race.
Charlotte Motor Speedway gets a big break with the weather on Saturday night. While rain did result in a 42-minute red flag, they did get the entire event in.
The folks at NASCAR don’t give crowd estimates but, from pit road, it looked like the stands had about 100,000 people in them. As All-Star races go, that is above average. A shame we can’t figure out a way to put a little more suspense into the event.
The Busch brothers both led the race two times. They both led for 29 laps. Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne each led the race for 11 circuits. Bowyer led once, Kahne led twice. Johnson only led the race once, for 10 laps, the final ten. With a second straight ASR victory, he is on the verge of making Charlotte his own personal playground again, like it was before the track was repaved.
For all of the talk of no-holds-barred racing that they like to promote for the All-Star race, there were seven cautions on Saturday. One for rain, four for competition breaks, one for debris and one for an on-track incident with Stenhouse bouncing Martin into the infield. There are a lot of memories used in marketing this race. Unfortunately for the fans, there haven’t been too many memories created in the last few years to update those clips.
During the pre-race drivel around the racetrack, the Charlotte Motor Speedway TV group was asking fans questions about the event. One of them claimed the winner of the race won $1,000,000 while the rest of the field got nothing. It was incorrectly acknowledged to be true although, it would make the race a little more interesting if only one driver took home all of the money. It would also be interesting if the drivers had to put up their own money for the purse; they’re radical ideas for an event that may need radical changes.
Top 10 Finishers By Manufacturer
Chevrolet – 5
Ford – 2
Toyota – 3
What’s the Points?
It’s the All-Star race. We don’t care about points. Jimmie Johnson is your point leader and he won the All-Star Race. Expect to see and hear more of this tune before the year is over.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Surprisingly, the average finish rule actually led to some heated racing during the first four segments. In the end, the car that took the lead on the final restart couldn’t be touched and that results in a disappointing end to a good race. We’ll give this one three sweating cans of Busch Light.
Next Up – The long race into night. The Coca-Cola 600 tests man, machine, and fan as the racers turn 400 laps from daylight into darkness on the Sunday before Memorial Day. The race will hit the airwaves at 6:00 PM on Sunday, May 26th as well as PRN radio.
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