Tony Stewart became the second owner/driver to win the All-Star Race when he was the first driver to take the checkered flag on Saturday night. Stewart passed Matt Kenseth with two laps to go and held on to take the win in the 25th running of NASCAR’s all-star race. Kenseth took the lead from Kyle Busch with six laps to go after Jeff Gordon lost the lead and then crashed out of the race two laps into the final segment.
Jimmie Johnson started the race on the pole and led all 50 of the laps of the first segment. Busch took the lead on the pitstops after the first segment and lead the next 20 lap segment and the first 10 laps of the following segment before he was overtaken by Gordon who led the final 10 laps of the third segment.
In his post race press conference, Stewart noted that crew chief Darian Grubb made a handful of changes to the car on the last pitstop and the car came to life. He felt it was the best it had been all night. Kenseth blocked the bottom of the track the lap before Stewart took the lead and on the next lap he washed up to the middle of the track and it afforded Stewart the bottom of the track. Stewart put the car on the bottom, it stuck and he was able to get back to the gas early and drive by. Stewart’s biggest thrill with this victory is being able to take so many of his crew members to victory lane for the very first time.
Grubb said that there wasn’t a corner of the car that wasn’t touched on the car during the final pitstop. They adjusted wedge, track bar, shock clicks, packers, tire pressure and staggers. He thinks the car that they have at the race shop is better than this car. They may bring this one as a backup but the other car seems to be better.
Stewart felt that the 10-minute break between the last segments was a key to the excitement that was scene in the last 10 laps. The crew chiefs were allowed to make the changes necessary to make the cars competitive without the pressure of strategy calls going into the last segment. Three-wide for the lead was about as exciting as it can be.
Geoff Bodine was the first owner/driver to win the All-Star Race. He accomplished that feat in 1994.
Kenseth finished second. His team tightened up his car on the last pit stop because it was good on long runs but not that good on short runs. He was also not very strong on restarts and that hurt him when there were several restarts during the final 10-lap segment. He had contact with Busch on a restart early in the last segment and that body damage ultimately cost him during the last couple of laps because his car just got too tight. The end result was Stewart got by him with two laps to go and he came home in second place.
Kurt Busch was third in the race. He feels like his car was solid all night but tended to take three laps to come in and that was not conducive to winning the race because the last segment is only 10 laps and it had multiple restarts.
Joey Logano was the fan vote winner. He was tight early in the race and had his team loosen him up on the first stop. It turned out to be too much and they spent the rest of the night trying to tighten it back up. They finally got it tightened back up for the last 20 lap run and it handled much better but his track position was gone and he couldn’t get to the front before it was done. He said he had the most fun in this race that he’d had in a Cup race all year.