Bold moves were the name of the came in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown, and fans were given what’s perhaps a glimpse into the future of NASCAR as young guns took center stage for much of the day. After a slight delay due to persistent moisture on the track, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney battled for most of the first segment, until a spin by Michael McDowell brought the field back together for a shootout to the end. The restart decided the outcome when Ryan Blaney was penalized for jumping out on leader Chase Elliott. Bayne took things three-wide and drove between Elliott and Blaney, beating Elliott to the line by just .005 seconds to secure his spot in the Sprint All-Star Race later tonight.
“That was pretty cool,” Bayne said afterward. “That takes me back to Texas in 2011 in the XFINITY race when I restarted fourth and pushed Carl out before winning the race. I was thinking about what I could do and I timed the restart really good and got right to the 21’s bumper at the line and was able to get three-wide off of turn two. The car was pretty good there. In clean air I was alright. I was a little concerned with dirty air, but I got a run and went through the middle. It was a little sketchy squeezing through that hole, but it worked.”
Bayne’s teammate Greg Biffle took command with a two-tire pit stop and a daring move of his own early in Segment 2 and from there, cruised to the win to become the second Roush Fenway Racing driver to transfer to the All-Star event, extending the team’s streak of appearances in the race that stretches back to 1990.
“Brian Pattie is a very, very smart veteran crew chief in this sport and it was his call,” Biffle said of the pit stop that gave him the track position he needed. “I was skeptical of it, trust me, but I tell you what, what really made the difference was we made a chassis adjustment, two left side tires, the car was really fast the last single lap that we made under green and I was able to pass four cars in one lap. Then we came down and the guys ripped off a great two-tire stop like a lot of other cars did and got us out third. Really, that’s what did it. I was being as aggressive as I could be, and I knew it was 20 laps and I knew that was my chance.”
In Segment 3, rookie Elliott made a move to the outside, sweeping past a slew of his competitors to get to third before the first lap was up. He caught AJ Allmendinger for second with six to go and set sail for leader Kyle Larson. Elliott caught Larson with four to go but couldn’t make his first attempt at the pass stick. Looking more like a veteran than a rookie, Elliott recouped and made another run at Larson as Blaney closed in in third, giving fans a preview of what they could be seeing in the Sprint Cup Series in the coming years. The two touched coming to the checkers in a stretch run reminiscent of Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch in their Darlington classic from 2003 and Larson used momentum on the inside line to eke out the win by a fender.
Elliott and Danica Patrick also move on as the top two drivers in the Sprint Fan Vote tally.
About the author
Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.