McMurray does million dollar All-Star dance
Flag to flag: Who were your picks to win the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway? Kyle Busch? (21st) Jimmie Johnson? (6th) Dale Earnhardt Jr.? (4th) Pole-sitter Carl Edwards? (5th) Kevin Harvick? (2nd). Sometimes the script is predictable (Johnson won it the last two years), but there's a reason we run the races - anything can happen. And with the story of underdog achievement permeating the weekend, with Georgia driver David Ragan in the event and Josh Wise's unlikely win of the fan vote because of the Dogecoin crowd obsessively voting for him, it was a dog not quite as under as the two mentioned who got to take the million. Jamie McMurray, who had never led a lap or finished above 8th in his previous All-Star appearances, raced aggressively to stay in or near the lead after crew chief Keith Rodden's call to not pit after Segment 2 put the No. 1 in that spot. McMurray finished 2nd in Segment 4 and his Ganassi Racing crew kept him in that spot, as Edwards' No. 99 team gained several spots and the lead for the pivotal 10-lap Segment 5. When the flag flew McMurray and Edwards raced door-to-door, but "Big Mac" kept his Bass Pro Shops Chevy wound up on the high side and was able to drive away from Edwards. It was a power move for the big money and it won the Joplin, MO driver his first All-Star race win and third-career Sprint Cup Charlotte win. Qualifying on Saturday evening was intense, with drivers having to make a quick lap, pull into the pits at full speed (no speed limit), then a four-tire stop, and then back on the track for one more quick lap. The total time for the ordeal set the field and it was very exciting to watch, as roughly half of the 22 drivers overshot their pit stalls. Tony Stewart (12th) was the first driver out and broke his transmission on his stop. Edwards went out late in the session and was able to snag the pole away. Edwards led the first few laps of Segment 1, but ceded the lead to Kyle Busch and eventually faded to 5th. Busch won the Segment, but started the next one back in traffic, as some drivers didn't pit and others took two tires. While racing hard with Friday's Sprint Showdown winner Clint Bowyer (7th), Busch got forced into the grass and then swept up the track and collected Joey Logano (22nd), bringing out the race's first unscheduled caution on lap 27. Denny Hamlin (9th) led Segment 2 to green by not pitting, but Edwards took the top spot back and then got passed by the fastest car of the night, Kasey Kahne (14th), who won the Segment. McMurray then stayed out and inherited the lead for Segment 3. Contact during Segment 2 between the No. 55 of Brian Vickers (8th) and the No. 47 of A.J. Allmendinger (20th) (who got into the race by finishing 2nd in the Sprint Showdown), sent Allmendinger into the wall on lap 32 and out of the race. Segment 4 started with McMurray in the lead, as he took only two tires, but the four fresh tires of Harvick brough the No. 4 Chevy to the front. Two laps into the segment, a problem with Jeff Gordon's (17th) car, sent him up the track and into the path of Martin Truex Jr. (18th) and Greg Biffle (19th). All were done for the night. Kahne was back in traffic and racing hard to get to the front, when he and Ryan Newman (16th) made contact and scraped the wall. They each cut tires late in Segment 4 because of that contact and hit the wall again. Newman went to the garage for the night, while Kahne's crew made right-front repairs to his car, but he never again was a contender. Harvick won Segment 4. NASCAR re-racked the field based on each driver's average finish from the first four segments, with Harvick and McMurray staying in the lead. Each team had to make pit stops and everyone took four tires. Harvick lost several spots, while Edwards and McMurray gained the lead. The least-exciting part of the race was actually those last ten laps, as the remaining cars spread out mostly single-file. Edwards ended up falling back a few spots and Harvick drove to within a second of McMurray, but never caught him. During the last lap, before the checkers, McMurray radioed his crew, "Is this really for a million?" "One more corner," his team told him. The top 10 were McMurray, Harvick, Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, Johnson, Bowyer, Vickers, Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski.
RaceTweet: Big Mac wins a big million in All-Star Race, as Kahne's wall contact and Harvick's pit crew take them from contention. What happened to Jimmie?
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Jamie McMurray - Strategy may have gotten the No. 1 to the front, but driving skill and studly pit work won McMurray the race. If McMurray had not finished off Edwards as early in the last 10 laps as he had, Harvick would have had a better chance to win. Rookie crew chief Keith Rodden also nets his first win and his strategy and setup got them there. Luck also played a role, as McMurray radioed his crew during Segment 3 and said he felt a bad vibration in the drive train or engine that never subsided, but everything held together for the rest of the 90 laps. McMurray has now won the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, and the All-Star race. He's also won two points-paying races at Charlotte (including his Cup debut in his 2nd start in 2002), a July Daytona race, and two fall Talladega races. He doesn't win very often, but when he does, he wins the big ones.
North Korean Missile Dud: Kyle Busch - Whether his crash was his fault or Bowyer's was irrelevant. Busch seemed to be making some over-necessary moves to gain back spots and got himself taken out of the race early. Joe Gibbs Racing is still winless in the All-Star Race. Busch is great at Charlotte, but still has never won an All-Star race. Moves like this make even less likely his championship hopes with everything on the line in that last race at Homestead.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Denny Hamlin - He got a penalty and qualified 22nd (actually started 20th, with Newman and Stewart moving to the back), drove into the top 10, inherited the lead by not pitting, had an issue toward the end of Segment 2 that dropped him back, then drove back into the top 10. He got as high as 6th in Segment 4, but faded to 9th at the end. Hamlin needs to stop having dramatic weeks like this, if he wants to be a championship contender.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Josh Wise - Nevermind that the Phil Parsons Racing team was, by far, the slowest on the track all race long. How in the world did Wise beat Danica Patrick in the fan vote? Seriously? What a coup! The cult following developed by the Dogecoin sponsorship fanned up some zealous super-voters. There are reports one person voted 87,000 times for him. Patrick said she was told she actually got more votes this year than her winning total last year. Wise may not be an All-Star driver nor is his No. 98 team, but his popularity with this niche crowd is great for NASCAR, as it takes the sport to a totally new demographic. And now PPR is flush with more cash, just by making the big event, which will help the small team in the long run.
Ghost Driver(s): Jimmie Johnson - The all-time winningest All-Star race driver never sniffed the lead and barely ever broke the top 5. Johnson's team is not that far off, but still are winless in 2014 and were thought to maybe gain some spring in their step after this race. Not so much. The struggles of the No. 48 team would be successes for most others, but they are struggles by their standards nonetheless. Let's give a nod, too, to Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski - they all were complete non-factors in the race. Stewart was never on TV, Busch got into the top 10 at one point, but faded at the end, and the same is true for Keselowski. Keselowski also disappointed in qualifying. Thought to be a top-5 car at least, he placed only 13th in time trials and never recovered during the race.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: Ryan Blaney - No, this has nothing to do with the All-Star race (his being in it would be a real head-scratcher, considering he just made his Cup debut at Kansas a week ago). Blaney has crashed out of the last two Camping World Truck Series races - and hard. The latest scrum was Friday night at Charlotte, when John Wes Townley, who had been racing him hard all night, bumped Blaney's No. 29 into the grass, which sent it up the track and hard into the outside wall. When asked about it in the garage afterwards, Blaney gave his typical monotone, emotionless, needs-to-be-trained interview. Then as he closed it, he said, "S--t happens." Normally when a driver curses on live TV, they are emotional and in the heat of the moment. Blaney dropped his s-bomb well into his toned down, dejected interview. He seemed in perfect control of his words. Fortunately, it was on FS1 (cable) and was during the lightly-watched NCWTS race, so it won't cost him much. Blaney is young and a heck of a wheelman, but he needs to take a lesson on how to do those interviews - now we know in more ways than one.
Georgia On My Mind: David Ragan was the sole Peach State rep in the actual Sprint All-Star Race, running conservatively in the back of the pack and finishing 13th. With only 22 cars in the race, Ragan was assured his best finish of the year, as 27th at Fontana had been his best mark in the 11 points-paying races run so far. Reed Sorenson was never close to the front in the Sprint Showdown and finished 21st in the 40-lap race. Chase Elliott had some fight in him in the standalone Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway Sunday. He stayed in the top 5 most of the race, but lost some spots on pit road on the last stop and fought back up to a 4th-place finish, extending his points lead to two. Elliott graduated high school in Alpharetta Saturday morning, after practicing in Iowa Friday. Ryan Sieg ran close to 17th the whole race and finished there. Friday's Truck race saw John Wes Townley finish a career best 4th, in in a race dominated by Kyle Busch and filled with attrition. Townley was also decent in the Toledo ARCA race Sunday, placing 5th. Max Gresham's season debut in the GMS Racing No. 23 ended early with mechanical issues - he placed 31st. Conyers' Chris Cockrum released some big news Saturday. He will run the Rick Ware Racing No. 87 Advanced Communications Group Ford in next Saturday's NNS race at Charlotte. It will be his NNS debut and the CaptainHerb.net graphic will be on the rear bumper cover, as it has been for his handful of NCWTS starts he's made since 2011. The car may not be a front-runner, but seeing a him tribute to Captain Herb for the first time since his death is very emotional to fans and cohorts of his. Thanks, Chris!
NNS RaceTweet: Just like normal, the 54 and the 22 were class of the field at Iowa. But Hornish Jr. (the winner) and RBlaney (2nd) were driving, not the Cup guys.
NCWTS RaceTweet: Just like Kansas, Kyle Busch wins and the rest of the field wrecks. Busch has won all three races he's entered and there've only been four total.
Next: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series each race Charlotte next weekend. Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 Cup race is at 7:15 p.m. on FOX and PRN. The NNS runs the "History 300" at 2:45 p.m. Saturday on ABC. The NCWTS is off for two weeks and races again at Texas - they raced back-to-back races the last two weeks for the first time all year.
Busy Bees in the Community: Captain Herb Emory awarded the "Busy Bee Award" to people in the community he felt served well and he also kept up a "Busy Bee" calendar on his racing show and on CaptainHerb.net. Now we're gonna. This Father's Day, consider adopting a grandpa - either monetarily, in person, or both. Neighbor Love is doing a program in Atlanta and several other cities where volunteers can help bring Father's Day to lonely elderly men. They also do this for elderly women. This looks to be a great ministry and a wonderful cause. - The Captain Herb Emory Memorial Motorcycle Ride will take place May 31st in Lithia Springs, GA. All proceeds benefit Toys For Tots. Donate via the link on WSB's homepage and plan to attend what is expected to become a yearly event.