Race Capsule: Logano tops Larson in head-scratching All-Star Race
Joey Logano has added another big race to his winning resume, claiming the win in the final All-Star Race sponsored by Sprint. Logano chased down Kyle Larson (finished 16th), they raced each other hard, and Logano passed him for the lead with two laps to go. Leading up to the intense battle was a series of head-scratching events in a confusing, three-segment format.
Flag to Flag: The race was to play out in a series of three segments and four or five mandatory pit stops. Segment 1 was 50 laps, with a mandatory green flag, at least two-tire-stop. Then everyone must pit for two tires in the break. Segment 2 was another 50 laps with a mandatory
Kevin Harvick (11th) started on the pole after rain washed out qualifying just before Saturday's race. Kyle Busch (10th) started 2nd and led the first four
Matt Kenseth (18th) stayed out the longest and was preparing to stop just before Segment 1
Kenseth had lapped over half the field in staying out, but since everyone had to make a pit stop in the Segment break, no one could take the wave-around and get it back. NASCAR could have rectified that by having Kenseth serve the one-lap penalty first, then let the cars wave-around. Instead, they let everyone
With the Kenseth debacle fresh-in-mind, teams wanted to make sure and not wait too long to pit in Segment 2. Brad Keselowski (2nd) led the first 30 laps of the segment, in the midst of which was more chaos. A caution on lap 66 for fluid brought some teams to the pits, but they still had a green flag pit stop to make. Chase Elliott (6th) and crew chief Alan Gustafson agreed under caution that they would come to pit road as soon as they could under green. They should have
Kenseth got tagged from behind and collected Tony Stewart (20th) and Kasey Kahne (19th) and also caused damage to Harvick, Greg Biffle (8th), and the right-rear of Elliott's car. Kenseth, Stewart, and Kahne were done for the night. Biffle got the free pass, even though he had fender damage. Drivers eventually made green flag pit stops, but then an anti-race broke out.
With NASCAR forcing either the top 9, 10, or 11 to pit at the end of the segment, Jimmie Johnson (12th) and crew chief Chad Knaus decided they were not running well enough to stay on the same strategy as everyone else. So Johnson started slowing down to try and finish in 12th-place at the end of the run. The drivers who passed him were not too thrilled and Johnson's move brought into discussion the whole "100% effort rule" NASCAR made after the whole Michael Waltrip Racing-Richmond scandal in 2013.
Ky. Busch also got a speeding penalty on his green flag stop, but stayed on the lead lap, so Johnson and he started the final segment on the front row. The result NASCAR was looking for - a few rows of drivers on old tires for drivers on new tires to have to pass - didn't happen. So many got caught a lap down in the Kenseth mess that only 14 remained on the lead lap to begin Segment 3. Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen drew an
Larson got the lead near the end of Segment 2 after a good pit stop and he also had a great stop on the mandatory four-tire stops for the top 11, so he led off of pit road. When the race went green for the 13-lap final segment, where the caution laps would not count and NASCAR overtime would be in effect, Larson and the other leaders blew the doors off Johnson and Ky. Busch's cars. Larson got out to a decent lead, but on came Logano.
Logano caught Larson and then used tricks Larson used to beat Elliott in the Sprint Showdown earlier in the day. Each driver would side-draft as much as they could on the other to make the other
Thought reached in a roundabout way, the race produced a thrilling lead battle at the end. Most importantly, Logano was able to actually chase down and pass the lead car. This means that the aerodynamic,
Top 10: Logano; Keselowski; Dale Earnhardt Jr. (not much of a factor the whole night, until the end); Edwards (only led laps in pit sequences); Ku. Busch (ran like he has lately inside the top 10, but never led laps); Elliott (repaired damage and drove through the field to good finish); Trevor Bayne (raced into the big show and raced into the top 10 after getting free pass); Biffle (decent finish after racing in and incurring damage); Denny Hamlin (last year's winner with a quiet night); Kyle Busch (was fast in the specially-numbered No. 75 Toyota, but fell back on old tires).
RaceTweet: Logano outduels Larson for first All-Star win...and no one really knows how they got there.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Kyle Larson - This kid is still winless in the Sprint Cup Series, but he is making a case for getting that checkered flag soon. Larson put on a driving clinic in the Sprint Showdown, just to get a spot at the adult table Saturday night. Then he drove from deep in the pack, his crew nailed the money pit stops, and he came within two laps of an improbable All-Star win.
North Korean Missile Dud: Jimmie Johnson - This is the second week in a row Johnson gets this dubious award. Johnson has been all kinds of dominant at Charlotte, with seven points-paying wins and four All-Star wins. But Saturday night saw Johnson run mid-pack the entire event. He only led a lap when he was 12th place and promoted to the front after the top 11 pitted. He finished 12th on the old tires.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Greg Biffle - Biffle won Segment 2 of the Showdown and started dead last. He got lapped in the Kenseth non-stop sequence in
Ghost Driver: Denny Hamlin - "Hello, it's me…" Those Adele lyrics are what Hamlin needed to say after the race. The No. 11 team is Jekyll and Hyde this season: winning big, losing big. Running well, running like junk. Saturday night was an invisible night for last year's All-Star winner, as he placed 9th.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Trevor Bayne - Like Biffle and Larson, Bayne raced his way into Saturday's main event by making a killer, three-wide move through the middle for the lead on the final restart in the Showdown's Segment 1. Bayne then got lapped in the main event in the Kenseth
Wheel of Misfortune: Tony Stewart - Stewart got in the race by virtue of being a past champion and his past All-Star wins. But he struggled badly and got lapped after the Segment 1 pit stops. Then Stewart got in the wreck with Kenseth early in Segment 2, ending his final All-Star Race in
Jimmie Johnson Golden Horseshoe: NASCAR - NASCAR is lucky that both the Showdown and the All-Star Race had spectacular finishes. Fans are mad enough at all the officiating problems and confusion, even with these finishes. Can you imagine how upset everyone would be if the race had been a dud like it has been before? This bullet only grazes the glass tower in Daytona this time, instead of piercing it.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: How in the world did NASCAR make the mess they made of Saturday's race? Kenseth's decision not to pit and the ensuing yellow were coincidental externalities of the format. But NASCAR's inability to foresee this circumstance and then their bungling of the running order are beyond belief. When Jeff Gordon in the booth is confused about what he is seeing, there is a problem. When the teams have no idea where they are running or when they are pitting, there is bedlam. And when fans can't understand what they are seeing, there is anger.
NASCAR not only fumbled on setting the running order after the Kenseth penalty (or more properly the laps drivers were on), but also on the cleanup after the big wreck. The cleanup lasted so long under caution, that teams had only three laps once the race went green to make the mandatory green flag pit stop. What if a caution came out on the restart? Would the whole field get a one-lap penalty?
NASCAR VP of Competition, former crew chief Scott Miller, says the sport never realized some of the things that happen could have. But that's their job. They should not implement rules packages or formats without brainstorming every outcome and having a reaction to it. Kenseth's not being able to pit was not on their radar and caused a big problem on the scoring monitor.
Plenty went right on Saturday in both races - that should not be overlooked. But getting the scoring wrong or making it so confusing was a big misstep by the sport that only did more to alienate fans.
Georgia On My Mind: Chase Elliott was the only Georgia driver in the race and finished 6th. The No. 24 team replaced the right-rear quarter panel after the damage in the Segment 2 wreck. Elliott lost to Larson after starting on the pole for the Showdown, so he got into the race via winning the Fan Vote (yes, by beating Danica Patrick). He drove back from the problem in the All-Star race to finish an impressive 6th.
David Ragan (16th) and Reed Sorenson (25th) were never a factor for the Showdown.
In Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race, Matt Crafton won the race and the Georgia gang was also not a factor. Brandon Jones finished 11th in his 2nd start of the year and John Wes Townley struggled to 16th. Garrett Smithley piloted the No. 07 SS/Greenlight entry to a finish many laps down in 29th. Austin Hill missed the race, as rain canceled qualifying.
NCWTS RaceTweet: Matt Crafton wins at Charlotte, to get first win of the year. He'll be in the Chase.
Next: The NCWTS is off, but the Xfinity Series and the Sprint Cup Series stay at Charlotte Motor Speedway to race. The NXS runs Saturday after 2 p.m. on FS1, PRN, and Sirius/XM 90. The NSCS runs the season's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 just after 6 p.m. Sunday on FOX, PRN, and Sirius/XM 90. The rules package for the Cup cars will be different than Saturday's, so we shall see what racing action is born.