After the Showdown on Saturday came the night’s biggest event--the All-Star Race. With no points on the line and $1 million up for grabs, the gloves came off as the stars came out to shine on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 21 drivers had their sights set on winning the $1 million and earning the bragging rights to be called a NASCAR All-Star.
Carl Edwards started the All-Star Race 21st in he No. 99 Aflac Ford due to winning the fan vote. The green flag waved to start segment 1, which consisted of 50 laps. For that first segment, things were relatively uneventful for Edwards. Tight-handling issues plagued Edwards during the first segment. He pitted on lap 25 so his crew could make adjustments during the mandatory stop. However, the car began to get loose as the first segment wore on. When the second segment, consisting of 20 laps, began, Edwards was up to 15th. Edwards was up to 13th when he pitted between segments two and three for two tires and an air pressure adjustment. The team thought a two-tire stop would help them gain positions, but many drivers did not pit so he remained 13th. When the third segment, another 20-lap run, began Edward soon dropped back to the 15th position. The caution came out at the end of segment three, and the drivers were given a 10-minute break. The crews were allowed to make changes to the car, but could not change the tires. All teams would make a mandatory stop for four tires before the start of the 10-lap shootout of segment four. On the restart for segment four, Joey Logano got into Mark Martin, which caused a multi-car crash in front of Edwards. Edwards managed to get slowed down, but Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was behind him, did not get slowed down and plowed into Edwards. The No. 99 suffered heavy damage, and Edwards was unable to finish the race. He was credited with finishing 21st.
Due to being the Showdown runner-up, Greg Biffle started the All-Star Race in the 20th position. From the drop of the green flag, the No. 16 3M Pit Bulls Ford began to pick up positions. Biffle was up to 15th by lap four. He was 15th when the field had to make mandatory pit stops on lap 25 of segment 1. Biffle remained 14th as he left pit road. He was 13th when segment 1 ended and restarted in that position for the second segment. 7 laps into segment 2, Biffle had cracked the top 10. However, the No. 16 was loose and Biffle dropped back to 11th by the time the third segment began. His crew made adjustments during the pit stop before segment 3. Biffle had worked his way up to 9th when the caution waved to signal the end of segment 3. Biffle restarted in the 9th position for the final ten laps, and picked up two positions after avoiding the multi-car incident on the restart. He restarted 7th with 10 laps remaining due to caution laps not counting during last segment. Biffle fell back as he fought a tight-handling racecar. When the caution came out again with just 2 laps remaining, Biffle pitted for two tires and adjustments, but Biffle was penalized during the stop due to an equipment violation. The penalty resulted in Biffle restarting 13th. One more caution came out, and Biffle was 12th for the final restart. He gained 3 more positions to finish 9th.
The driver intros before the All-Star Race are unlike those for any other race. It’s a chance for the drivers and the crews to both be acknowledged as the entire team steps out onto the stage. Some crews find ways to be creative for the intros, and Kenseth’s crew was no exception Saturday night. The Crown Royal pit crew walked out wearing crowns and purple robes, which got a lot of positive comments from Kenseth fans. Due to qualifying being rained out, Kenseth started the All-Star Race in the 14th position in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford. Kenseth made quick work of moving through the field for the first segment. He was up to 8th by lap 4. Just a couple laps later, Kenseth informed crew chief Todd Parrott that his racecar was tight in the center of the turns and loose off. Overall, Kenseth’s car was just lacking the grip he needed to be a contender. The team made their mandatory stop on lap 26 for fuel, four tires, and track bar and air pressure adjustments. Kenseth was 9th after that stop, but said the car had become loose off and the tires were chattering. Kenseth pitted at the end of the 50-lap segment for four tires and a trackbar adjustment. The Crown Royal crew also placed a rubber in the right rear. Kenseth restarted 16th for segment two, but a few laps later said his racecar had gone from loose to tight. Kenseth pitted once more after segment two. His crew made track bar and air pressure adjustments, as well as adjustments to the rubbers once more. For the third segment, Kenseth remained 18th most of the time. Handling issues continued to plague Kenseth. Under the ten minute break after segment three, Kenseth’s crew went to work once again making adjustments to the car. Kenseth avoided the melee during the restart for segment four, and restarted 10th afterward. With 4 laps remaining, Kenseth was up to 6th. Two laps later the caution came out. Kenseth stayed out and was 5th for the final restart. Kenseth fought hard to remain in the top five, but in the end, had to settle for an 8th place finish.
After winning segment 1, Kurt Busch went on to win the final segment, claiming the $1 million prize and his first All-Star Race win. Congratulations to Kurt Busch and the No. 2 team!
Next up: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway