The 25th edition of NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star race from Lowe’s Motor Speedway will go down as one of the best moments in the history of the sport. The talk of empty seats, boring racing and declining TV numbers definitely took a back seat to what we saw on Saturday night as NASCAR, Sprint, Lowe’s Motor Speedway and the Speed Channel worked together to bring us one special night of racing.
Lowe’s Motor Speedway is the best at putting on a production that somehow ends up being a race. Track President Marcus Smith and his staff did a great job of making sure that the day’s schedule kept building until the green flag waved to start the main event. The crews were once again introduced before the race and to take it one step further this year, Smith called on Charlotte’s own Ric Flair to introduce Joey Logano as the fans’ vote-in driver, much to the delight of the crowd. By the time the drivers and crews were introduced, the crowd had been whipped into a frenzy that seemed to have carried over to the drivers once they got into their cars.
The drivers didn’t need much to get them pumped up because the All-Star race doesn’t award those precious Sprint Cup points, this race is all about the money as a million dollar check awaits the winner. No points and a bunch of money will make a driver do strange things such as the restarts that Kyle Busch was able to pull off against Matt Kenseth during the closing laps of the race.
Those two put on a spirited battle but it was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart that made sure no fans used their seats in the closing laps as he was able to track down both Busch and Kenseth on his way to notching the first-ever NASCAR win for his first year team. The win was highly popular as the crowd stayed and cheered Tony as he sat on the backstretch waiting for NASCAR to bring him around to the trioval where victory lane was being put together.
The win was also very popular with the NASCAR community as victory lane became crowded with drivers wanting to congratulate Tony on his win. It was a statement win for Stewart-Haas as it backed up the hot start that both of its drivers have had in the series this season. Stewart sits in second in the standings followed by Ryan Newman in eighth with both drivers combining for eight top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes through the first 11 races of the season.
PIT PASS: Wouldn’t it be great if every race on the Sprint Cup schedule included a final segment of 10 green flag laps? Of course, that will never happen but there is one rule that is used in the All-Star race that would improve the racing each weekend. Every restart in the All-Star race was double file with the first- and second-place cars starting side by side like at the start of the race. Cup races only have double file restarts when there are lapped cars in the field and if the restart occurs while there is still at least 20 laps left in the event.
A double file restart with lapped cars on the inside oftentimes gives the leader of the race a huge advantage as it is usually the car starting behind the leader that ends up racing the car to the inside while the leader takes off. The restarts that we saw on Saturday sure did add some excitement to the race, but the amount of banging and rubbing that took place was probably too much for NASCAR to even think about double file restarts in the future.
While there wasn’t the usual number of special paint schemes for this year’s All-Star race due to the sagging economy, one team did tweak its paint scheme for not only Saturday but for the rest of the season. Mark Martin’s Kellogg’s team changed the name over the driver’s side window this past week to read Mark ‘The Kid’ Martin. The name change reflects Martin’s success that he is having this season at the grand old age of 50. Martin is in 11th place in the points but more impressive is that he has won two races in this his first season with Rick Hendrick. His year has been so successful to this point that he and Hendrick have already announced that he will return full time next season. Martin’s long and successful career doesn’t include a Sprint Cup championship, but it could be that this year and next will provide him with the best opportunity to earn his first title.
Race Preview — Event: Coca- Cola 600. Track: Lowe’s Motor Speedway (1.5 mile tri-oval, 24 degrees of banking in the turns). Date: May 24, 5:45 p.m. TV: Fox. Radio: PRN. Defending champion: Kasey Kahne.