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Art of Racing 5-27
All-star race plans don't all pan out
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The format for the all-star race was released to the teams a couple of weeks before the race, giving teams the time to game plan the race and figure out an advantage. The format was pretty straight forward: 50 laps with a mandatory pit stop, 50 laps with a pit stop in the first 35 laps, then a pit stop for a set number of cars (11) to get four new tires while the remaining cars stayed out on the track with old tires. The cars with new tires had to line up behind the cars with old tires and race the final 13 laps.
Things did not work out as planned when Matt Kenseth and his team stayed out during the first segment when the rest of the field had made their green-flag stops, presumably planning to wait for the last lap to make his stop, which would have allowed him to change four tires on two consecutive two-tire stops. Then Jamie McMurray crashed with just a couple of laps left, bringing out a yellow flag. Since only Kenseth hadn’t come to pit road before the caution, several cars were trapped a lap down because the field didn’t cycle through stops completely.
Because so many cars were then trapped a lap down, what was supposed to set up the final 13-lap segment didn’t. Instead of having eight or nine cars on old tires in front of 11 on four fresh ones, only two cars were up front on old rubber. They were easily passed before the first lap was completed and the race for the win did not produce the excitement NASCAR had planned.
Prior to the all-star race, the Sprint Showdown was held to give teams not qualified for the main event to race themselves into the event. Three 20-lap segments were held with the winner of each segment advancing to the all-star race.
Trever Bayne won the opening segment, Greg Biffle the second segment, and Kyle Larson won the third. The fans voted in the last two entrants. In all other years, fans voted in only one driver, but this year NASCAR had to ensure Danica Patrick a spot in the race, so fans were allowed to vote in two drivers. Chase Elliott was the first and sure enough, Danica was the second. Now the starting field was set with 20 cars.
After all the strategy bloopers, the race came down to a duel between Larson and Joey Logano. Logano passed Larson with two laps remaining and continued for the win and $1 million.