Carl Edwards drove the perfect race to win the one million dollar prize for the winner of Sprint’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night. In fact, it would have been a perfect evening if it hadn’t been for what happened on his celebratory slowing down lap, but we’ll come back to that.
The All-Star race is the antithesis of typical NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. Instead of a tactical battle over anything between four and six hundred miles the All-Star race is, by NASCAR standards, a sprint of one hundred laps, one hundred and fifty miles, broken into smaller segments, one of fifty laps followed by two of twenty laps and, finally, the ten lap dash for cash. There are bonuses for the leaders of each segment – Greg Biffle collected $25k for leading the first, Edwards took $175k for leading segments two and three – and some of the breaks have compulsory pit stops.
Appropriate then that the money for the All-Star race is put up by series title sponsors, Sprint – a mobile phone network in the United States.
Kyle Busch led the field at the start of the race but on lap 4 Biffle took the lead which he held through to the lap fifty stop, including the mandatory pit stop for a change of four tyres after lap 25. At the compulsory half distance stop Edwards came off pit lane first having opted for a two-tyre change.
During the following run Kasey Kahne took a hard hit on the outside wall, ending any chance he had of the million dollar prize and under the caution about a third of the field went for pit stops creating strategy differences.
Jimmie Johnson then had a spell at leading but only for six laps before that man Edwards imposed himself up front again and held the lead two laps later, collecting fifty thousand dollars for leading the second segment.
Edwards proved himself a wily old fox as the cars were heading to pit lane for a tyre stop. Leading everyone to the very start of the pit lane Edwards suddenly veered right and continued on the track, opting not to take tyres. Busch, Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin followed Edwards, the rest followed Johnson for the tyre changes. That was the point when the die was cast for the race result. There was simply not enough time for those who changed tyres to catch and then pass the leaders after the restart.
At lap ninety there was a ten minute break before the cars headed off for the final ten lap sprint. On the restart Edwards comfortably outfumbled the best man in the business for restarts, Busch, and created such a lead that although the no. 18 Toyota started to catch him towards the end Busch was never going to be able to get close enough to pass.
For Edwards the race had been flawless which is more than can be said for his cool-down lap. Deciding to perform an exuberant spin across the infield grass he managed to find a deep, hidden gulley and destroyed the front end of his no.99 Ford. He came squealing to a halt on the grass – with his crew chief unwittingly providing the comedy moment of the evening by telling Edwards to follow the show car on pit road – it wasn’t going to follow anything other than a wrecker.
Edwards still managed to perform his customary backflip from the car and then, as has become his ritual this year, run into the stand to celebrate with the fans.
“The key to winning this race are the guys behind me,” Edwards said, gesturing toward his crew. “[Crew chief] Bob Osborne and my guys — especially the guys on pit road — they could have dropped the ball. That’s all the pressure in the world on those guys. They performed a flawless pit stop, and we got out in front of Kyle. He is a bear on those restarts, and if we had started behind him, I think it would have been really tough. It’s unbelievable. I feel so bad about tearing up the car, but Bob says he has a faster one for next week [for the Coca-Cola 600], so I’m pretty excited. … It still hasn’t sunk in yet. This is the All-Star Race, and we just won it — it’s crazy.”
Busch, who has only finished in one of his previous five attempts at the All-Star race was magnanimous in defeat and figured just finishing was a good result for him so wasn’t too disappointed with second place.
“A few more laps and maybe I would have got him, but all we had was 10 [in the final segment],” Busch said. “He was just so good through the corner. Once he got his car turned, he didn’t even have to finish turning his car. It would kind of turn, and he would hammer the throttle, and it would just continue to turn and just drive up off the corner. . . Tonight we just flat got beat.”
Third place went to David Reutimann followed by Stewart and Biffle, with Matt Kenseth, Hamlin, David Ragan, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman rounding out the top ten.
They will all be back at Charlotte again next weekend, with all the Sprint Cup Series regulars for round twelve of the championship. That will be on Sunday night but the evening before we have the Nationwide Series race where it has been confirmed that Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen will be entered for his first race in this series.
The mystery car in Kyle Busch Motorsports workshop has been confirmed as the no. 87 Toyota racing for Joe Nemechek‘s NEMCO racing. KBM are building the car, NEMCO will be providing the transporter, back-up car and crew (along with some KBM support) and will also come with the owner’s points for the 87 car which means RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen is guaranteed a start.