Jamie McMurray won the NASCAR Sprint Showdown on Saturday evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. McMurray, along with runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Jr., clinched a spot in the forthcoming All-Star Race.
To the surprise of few, Danica Patrick, who finished ninth, won the fan vote to get the 22nd and final spot, per NASCAR on ESPN:
And your fan vote winner is... Danica Patrick! #AllStar— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) May 19, 2013
No points were at stake in this precursor to the All-Star Race, but it didn't diminish the excitement or the significance for McMurray, as documented by NASCAR Stats on Twitter:
McMurray finished the first of two segments of 20 laps in front of pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. by approximately nine-tenths of a second, and he never relinquished his lead. The wire-to-wire victory got McMurray a well-deserved spot in the marquee showcase set to take place later on Saturday.
Below is an overview of the top finishers in the field, followed by further analysis of how the action played out.
2013 NASCAR Sprint Showdown Top 10 Results
|1||Jamie McMurray ||1
|2||Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ||17|
|3||Jeff Burton ||31
|4||Paul Menard ||27|
|5||Martin Truex Jr. ||56|
|6||Juan Pablo Montoya ||42
Aric Almirola ||43|
|8||Travis Kvapil ||56|
|9||Danica Patrick ||93|
|10||Casey Mears ||13|
Casey Mears boldly decided to stay out on the track in an effort to get a leg up on the competition. USA Today's Jeff Gluck wondered if that was the soundest strategy:
Casey Mears stayed out and will lead at the start of the second segment. Wonder if this no-tire strategy will pay off in a transfer spot.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 19, 2013
Which last-minute entry has the best chance of winning the All-Star Race?
Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out for Mears. He couldn't improve upon his career-best sixth-place finish in the Sprint Showdown and wound up in 10th.
After that, Mears and McMurray went to pit lane to get all four tires changed, and McMurray's stop was particularly effective, as his team enhanced the control he had on his car in a matter of just six seconds.
Juan Pablo Montoya, an Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammate of McMurray's, was penalized coming out of the pits, as the team's official Twitter page documented:
The No 42 will serve a penalty and return to pit road. Too fast exiting pit road. One more segment to go. 20 laps.— Team EGR (@EGRTeams) May 19, 2013
Though he jumped the gun somewhat in that instance, his crew gave him a strong set of adjustment, and he ran all the way to sixth position in the end.
Truex bumped the wall while battling with third-place finisher Jeff Burton with 12 laps to go. That made an indent in Truex's car and caused him to finish in fifth in the end—just outside of automatic qualification for the All-Star Race.
Patrick obviously didn't qualify, and reaction to her selection has been polarizing. On one negative end is Shawn Courchesne of RaceDayCT.com:
Danica Patrick has as much right to represent the NBA as one of the best that sport has to offer as she does to do the same thing in NASCAR.— Shawn Courchesne (@ShawnCourchesne) May 19, 2013
It makes some sense, since Patrick has just one Top-10 finish and sits 26th in the Sprint Cup points standings. However, her marketability and appeal are undeniable, and she is popular with the fans.
She will gladly take the spot, and upon hearing the news, Patrick was fired up, according to Claire B. Lang of NASCAR Sirius XM Radio:
"i'm fired up -let's do this" Danica Patrick says as she exits deadline room— Claire B Lang (@ClaireBLang) May 19, 2013
The 40-lap thrill ride lent itself to all-out, aggressive styles rarely seen from some of stock car racing's premier drivers in regular races. That didn't deter McMurray from dominating and putting himself in ideal position to succeed against the tougher field he'll face next.