NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race 2013: Winners and Losers in Charlotte
It rained, but it didn't pour on the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The night started with an, uh, interesting National Anthem. It ended with another runaway victory by Jimmie Johnson—the man they call Five Time, who became the first four-time champion in the history of the event. In between, there was a 45-minute rain delay and a reasonable if not overwhelming amount of action.
There were subplots all over the place: boyfriend battling girlfriend; brother fending off brother (Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch each won two of the first four segments before surrendering the fifth that was worth $1 million to Johnson); and a new format that seemed at times to confuse everyone trying to explain it on television.
As with most All-Star Races, there was good to go along with the bad, and vice versa.
Winner: Danica Patrick
Rookie Cup driver and well-known GoDaddy.com girl Danica Patrick failed to drive her way into the All-Star Race when she could not finish in the top two of the Sprint Showdown preliminary event.
But shortly thereafter it was announced that she would get to race in the main event anyway because she was the winner of a fan vote that permitted one more driver who had not otherwise qualified to participate.
Not since Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to get voted into the All-Star Race after failing to race his way in two years ago has there been such a total lack of suspense about which driver would claim the fan vote.
Loser: Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. sat on the pole for the Sprint Showdown preliminary race, hoping to race his way into the main event as one of its top two finishers.
But during the one pit stop in the 40-lap race, his No. 56 Toyota team opted to give up track position and take the extra time on pit road to take on four fresh tires.
When he got back on the track, Truex was mired behind lapped traffic. He made contact with Jeff Burton while trying to make up lost ground and ended up scraping the outside wall, relegating him to a fifth-place finish and an early trip home from the track.
His customary pre-race smile was long gone by then, replaced instead by furrowed brow and frown.
Winner: Kevin Manion
Jamie McMurray was behind the wheel of the No. 1 Chevrolet that won the Sprint Showdown, the preliminary race that determined two of the final three entrants into the All-Star Race. But it was McMurray's crew chief, Kevin Manion, who made the call that enabled McMurray to get to the front.
While Martin Truex Jr. came to the pits in the lead and opted to take the time to put on four fresh Goodyear tires, Manion ordered a quicker two-tire stop for McMurray. The track position he was able to gain as a result was instrumental in getting the No. 1 team into the big show.
Losers: The Fans
First the fans who attended the event at Charlotte Motor Speedway had to endure one of the worst renditions of the National Anthem in recent sporting memory, and then they got rained on during a 45-minute delay that had some of them headed for the exits early.
The ones who stuck around didn't have much to get excited about in the end. Jimmie Johnson's runaway victory in the final 10-lap segment was too reminiscent of the boring finish of a year ago, when Johnson also ran away from the field at the end and prompted rules changes that were supposed to keep the same thing from happening again this year.
The Star Spangled Banner was sung—or rather, screeched—by Kaya Jones, one of the lead singers of The Pussycat Dolls. The group has sold more than 15 million albums and more than 40 million singles worldwide, but Jones forgot the one rule all entertainers and amateurs alike must follow when singing the Anthem: Keep it simple, sing it quickly and remember it's the one song you don't try to make your own.
Winner: Carl Edwards (and Dick Trickle)
Sure, he won the pole for the main event in his No. 99 Ford during qualifying on Friday. That was impressive enough for Carl Edwards, but it paled in comparison to his idea—and yes, it was his idea—to replace his name with Dick Trickle's over his driver's side door.
Trickle, a legendary short-track racer and one of the true characters in the history of NASCAR, died at his own hand 72 hours earlier at the age of 71 after battling health complications.
Edwards' gesture to honor Trickle was touching and heartfelt, and a winning move no matter what happened the rest of the way on the track.
Loser: Brad Keselowski
The night ended early for defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski when he encountered transmission problems on the third lap of the first segment.
The equipment failure caused Keselowski to suddenly drop to the rear of the field and then brush the outside wall with his No. 2 Ford. And that quickly, his quest for a big payday was over. Soon he and his machine were back in the garage, and the dejected driver was talking about what might have been but wasn't.
"It was just one of those nights," Keselowski told FOX and Speed TV.
Winner: No. 48 Pit Crew
Prior to the final 10-lap segment, all drivers had to bring their race cars to pit road for a mandatory, four-tire pit stop and a splash of fuel. Once again, the No. 48 Chevrolet pit crew of driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus was right on the money during the money stop.
Their stop of 11.8 seconds was the fastest of the contending cars on the stop. It enabled Johnson, who had begun the night 18th in the field of 22 because he slid through his pit box during qualifying's mandatory stop a day earlier, to come out second behind only Kasey Kahne for the last segment.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the key stop was that Knaus had ordered some personnel changes within the team just prior to the event, and they performed flawlessly.
Loser: The No. 78 Pit Crew
While the No. 48 pit crew of Jimmie Johnson was gaining him valuable track position prior to the final 10-lap segment, the No. 78 Chevy pit crew of Kurt Busch was throwing away Busch's chance for an upset victory.
The elder of the two racing Busch brothers had driven brilliantly all night, winning two of the first four segments and finishing fourth and second in the other two. By virtue of his average finish over the four segments, that permitted Busch to bring his car to pit road at the head of the field for the final mandatory pit stop.
Their ensuing stop of 13.8 seconds to change four tires and add a splash of fuel was a full two seconds slower than Johnson's stop, costing Busch valuable track position that he could not make up in a mere 10 laps.
Winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
You've all heard about Danicky by now.
It's not Rick-ica, you know, so it should have come as no surprise to anyone that Ricky Stenhouse's impressive run to second in the preliminary Sprint Showdown that earned him entry into the All-Star Race somehow was overshadowed by the subsequent announcement that his girlfriend, Danica Patrick, had been voted into the main event by fans.
Geez, can't this two-time Nationwide Series champion ever get any publicity by himself these days?
He got the final laugh, however, when he out-raced Danica in the headliner. And hey, he also got to spend some quality time with her during the 45-minute rain delay, and he still got to leave the track with her at the end of the night.
Loser: The Mathematician
As America's NASCAR fans anxiously awaited the final 10-lap segment, suddenly confusion seemed to reign in the television broadcasting booth and at the track itself.
The drivers were supposed to align their cars for the final mandatory pit stop in the order of their average finishes over the first four segments, which sounded simple enough. It obviously wasn't, as it took too long for NASCAR officials to figure it out and inform the drivers of where they were supposed to line up.
Who was doing the math? Was it the same guy who produces inflated attendance figures for the governing body week after week? And was he using a calculator, or an abacus?
Loser: Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne came out of the pits following the final mandatory four-tire stop with the lead, thanks in large part to a fast 12.3-second pit stop pulled off by his No. 5 Chevrolet team.
But he didn't hold the lead for long before losing it to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. And once Johnson passed Kahne for the lead, it was over. Kahne was never heard from again over the final 10-lap segment, eventually fading all the way to a soon-to-be-forgotten fourth.
Winner: Jimmie Johnson
What do we call him now? Four-Time Five Time?
The man with five Sprint Cup championships made history by becoming the first driver to win four All-Star Races by dominating the field over the final and most important of five segments.
In doing so, Jimmie Johnson broke the record he had shared previously with the only other two drivers who have won the event even three times: Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.
Johnson also became the first driver to win back-to-back All-Star Races since Davey Allison, the only other driver to do so, did it more than 20 years ago. And he did it by driving through the field after his own mistake led to a poor qualifying effort a day earlier and forced him to start the race near the rear.