The 2009 version of the Sprint All-Star Race was both a boring race and a thriller.
The first of four segments started off without much action. It was won by Jimmie Johnson, who started on the pole and led every lap. During the 50-lap segment, Johnson spent much of the time leading by more than two seconds.
Yawn. The 48 machine kept getting smaller and smaller in the windshields of the other drivers.
The only excitement for this portion of the race came as Johnson seemingly slowed down to allow Ryan Newman to remain just one lap down. This slackened pace allowed the field to catch up, and Jimmie nearly gave up the lead.
The second segment was less than half as long as the first, but had just about as many yawns. This time, instead of the 48 car yarding the field, it was the 18 of Kyle Busch pulling away from everyone else. Again, the same driver led every lap of the segment.
It wasn't until the third segment that we got our first green flag pass for the lead, when three-time winner Jeff Gordon passed Kyle Busch. From there, this race changed from the yawner it had been into a thriller.
One of the more dramatic moments came as Newman, who earlier was spared by Jimmie Johnson from going a second lap down, charged into the battle for the lead.
Gordon led for 11 laps, including the final laps of the third segment. After everyone got some gas, adjustments, and four new Mr. Feelgoods, the fourth and final 10-lap segment produced some racing that can described as both ridiculous and simply awesome.
Gordon could not pull away, and was stuck in a battle with Matt Kenseth and the ever-aggressive Kyle Busch.
Coming off turn four, Gordon was on the bottom, three-wide, and was unable to hold the bottom. As he lost the handle, he slid up and nearly into Kyle Busch. Busch in turn moved up to avoid the 24, but hit Kenseth, who was above him, in the process. Busch bounced off the 17 and back into Gordon, who then was sent spinning. A loud anti-Gordon crowd cheered as water poured from a busted radiator and the four-time series champion climbed out of his car.
The demise of Jeff Gordon left Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch atop the leaderboard, but it was Tony Stewart who would storm to the front and lead the final two laps on the way to his first victory as an owner.
For a race that was 75 percent boring, the final 25 percent entailed some of the most thrilling racing I've seen in a while. It also included a quote for the ages from Stewart, when regarding the party that would ensue after leaving the track:
"I don't even know if I'll be conscious tomorrow."