It wasn't for points and didn't have any bearing on the Sprint Cup standings, but Clint Bowyer still made a statement on Friday night by winning the Sprint Showdown.
The win earns him a spot in the All-Star Race field along with A.J. Allmendinger, who finished second on Friday night, as NASCAR points out on Twitter:
Both drivers transfer over along with Josh Wise, who won the Sprint Fan Vote to automatically qualify for Saturday night's race. Wise spoke about the surprising outcome, per Fox Sports: NASCAR:
Heading into Friday night, the perceived favorite to win the fan vote was Danica Patrick. After winning the nomination last season, she came into the weekend still as one of the most popular drivers in the sport despite her record on the track.
But even a seventh-place finish at Kansas wasn't enough to overcome Reddit and dogecoin, which pushed Wise over the top. Jeff Gluck of USA Today gave his thoughts on the voting process before the results were announced:
Sprint fan vote just closed. Think Danica has it locked up? Or will the Dogecoin crowd pull off a Wise surprise?— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 16, 2014
Wise thanked his fans on Reddit for voting him in, per Miss Sprint Cup's Instagram:
Brad Keselowski, who was already automatically qualified for Saturday's race, gives his thoughts on the fan vote win for Wise:
Here's a look at the race results and the current NASCAR standings, along with a breakdown of the 40-lap race. Full results from the Showdown can be found on NASCAR.com.
|Pos.||Driver||Car||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||368||1||6||7|
|7||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||8||0|
While Wise was the surprise on Friday night, Bowyer and Allmendinger stole the show.
Going into the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was already in the race thanks to his Daytona 500 win, predicted how he thought the night would go:
Well, one out of three isn't bad.
During the first 20 laps of the race, only one caution took place. Marcos Ambrose tried to cut down low on Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but the second-year driver wouldn't allow it and sent the Australian spinning, as Fox Sports: NASCAR points out:
Richard Allen of RacinWithRich.com notes the young driver might have started a dispute between the two drivers:
Stenhouse might want to keep his helmet on until he's safely locked inside his hauler after the race. #NASCAR— Richard Allen (@RacingWithRich) May 16, 2014
As for another young driver in Kyle Larson, who Earnhardt predicted would run near the front, issues derailed what looked to be a strong run for the rookie. Larson lost his third gear midway through the race and was never able to recover.
Fox Sports noted the issue for Larson during the race:
As racing got back underway following the caution and the yellow flag scheduled for a halftime in the race, Bowyer was dominant. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver pulled away from Allmendinger and the rest of the field early before Allmendinger was able to catch up near the end of the race.
Earnhardt predicted Bowyer would crush the competition following the restart:
If no caution, no one catches @ClintBowyer IMO— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) May 16, 2014
Can Bowyer or Allmendinger win the All-Star Race?
With Bowyer winning the Showdown, he now automatically qualifies for the All-Star Race along with Allmendinger on Saturday night. After finishing strong in the pivotal race, both could be competition for Jimmie Johnson and other drivers in Charlotte.
As for Wise winning the fan vote, he will have to improve drastically from his performance in the Showdown to compete for the $1 million prize. While Patrick seemed like the resounding favorite to win the vote, Wise got enough backing from his Reddit followers to earn the nomination.
Given the great showing by both Bowyer and Allmendinger on Friday night, they might be able to take that momentum in the All-Star Race. With the Coca-Cola 600 just over a week away, both might just have a shot at finishing strong in the huge race.
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