NASCAR Sprint Showdown 2014: Winners and Losers from Charlotte
The final three spots in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race were decided on Friday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway at the Sprint Showdown.
The top two finishers after 40 laps knew they would move on to the big show on Saturday, while a third racer would also get to advance thanks to the fan vote.
After a fairly straightforward race, with only one caution early on, Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger took the top two spots in the race. Josh Wise had the upset of the day when he overtook Danica Patrick with the fan vote.
Here are the winners and losers from the quick, high-stakes race.
Winner: Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer was the runaway winner of the NASCAR Sprint Showdown on Friday, giving him an automatic berth into the Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday. This will be his sixth appearance in the Sprint All-Star Race
The 34-year-old needed this boost after a disappointing season where he failed to win a race and automatically qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race like he has the past four years.
Bowyer, who has eight wins in the Sprint Cup Series, was the most accomplished driver in the Showdown, and he proved it by winning the race by more than two seconds. Jeff Owens of Sporting News reports that Bowyer was very pleased with his car.
Our car was really strong," Bowyer said on Fox. "We’ve been struggling. We’ve been fast in practice but can’t close the race.
"I spent a lot of time in the shop this week and I think we got to the bottom of a lot of things. … Huge improvement tonight.
The Sprint Showdown is supposed to be a thrilling race, with only 40 laps in total and two spots at the Sprint All-Star Race on the line. However, this year's version was a dud.
There was no drama in the final laps, with Clint Bowyer and AJ Allmendinger clearly too far ahead of the field to be caught with about 10 laps to go. In fact, the most dramatic moment of the event seemed to come when viewers were awaiting the announcement of the fan vote after the race was finished.
This was the first time the Showdown was all by itself on a Friday night, and the decision seemed to leave fans wanting. Many on Twitter described the event as "boring" and "anticlimactic."
Winner: AJ Allmendinger
Instead of second place being the first loser like it is at other NASCAR races, at the Sprint Showdown, second place is actually the second winner.
Allmendinger was the lucky runner-up on Friday after an aggressive race that saw him lead for much of the first 20 laps and then hold onto second place by a comfortable margin at the end.
The 32-year-old has never won a Sprint Cup race, but this was his third time qualifying for the All-Star Race in the Sprint Showdown.
Loser: Austin Dillon
Austin Dillon won the pole for the Sprint Showdown on Friday, but he wasn't able to translate his great qualifying time into a place in the Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday.
Instead, the 24-year-old finished in a disappointing eighth place despite leading for three laps.
Dillon, who is the grandson of car owner Richard Childress, drives the No. 3 car. He is the first driver to race in the No. 3 in the Sprint Cup Series since Dale Earnhardt passed away. His popularity was supposed to help him challenge Danica Patrick for the fan vote if he didn't finish in the top two, but he didn't win that, either. There will be All-Star Races in Dillon's future, but he's going to have to wait.
Winner: Reddit and Dogecoin
OK, this is a crazy story. Of all people, Josh Wise came away with the fan vote in the Sprint Showdown and will be competing in his first Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday. Wise finished 18th in the Sprint Showdown, and his fan vote win was a huge upset over popular riders Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon.
This all happened thanks to the Internet. The Dogecoin community on Reddit became interested in Wise's story and raised $55,000 to sponsor him in Talladega. Then, they launched an aggressive online campaign to vote the unheralded racer into the Sprint All-Star Race. As reported by Bob Pockrass on Sporting News, Wise was overwhelmed by the support and excited about what it means for the future of NASCAR.
I am still trying to wrap my head around it," Wise said. "This is huge for me and our team. Really this started with a 16-year-old kid posting something on Reddit.com about some good runs that we had and for whatever reason this huge, awesome community got behind us."
Wise, who drives for Phil Parsons Racing and is 36th in the Cup standings for the underfunded organization, obviously was thankful for the support.
"This is kind of a big deal for our sport because it is a lot of young kids and people from around the world," Wise said. "I've had the chance to interact with a lot of them. There's a lot of people had never watched a NASCAR race who have now watched several.
While a community based on a little-known Internet currency voted Josh Wise into the All-Star Race, the GoDaddy-sponsored icon Danica Patrick was sent home.
Patrick was seen by many as a lock to get the fan vote if she didn't finish in the top two, but neither scenario panned out. Now, the Sprint All-Star Race will have to go on without one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR.
Patrick was more disappointed with her 10th-place finish in the race than she was with the loss of the fan vote, according to Bob Pockrass of Sporting News.
Just wasn’t good enough today," said Patrick, who was coming off a career-best seventh-place finish at Kansas last week. "Too tight especially in that second run. Got track position on two tires but I don’t know how many took four but it was just way too tight.
Winner: Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose also won't be going on to the Sprint All-Star Race, but he certainly impressed some fans with his driving on Friday night in the Showdown.
Ambrose bumped with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. early in the race and slid for nearly a full lap before saving his car from crashing and steering it back on track.
Seemingly unfazed, he was able to get his car back into the hunt during the last 20 laps. He eventually faded and finished in a surprising fourth place.
Loser: Two-Tire Stops
It always comes down to decisions in the pit, and this race was no different. With the mandatory break between the two sets of 20 laps, most of the drivers chose to go into the pit.
Dillon and Allmendinger, who were both contending for the lead at the break, both decided to get just two tires on their car at the pit stop. This allowed them to gain position on the track. However, Bowyer decided to get four new tires on the stop.
Bowyer came out of the break in seventh place, but with four fresh tires, he quickly raced to the front of the pack and held his position for the rest of the race. His decision to get the extra traction paid off, and he's now going to the Sprint All-Star Race.
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