The drivers were confused, the teams were confused and the fans were confused, but one thing is certain — Joey Logano is $1,000,000 richer.
This year’s Sprint All-Star Race had a new format thought up by Brad Keselowski, and approved by NASCAR’s Driver Council. The format was simple in theory — two 50-lap segments, followed by a 13-lap segment.
During the first segment, each team had a mandatory two-tire green flag pit stop before the pits would close at Lap 47. During the second segment, each team had another mandatory two-tire green flag pit stop, and teams had to make their stop before the end of Lap 35. The third segment would have an inversion, where either the top-nine, 10 or 11 lead lap cars — the number would be chosen by a random draw — would be required to pit for a mandatory four-tire pit stop under caution. The remaining cars had to stay out and restart at the front of the field, and hold off the cars on fresh tires for a 13-lap dash to the finish.
Things got confusing for everyone during segment one when a caution came out, on, you guessed it, Lap 47. Jamie McMurray spun out, and all cars but Matt Kenseth had made a pit stop. When the caution came out, the pace car picked Kenseth up as the leader with several lap cars in between him the second-place car. NASCAR deemed that since Kenseth hadn’t yet pitted, he had to serve a one-lap penalty in the pits, but would get to change tires. Even though Kenseth had to serve his penalty, NASCAR didn’t put any of the lap cars back on the lead lap, except for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who got the free pass. Cars from Trevor Bayne in 13th on back were now trapped a lap down as the confusion set in for teams.
When the second segment started, Brad Keselowski restarted with the race lead following pit stops. Keselowski held the lead for several laps until the next caution of the night came out for a weeper on the track. Bayne got the free pass putting 12 cars back on the lead lap. Several caution laps went by as track officials tried to dry the track before the race went back to green with less than 10 laps for cars to make their mandatory green flag pit stop.
When the race finally restarted, Chase Elliott slowed in turns three and four to try and get to pit road, but ultimately couldn’t get slowed down in time. Matt Kenseth checked up behind him, but Trevor Bayne didn’t have enough time to react, and turned Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart into the wall, ending all three of their nights. Stewart, who was running in his last All-Star race, had some choice words for NASCAR at the end of the race.
“I’m as baffled as anybody,” Stewart said to FOX Sports 1. “It’s the most screwed-up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of.”
When the race went back to green, drivers had less than five laps to make their green flag pit stops, and none were going to pull the late “no-move” to pit road that Kenseth did in segment one, and all quickly made it to pit road. Kyle Busch cycled around to the lead, but was caught speeding on pit road, and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty, giving the lead to Brad Keselowski. Keselowski couldn’t hold the lead for long, as Sprint Showdown segment three winner Kyle Larson took the lead.
The field inversion at the end of the second segment to set up the finish is what would make the race just that little bit nuttier. Knowing an inversion was in sight, Jimmie Johnson began dropping his way through the field. Johnson would fall to the 12th position, which turned out to be the golden position as ’11’ was chosen as the golden number, and the first 11 cars had to pit, while Johnson and Kyle Busch in 12th and 13th stayed out to be on the front row for the restart.
The restart was set up with Johnson and Busch on the front row, while Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. lined up on row two. Johnson’s strategy of filing to the back and starting first for the final restart on old tires failed him, as he began dropping as a rock. Johnson took Kyle Busch back with him, while Larson ran away to a big lead. Joey Logano, who had been relatively quiet all race, got up to second and in the closing laps of the race worked his way towards the No. 42 car. With just two laps to go, Logano got up to Larson and got him loose in turns one and two, and Larson slammed the wall ending his night, and ending his chances of winning $1,000,000. He was forced to take his car to the garage where he would finish 16th, and watch Joey Logano win the Sprint All-Star Race.
Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski finished second giving Team Penske the 1-2 sweep. It was the first time one team had ever swept the top-two finishing positions in the All-Star race.
“What a fun race,” Logano said in victory lane. “I knew he (Larson) was gonna run me hard, and I had to run him hard. Nothing to lose, it’s for a million bucks!”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-10 in a wild All-Star race.
Kevin Harvick finished 11th after leading the first 25 laps of the first segment. Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., Danica Patrick, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart rounded out the field.