THE STARTING GRID:
More than a year and a half since he swept both 2006 Lowe’s Motor Speedway events for his most recent Cup Series win, #9-Kasey Kahne scored a stunning upset in the 24th Sprint All-Star Race, becoming the first Dodge to win the event, the third driver to win the race after transferring from the qualifying race and the first to do so as a result of the fans voting him into the field. Finishing 5th in the Sprint Showdown, a race in which his Evernham teammates #19-Elliott Sadler and #10-Patrick Carpentier were taken out in early wrecks, he was notified he was voted into the field and started in the tail end of the pack along with the engine-changed #20-Tony Stewart. Kahne then bided his time through much of the race in a car he called “mediocre,” eventually making his way up to 8th at the conclusion of the second segment. Refusing to take fresh tires along with a handful of other drivers before the fourth and final segment, he found himself re-starting second alongside #48-Jimmie Johnson. When #48-Johnson slipped in the quad-oval during a battle with #11-Denny Hamlin for the lead with 19 to go, he moved up to challenge the #11-Hamlin for the lead and took it two laps later. #16-Greg Biffle, who had won the third segment, tried to catch him with his two fresh tires, but was himself felled by a tight condition and a loose wheel, allowing Kahne to cruise to a 1.2 second victory. Kahne led the final 17 laps en route to the victory.
1) #9-Kasey Kahne THE WINNER!
2) #16-Greg Biffle Shaking off the disappointment at Darlington the previous week, he scored a strong sixth-place starting spot and even won the inaugural Victory Celebration Challenge over #07-Bowyer, #29-Harvick, #18-Ky. Busch, and #48-Johnson. After finishing second to #18-Ky. Busch in segment one, he found himself racing #17-Kenseth for 2nd in segment three, peeking under him in a near-three-wide pass off turn four with 14 to go in the segment. He completed the pass two laps later, took the lead from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. as they entered the backstretch, and opened up a 4 second lead to win the third segment. He took right-side tires on the final pit stop, a move which many thought would put him in a great position, but a terrible push and, frustratingly, the same loose wheel problem he had at Darlington, kept him from catching up to #9-Kahne and his four old tires. Led 11 laps.
3) #17-Matt Kenseth Just when it looked like #88-Earnhardt, Jr. was about to run away with the lead in segment three, he and teammate #16-Biffle stopped racing side-by-side and chased him down, allowing him to rekindle his friendly rivalry with #88-Earnhardt, Jr. as the two battled for the lead with 17 to go in segment three. He was unable to hold off teammate #16-Biffle during this battle and, after #16-Biffle tried to look under him in a three-wide pass, got around him for 2nd with 12 to go in the segment. Once #16-Biffle took the lead, he and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. continued their battle for second. A problem with his splitter bouncing off the track was taken care of in the final pit stop after segment three, but he still could not catch the leaders after that.
4) #48-Jimmie Johnson Strangely uncompetitive in the race until he, along with #9-Kahne and others, did not change tires on the final pit stop, giving him the lead for the final 25 lap segment. After a tight side-by-side battle with #11-Hamlin for the lead, he nosed ahead to lead lap 2, but broke loose in the quad-oval and slipped back from the leaders. Led 1 lap.
5) #20-Tony Stewart Was Humpy Wheeler’s dark horse pick to win the main event, but had a rough start to the weekend when a broken rocker arm in practice forced him to change engines, sending him to the back of the pack for the main event. He then diced his way through the pack, impatiently driving behind #43-Labonte and #2-Ku. Busch as they raced side-by-side for 10th in the second segment.
6) #12-Ryan Newman Locked in a tight battle with #17-Kenseth in the second segment for the fourth position and then pushed the sluggish #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on the restart for segment three, all the while remaining with the leaders for much of the race.
7) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) After transferring into the main event as one of the cars to watch, he scuffed the outside wall hard in turn one early in the first segment, but unfortunately did not bring out a caution. Forced to pit for repairs, he lost two laps and returned to the track. However, upon receiving the Lucky Dog from the cautions which divided the race’s four segments, he was back on the lead lap and into the top 15 by segment three, then into the top 10 for the final 25 laps.
8) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In his “Grey Ghost”-painted Chevy, he made his way up to 2nd with 9 laps to go in the second segment as #18-Ky. Busch fell through the pack. He spun his tires at the start of segment three, forcing #12-Newman to push him hard through the quad-oval, but then took the lead from #99-Edwards on the very next lap. After running much of the race by “gobbling up” the white line around the inside of the track, he then moved high to keep a cushion on the rest of the field. This allowed #17-Kenseth to race up to his inside and, at one point, #16-Biffle to the inside of #17-Kenseth, rekindling his old rivalry with #17-Kenseth. He would lose the lead to #16-Biffle with 11 laps to go and nearly scuffed the wall in turn one as he slowed down after the third segment was completed. A decision to take four tires on the final pit stop before segment four turned out, ironically, to be the wrong choice as getting through traffic was a problem for everyone that night. Led 14 laps.
9) #8-Mark Martin Flirted with the top 5, but never quite got there, then had a moment of excitement in segment four when he got very loose as #20-Stewart ran up on him coming off turn four, his car getting sideways but not spinning.
10) #99-Carl Edwards Was Humpy Wheeler’s pick to win the main event and looked to fulfill that promise when he took the lead from the faltering #18-Ky. Busch with 11 laps to go in the second segment, running away to win the segment by open ground over the rest of the field. His crew did not make any adjustments, however, and in the third segment, his car was no match for #88-Earnhardt, Jr., who took the lead on lap 2 of that segment, and fell back after that. Led 12 laps.
11) #29-Kevin Harvick NO NOTES
12) #43-Bobby Labonte Was firmly in the top 10 for the first two segments, but the late-race shuffle forced him back out again.
13) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
14) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya NO NOTES
15) #24-Jeff Gordon NO NOTES
16) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. NO NOTES
17) #84-A.J. Allmendinger NO NOTES
18) #07-Clint Bowyer NO NOTES
19) #26-Jamie McMurray NO NOTES
20) #31-Jeff Burton Lost track position due to a pit penalty in the first cycle of pit stops which preceded the second segment, #44-Jarrett snagged as well.
21) #2-Kurt Busch Ran up in the second position in segment two, but slipped back on his old tires and was unable to bounce back.
22) #44-Dale Jarrett Despite being caught for a pit road infraction during the first round of pit stops along with #31-J. Burton, he finished on the lead lap as the last car running in his final Sprint Cup Series start. Drove the race-modified UPS truck around the track as part of the pre-race ceremonies, after which his father Ned delivered the invocation.
23) #11-Denny Hamlin Made his own voice heard in the fourth and final segment by taking the lead from #48-Johnson off turn four on the first lap, nearly spinning himself off the nose of the Lowe’s Chevy after a daring side-by-side battle with #48-Johnson. With 19 to go, his biggest competition turned out to be #9-Kahne, who hugged his rear bumper after #48-Johnson slipped up and lost ground to the two of them. The two then ran side-by-side with him running the high lane for a couple laps until #9-Kahne got by with 17 to go. It was right about that time that, like teammate #18-Ky. Busch, his own engine blew, forcing him behind the wall. Led 7 laps.
24) #18-Kyle Busch Looked unstoppable for much of the weekend, winning the pole for the truck race and the main event by incredible margins, but both strong runs ended with poor racing luck. After a wreck with Ron Hornaday ended his strong night in the truck race on Friday, he dominated the first segment of the main event, launching off the line to lead all 25 laps. He repeated his jackrabbit start in segment two, opening a 4 second lead after only three laps, but his engine started to sound flat with just 8 laps later. He lost the lead to #99-Edwards 3 laps after that and limped to finish the segment in 6th, but the crew diagnosed the car’s engine had failed under the ten-minute break, ending his night. The crowd cheered as his car was pushed behind the wall after the break. Led a race-high 38 laps.
SPRINT SHOWDOWN RESULTS:
1) #84-A.J. Allmendinger THE WINNER! Strong qualifying run put him behind teammate #83-Vickers at the start, then at the center of controversy when, while racing #19-E. Sadler for 2nd on the lap 9 restart, a late push in turn two caused him to spin #19-E. Sadler into the outside wall. Running the high line, he then raced #83-Vickers hard for the lead, taking it by staying out with #6-Ragan and others after the conclusion of the first 20 lap segment. He kept the lead from #6-Ragan on the restart and remained there for the rest of the race, even as #77-Hornish, Jr. caught him with 2 laps to go. He, #77-Hornish, Jr., and #9-Kahne transferred into the main event. The win, his first of any kind in the Sprint Cup Series, made him feel “like I’ve won the Daytona 500.” Led a race-high 21 laps.
2) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) His “drifting” diagonal-driving Dodge turned out to be a very fast machine on the high side of the track, his car first gaining attention near the end of the first segment as he shoved #22-Blaney out of the way to make his way up to the leaders. He also stayed out with #84-Allmendinger, #6-Ragan, and others after the conclusion of the first segment and kept his track position, but spun his tires on the restart and fell back to about the eighth position. He clawed his way back up through the pack and, despite running the high lane much of the night, managed to wrestle 2nd from #6-Ragan by running the low line with 7 laps to go. Traveling 0.2 mph faster than #84-Allmendinger in the closing laps, he caught the leader, but didn’t force the issue and remained in second to transfer into the main event.
3) #6-David Ragan Ran a very strong race between the second and third position for much of the event and stayed out with #84-Allmendinger and others to keep his track position after the first segment. His car was no match for either #84-Allmendinger, who ran away with the lead, nor #77-Hornish, Jr., who passed him for 2nd with 7 laps to go, but did hold off #83-Vickers on much fresher tires.
4) #83-Brian Vickers The day after his crew beat 22 other teams to win the Pit Crew Challenge over #11-Hamlin, he scored the outside pole for the Showdown. He got the jump on #19-E. Sadler at the start and proved to be the strongest car through the first 20 lap segment. His biggest competition, however, proved to be teammate #84-Allmendinger, who raced him hard for the lead on lap 13. He held off his teammate and won segment one, but, fearing a slow leak in his right-front tire, chose to come to pit road while #84-Allmendinger and a few others chose to stay out. Led 19 laps.
5) #9-Kasey Kahne Broke loose coming off turn four on the fifth lap of the second segment (lap 25 overall) as #83-Vickers caught him with fresher tires, but managed to keep his car from losing control. After hanging onto his top-five finish, he was then notified that he had won the Fan Vote and would be transferring into the main event with top-two finishers #84-Allmendinger and #77-Hornish, Jr., setting the stage for his historic night.
6) #00-David Reutimann NO NOTES
7) #38-David Gilliland Was the highest-finishing of the four cars who scraped the outside wall on the very first lap of the race in separate incidents, the others being #49-McCumbee, #15-Menard, and #96-Yeley. Ran the middle line during #22-Blaney’s three-wide pass for the 9th position. His car then came alive on the restart following the third caution brought out by #70-Sauter, clipping the grass in the quad-oval on that restart before shoving #41-Sorenson into the outside wall as they raced for 4th with 10 laps to go, dropping them both from the top 5.
8) #28-Travis Kvapil NO NOTES
9) #96-J.J. Yeley Scuffed the outside wall coming off turn four on the very first lap.
10) #22-Dave Blaney After being the victim of #77-Hornish, Jr.’s aggression during their mid-pack battle, he made his own aggressive move early in segment two by diving beneath #38-Gilliland and #49-McCumbee for the 9th position.
11) #7-Robby Gordon His strong 4th place finish in the first segment came at a price as his overheating car sprayed out a massive amount of water due to a piece of a tear-off that stuck to the lower grille of his Dodge. Though saying “we’re done” at that point, the crew managed to cool the car down enough under the caution following the first segment to get him back on the track.
12) #41-Reed Sorenson Broke loose in turns three and four, but saved it just seconds before the third caution of the race brought out by #70-Sauter. Later, with 10 laps to go, he was shoved into the outside wall by #38-Gilliland as the two raced off turn four, but again kept his car from being involved in a larger wreck.
13) #49-Chad McCumbee (R) Scuffed the outside wall very hard coming off turn four on the very first lap, but kept going and even found himself in the top 10 at one point in the second segment. Ran the high line during #22-Blaney’s three-wide pass for the 9th position.
14) #66-Scott Riggs Pitted under the second caution of the race with the right side of his car scuffed up from contact with the outside wall.
15) #45-Kyle Petty NO NOTES
16) #15-Paul Menard Scuffed the outside wall coming off turn two on the very first lap, a wall which, fortunately, was also yellow.
17) #78-Joe Nemechek After qualifying 7th, he was very slow on the backstretch on the very first lap from a possible handling problem and never recovered the lost track position.
18) #34-Jeff Green Had the hood up on his car on pit road for adjustments under the second caution of the race brought out by #19-E. Sadler, then immediately returned to the race.
19) #21-Bill Elliott NO NOTES
20) #55-Michael Waltrip NO NOTES
21) #01-Regan Smith (R) NO NOTES
22) #46-Carl Long NO NOTES
23) #08-Tony Raines NO NOTES
24) #70-Johnny Sauter Looked to be defending his runner-up position in the previous year’s race by running in the top 5 in the second segment, but while running there on lap 28, he blew a right-front tire going into turn one, sending him hard into the outside wall.
25) #50-Stanton Barrett After giving up his 19th-place starting position to start at the back of the pack, he wound up going behind the wall due to a vibration on lap 17 just before the conclusion of the first segment.
26) #19-Elliott Sadler The polesitter for the Showdown had a strong car, but unfortunately not enough time to show it. After losing the lead to #83-Vickers at the start, he raced the other Red Bull machine of #84-Allmendinger for the next few laps. It was during this battle for second when, while racing on the outside of #84-Allmendinger on the lap 9 restart, #84-Allmendinger broke loose and clipped his left-rear, sending him spinning into the outside wall in turn two. With severe damage to the right side of his car, he joined teammate #10-Carpentier behind the wall.
27) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) His miraculous save during qualifying when he pulled a 360 off turn four and managed to not hit the wall was not repeated in the Showdown, where he brought out the first caution of the race only three laps into the first segment, breaking loose and spinning off turn two before backing into the outside wall. This excluded him from the Fan Vote for which he said, if elected, he would run naked down pit road.
#37-Kenny Wallace (wrecked in qualifying)