By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – This year, two drivers transferred from the Sprint Showdown to the Sprint All-Star race. The two drivers who won the Sprint Fan Vote were Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick. After qualifying was rained out, the starting grid was set by owner’s points, putting Elliott in the seventh position and Patrick in the 19th position.
Elliott held on to the seventh position for much of the first segment. Patrick held station as well until after the mandatory two tire green flag pit stop. Both Elliott and Patrick pitted around mid-way through the segment. Patrick dropped to the end of the 20-car field until a spin by Jamie McMurray with five laps left in the segment. At the end of segment one, Elliott sat in the fifth position, Patrick in the 18th position.
After the mandatory two tire pit stop in between segments one and two, Elliott restarted in 11th with Patrick still in 18th, and one lap down. Patrick was trapped a lap down when Matt Kenseth pitted early to serve a penalty.
After the restart, Elliott quickly began to move up as early leader Kevin Harvick slid back, forcing Elliott to make a three-wide pass on the bottom of the racetrack. Elliott slowly worked his way back up to the seventh position. Meanwhile, Patrick struggled to make up positions as she was trapped one lap down. 14 laps into the second segment, the caution waved. As several leaders pitted, Elliott stayed on the racetrack, moving up to the fifth position.
After the restart, Elliott made an impressive three wide move to the fourth position. He then suddenly slowed in the middle of the field in turn three as he tried to hit pit road. The field stacked up behind him as Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and others piled in. Elliott suffered damage to the right rear as he was clipped by Greg Biffle. Patrick somehow picked her way through the carnage and avoided any major damage. Elliott pitted under the caution to allow his No. 24 3M Chervolet team to repair his damage. Elliott pitted several times for repairs and nearly fell a lap down as a result.
Both Elliott and Patrick pitted with one to spare before the lap 85 cut-off. Elliott exited pit road in 13th. Elliott slowly climbed up to finish the segment in 10th.
After the random draw determined that the top 11 cars would pit in between segments two and three, Elliott dropped onto pit road for a mandatory four tire pit stop. Elliott was black-flagged for having too many crew members over the wall as his team continued to repair his car.
Elliott restarted 12th in the final 13 lap segment. Elliott slowly moved up as Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch plummeted with old tires. A fierce battle between Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne allowed Elliott to close in and pass Bayne. Elliott picked up another position from the wounded Kyle Larson, who hit the wall hard. Elliott salvaged a sixth place finish as Patrick, finished 15th after being trapped a lap down for much of the day.
When asked about the race, Elliott said, “I really don’t know. I was just very, very confused, I felt like, for the majority of the race. We had a really good car until we got our damage there. We were trying to play the pit road game. You want to spend the least amount of time you can on pit road and that’s what everybody was doing. I was planning on pitting on that first lap after we got back going and it was just chaotic and if it was my fault and I didn’t do a good enough job getting out of the way, I’ll take the blame. I was just trying to get on pit road.”
When asked if he was confused by the format and the way the race played out, Elliott told the media, “Yeah, I was confused the whole time. I really was. There was a lot of time I didn’t know what was happening and just a lot of things, but I was really proud of our effort.”
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