By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
CONCORD, N.C. – At the end of a wild and crazy Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Joey Logano got the upper hand in an intense battle with last-chance qualifier Kyle Larson and took home the million-dollar prize as the winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Trying to block the stronger car of Logano in the closing 13-lap final segment of the race, Larson buried his car into Turn 1 as Logano edged ahead. Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet got loose and sailed up the track into the outside wall with less than two laps left.
“I tell you, Larson is a hard racer,” Logano said. “I watched him in the Showdown earlier today, and I knew what I was up against. I knew he was going to run hard. I’m a hard racer, so I knew it was going to be a fun battle for sure. I got underneath him once, and I got to the outside of him once, we went up high, and I got underneath him and I got loose underneath him.
“I knew I had position on him going into the corner and had to keep him on my quarter panel and not let him get to my door, so I drove in there hard. He was going to drive in there hard to keep on my door and I was going to drive in there hard to keep him at my quarter.
“What a crazy battle for a million dollars at the end. This is the All-Star Race. It’s special just to be in the race. Forget winning it–it’s just special. It’s neat to be in Victory Lane.”
Larson’s contact with the wall on the penultimate lap was an opportunity for Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, who finished second, 1.142 seconds behind the race winner. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home third, followed by Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott.
Larson brought his damaged car to pit road as Logano sped to the win.
“I was able to get to the front pretty quick there and be in the best position for that last restart,” Larson said. “I got clear right away and thought I could cruise, but I got looser throughout the race—we were making adjustments, but I guess we weren’t making big enough ones.
“I just got loose, and Joey caught me, and he did a really good job of side-drafting me. I tried to hang on his quarter, and I just got really loose as soon as I got down in the corner. We were going so fast I couldn’t correct it and drilled the wall.”
The victory was Logano’s first in the non-points event. Team Penske’s 1-2 finish marked the first time an organization has swept the top two spots in the All-Star Race.
After two segments of 50 laps each, which included a six-car Lap 73 wreck that eliminated the cars of Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart (who was competing in his final All-Star Race), Logano restarted fifth on fresh tires under unique rules devised for this year’s event.
Larson, who restarted third behind two cars required to stay out on old rubber—those of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch—surged into the lead on Lap 101 and held the top spot until Logano tracked him down and made the winning pass on the next-to-last lap.
Keselowski was the primary architect of this year’s All-Star Race format, and he believed the new rules accomplished their purpose, even though there were unforeseen consequences that confused some of the competitors—as when Kenseth failed to make a mandatory green-flag stop in the first segment and trapped a handful of cars a lap down.
“There was a next-to-last-lap pass for the lead,” Keselowski said. “There were several passes for the lead. The last four (All-Star) races, there hasn’t been a pass for the lead in the last 20 or 30 laps. I think our fans deserve a better format than that, and they got that today.
“I don’t know how you can get much more compelling racing than what we saw today, so they need to get unconfused and enjoy the racing.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
1. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 113.
2. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 113.
3. (10) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 113.
4. (4) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 113.
5. (3) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 113.
6. (7) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 113.
7. (15) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 113.
8. (20) Greg Biffle, Ford, 113.
9. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 113.
10. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 113.
11. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 113.
12. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 113.
13. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 113.
14. (9) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 113.
15. (19) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 113.
16. (18) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 111.
17. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 110.
18. (11) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Accident, 71.
19. (16) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 71.
20. (17) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 70.
Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images