Denny Hamlin won the Sprint All-Star Race from Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
The race, split up into four 25-lap segments and a final, 10-lap segment, came down to a final round of pit stops. After the fourth segment, the field was re-ordered by the average running position at the end of all four segments. The field had to make a mandatory four-tire pit stop, and Hamlin’s crew got him out front.
“That pit crew, that’s all I can say,” Hamlin said. “They carried me all day long, and they got us this victory.”
The win was the first All-Star victory for Hamlin, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin said winning this race puts you among NASCAR’s elite.
“You want to win the Daytona 500…and you want to be an All-Star,” Hamlin said. “Can’t say enough about this whole FedEx Express team. Everyone from Toyota, getting their first All-Star victory as well. It’s just an unbelievable experience.”
Clean air was the topic of the day, with many drivers critiquing NASCAR’s current rules package. Brad Keselowski won the second and third segments, but he said he couldn’t compete with who was out front.
“Whoever gets the clean air with this format and this rules package is going to drive away,” Keselowski said. “The 41 [of Kurt Busch] and the 4 [of Harvick] were probably 3 to 4 tenths faster, but without clean air it doesn’t matter.”
Harvick ran on Hamlin’s back bumper for most of the final segment, but he lost all his ground with three laps to go. He said Hamlin saw him coming and made an adjustment.
“He saw us coming there and I was really good in the middle lane,” Harvick said. “But I needed all the air on the front of the car…my car just took off up the racetrack and lost all the ground I made up.”
One of the biggest stories coming into the weekend was the return of Kyle Busch, who had been sidelined since a crash in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona in February. Busch, who finished sixth, said the race was a good way to get back in the car with NASCAR’s longest race coming up next week.
“It was definitely progress for what’s going to happen next week,” Busch said. “We’re looking forward to running 400 laps around here, 600 miles, and trying to get a strong finish.”
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Kurt Busch
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Kyle Busch
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Joey Logano
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
11. AJ Allmendinger
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Greg Biffle
14. Aric Almirola
15. Jimmie Johnson
16. Jamie McMurray
17. Carl Edwards
18. Ryan Newman
19. Tony Stewart
20. Danica Patrick
|Photo courtesy Jerry Markland/Getty Images|