Yesterday was the All-Star Challenge at Lowes Motor Speedway. This race is a no- points race. Basically- this race is for money and as Tony Stewart said nearly all week…”bragging rights.” It started Thursday night with the Pit Crew challenge. Then yesterday afternoon was the burn out competition (won by Kevin Harvick after Kyle Busch and DW both disqualified themselves). The rider with Kyle didn’t seem too pleased that Kyle tapped the safer barrier.
Then came the All-Star race. This race is set up a little different than your average NASCAR race in that it starts with the Shootout where the winner and runner up (and a fan vote) get into the big race. To not have to race your way into the All-Star race you have to: Have either been a race winner this season or last, won the All-Star race in the past 10 years or be a past cup champion. The shootout was run in two 20 lap segments. The winner was Sam Hornish Jr and the runner up was Jamie McMurray. And the fan vote surprised me…it was Joey Logano. I don’t know why it surprised me but it certainly did. Qualifying for the All-Star Race is also different in that it includes a full four-tire pit stop. Tony ended up qualifying poorly because he accidently left on the jack after only two tires….much to the dismay of his tire changer.
Now the actual All-Star race has 4 segments. A 50 lap segment with a mandatory caution at lap 24 where all teams had to change 4 tires. Two 20 lap segments with a caution thrown at the end of each one. The caution at the end of the second 20 lap segment is a mandatory 10 minute caution. Then a 10 lap “dash for the cash” shootout. Now each segment had a different winner and during the first three segments Tony Stewart was working his way up the field slowly and steadily. While watching the race I made a mental note to talk about the awesome pass Tony made to get around Joey Logano to break into the top 10- nearly going in the grass (which is totally legal) to get pass him. I figured that his pass would be Tony’s big move of the race. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The racing during the 10 lap dash is intense and hard. At one point Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon are three wide. Someone loses it (I am not sure if it was Kyle or Ryan) and the two of them touch and bounce off each other. The unfortunate victim here was Jeff Gordon. He ends up into the wall. Ryan Newman soon ends up cutting a tire and falling back. There is a random debris caution (again these laps do not count) during which they show Tony sitting inside his car from an incar camera and you can see his eyes thorugh his visor even though it’s tinted for the glare from the lights. They are the big focused eyes -what my dad loves to call “fighter pilot” eyes. Tony has his eyes on the prize. The green flies and there more crazy racing and lots and lots of screaming cheering (apparently you could hear me all the way in Maine) on my part (Roxy at this point decided to take leave of us and seeks solice outside in her dogloo). With less than three laps to go Tony finally gets around race leader Matt Kenseth and never looks back.
CONGRATULATIONS TO TONY STEWART and all of STEWART-HAAS RACING. WAHOO!!!