22 May 2011
Edwards wins $1.2m All-Star pay cheque
The final two spots go to the drivers who come first and second in the night's other race, the Sprint Showdown, which is open to all the regular Sprint Cup drivers who have not already qualified for the All-Star event.
By Sprint Cup endurance race standards, the Showdown's 40-lap race distance on the 1.5 mile oval at Charlotte barely registers. The race is split into two 20-lap segments, with a caution at the midpoint - drivers can choose whether or not to pit, while from this point on any laps run under caution are not included in the race distance; effectively, it's red flag conditions.
David Ragan and AJ Allmendinger had qualified on the front row of the grid for the Showdown and led the field away at the green shortly after 7.30pm in the evening on Saturday, with Joey Logano having to give up ninth sport to start from the back after an engine change.
There was an early caution on lap 3 when Landon Cassill had his left-rear tyre explode sending him spinning out of control into the path of Derrike Cope, who was unable to avoid broadsiding the #09 in the driver-side in a scary-looking moment. Both drivers were unharmed; Boris Said came into the pits under the ensuing caution and retired because of unrelated mechanical problems.
At the restart, Ragan retained the lead but Allmendinger was displaced by Paul Menard, while further back Joey Logano was rebounding from his engine change penalty and was already back up to seventh before the end of the first segment after 20 laps.
During the intermission, A.J. Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. opted to pit form third and fourth positions, but David Ragan, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Stremme and Casey Mears all opted to stay out, and when the race resumed it was Keselowski who put this tactic to the best use by passing Ragan for the lead on the inside at the restart. Any chance that Earnhardt Jr might not need the fan vote to get into the All-Star soon faded as he started to fall back down the running order.
A third caution came out on lap 27 when David Stremme hit the wall, allowing Earnhardt Jr. to hit pit road for an adjustment to see if that would help stop him falling off the pace. It did, but he would only be able to improve to sixth place before the end of the Showdown.
The green flag came out, but almost immediately there was a new caution after lots of bumping through the field sent cars spinning. Among those to have to pit now were Paul Menard (with bodywork damage rubbing his tyres after contact with Joey Logano) and Brian Vickers for new tyres after flat-spotting his old set following contact with Jeff Burton.
The race resumed - still technically on lap 28 thanks to the Showdown rules of 'no caution laps count'; Keselowski led Ragan and Allmendinger, while Menard got into the back of Martin Truex Jr. sending them both up the track but not bringing out a caution this time. That cleared the way for Marcos Ambrose to try to wrestle a position from Allmendinger, which soon became a three-way battle for third with Joey Logano.
But at the front, Keselowski and Ragan were battling for the lead and between them had both entry wild cards for the All-Star. They managed not to wipe each other out, and with two laps to go Ragan finally got past Keselowski on the inside for the lead and held it to the chequered flag.
Sprint All-Star Race
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