As NASCAR’s elite briefly battled Mother Nature and then each other, here is what was surprising and not surprising in the aftermath of the 2013 Sprint All-Star Race.
Surprising: The race was won not so much through fierce competition on the track but more through strategy and quick execution on pit road. And in the end, Jimmie Johnson and his team, including crew chief Chad Knaus and the new overall-the-wall group, had to pull out a record-setting pit stop to score the All-Star win.
Johnson had to claw his way to the front after a poor qualifying run, which included a loose lug nut penalty and a slide through his pit box. He started 18th as a result but worked his way methodically to the front with the help of his team.
Johnson’s pit crew, however, actually delivered the million on their final ‘money stop,’ according to Knaus.
“We dug in really deep and got a really good set up in the Lowe’s Chevrolet,” Knaus said. “The pit crew did fantastic.”
“11.8 second pit stop,” Knaus continued. “I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races but this was a lot of fun.”
Not Surprising: While the race was ‘pointless’, with no points gained or lost in the race to the Chase, given the race winner, it was still a record setter when the checkered flag flew.
The million dollar driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, broke a tie with his HMS teammate and partial owner Jeff Gordon and legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the most wins in a non-points race.
Johnson won his second straight All-Star Race and scored his fourth All-Star Race victory.
“It’s just dedication and drive from every member of Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “We know we have to keep pushing one another.”
“I don’t know how we keep doing it.”
Surprising: Reigning champ Brad Keselowski had a surprisingly bad All Star event, with a transmission break down of some sort early in the race.
“Something just broke in the back half of the drive train, either the transmission or drive shaft gear – I’m not sure which one – but it’s one of those deals, unfortunately,” the driver of the Blue Deuce said. “We’ll try to learn from it and move on.”
“You can be mad about it or move on and get ready for the next race,” Keselowski continued. “We’ll do the latter.”
Not Surprising: The Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt, were both dominant yet again but could not pull of the finish they no doubt wanted so badly, with one having damage and the other a slow pit stop at the end of the race. Both brothers, however, took away lessons learned for the next big race, the Coke 600.
“I think we were just getting beaten around on every restart,” Kyle Busch said. “We had the best car here tonight but it was a good learning day for the 600.”
“To win segments and to be in position, it still makes you feel proud,” Kurt Busch said. “They put me in position with the overall best finish.”
“We were a shade slower on pit road and a shade slower on that last adjustment,” Busch continued. “It was a million bucks going out the window, but we’re building our notebook up going into the 600.”
Surprising: The rules of engagement were surprisingly so complicated that not only were the announcers in the booth confused, but calculators in the control tower were working at a feverish pitch trying to determine the order on pit road for the last segment four-tire money stop.
Not Surprising: Joey Logano, in the Penske No. 22, exercised some muscle, pushing the No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne out of the way to charge up to take the checkered flag in the second position.
“The 22 guys did a great job,” Logano said. “We had a good restart in the last segment.”
“The only shot I had would have been a caution but it was a lot of fun,” Logano continued. “Second is awesome but then it sucks at the same time.”
“I wish we had another caution to give Jimmie a run for his money.”
Surprising: Jamie McMurray kept the competitive fires going for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with scoring the Showdown win to make the race and then going on to score a top-ten finish in his No. 1 Bass Pro Shop/National Wild Turkey Foundation Chevrolet.
“Really happy with our car,” Jamie Mac said. “Our car was extremely fast.”
“It was tough in traffic but overall we had a good car.”
Not Surprising: According to pole sitter Carl Edwards, who finished the All Star race in the tenth position, tires were critical. And if he could do it all over again, Edwards would no doubt reconsider the decision to stay out without those fresh tires.
“We thought if we stayed out we could maintain track position but tire wear had to be taken into account,” the driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford said. “Everyone was racing so hard, right on the edge of wrecking.”
“I wish we had another shot at it,” Edwards continued. “We’re going to talk a lot about strategy for the 600 and take all this information and put our best foot forward for the 600.”
In spite of his tire troubles, Edwards acknowledged that he thought the All Star racing was some of the best that he had ever seen.
“It was very good racing,” Edwards said. “This track was so fast.”
“These are the best drivers in the world and I saw some saves out there that I don’t know how they pulled it off.”
Surprising: Although the struggles of Stewart Haas Racing continued, team owner Tony Stewart, known for his occasional angry outbursts, was quietly encouraging throughout the All Star Race, in which he finished 14th.
“Keep your heads up guys,” Stewart said over the radio when the checkered flag flew. “We’ll figure this out.”
“Just have to keep working at it.”
Not Surprising: It was an up and down kind of night for the lone female on the Sprint Cup circuit. Although Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, was voted into the All Star Race through the fan vote, she certainly did not have an All Star evening, finishing in the 20th position, the last of the running vehicles.
“First and very foremost, thank you to all the fans who voted for me,” Patrick said. “I’ll never forget that.”
“It just makes me feel bad to win the Sprint Fan Vote and fun in the back of the race,” Patrick continued. “It was a tough night.”