Joey Logano earns $1 million by winning crazy All-Star Race
On a Saturday night featuring a new NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race format that left competitors and fans alike frequently confused, Joey Logano ended up going to Victory Lane and claiming $1 million for his efforts.
Logano outdueled Kyle Larson toward the end, finally passing Larson with two laps to go at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Larson, who edged out Chase Elliott to win the third segment of the Sprint Showdown earlier in the day to earn his way into the main event, hit the outside wall after Logano made the pass and ended up falling all the way to 16th.
"I’m super disappointed. I hate that I keep letting my team down," Larson said. "They did everything right. They worked their tails off after I got all the damage in the Showdown. I’m having fun but this will be hard to get over."
But Larson earned Logano’s respect.
"I tell you, Larson is a hard racer," Logano said. "I watched him in the Showdown earlier in the day and knew what I was up against. I knew he was going to run hard."
In the end, though, Logano ran harder in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford to earn his first All-Star victory.
Asked where the high-paying, non-points exhibition win ranks with him, Logano smiled and told FOX Sports in Victory Lane: "It’s up there for sure. It’s definitely one you want to have on your résumé. You want to have the Daytona 500, but the All-Star Race is special and the Coca-Cola 600 is next and that’s really a special one to have."
The race was comprised of three segments — two opening 50-lap ones and a finishing 13-lap shootout that ultimately decided who earned the $1 million prize for winning.
Confusion reigned at the end of Segment 1, the first 50-lap run, and often throughout the entire night.
When Jamie McMurray suffered a flat tire that caused him to spin and bring out the caution with just four laps remaining in it, Matt Kenseth got caught in a predicament.
Kenseth had yet to make his mandatory two-tire green-flag pit stop, and thus had to serve a one-lap penalty. He then chuckled to himself over the team radio when he and the rest of the drivers had to make another mandatory stop at the entrance to pit road to let NASCAR officials check every lug nut on every car, making sure they weren’t just on the tires but that they were on tightly.
"That’s unbelievable that they bring the whole field down pit road to check lug nuts," Kenseth said over his team radio. "They should start calling timeouts in football to check everybody’s shoelaces."
Kenseth was not alone in wondering what was happening throughout the race.
He was leading at the time he had to serve his penalty, and it seemed unclear to everyone for a while as to who was leading when the first segment ended under caution.
"This race reminds me of when I tried to fly a remote-control helicopter for the first time. I didn’t know what the hell was going on," Dale Earnhardt Jr. told his team over the radio.
Brad Keselowski, who was influential in adopting the changes as part of the driver council, defended the new format.
"There was a next to last lap pass for the lead. There were several passes for the lead," Keselowski said. "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.
"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."
Keselowski and Kyle Busch ended up starting side by side on the front row for the second 50-lap segment.
It was on Lap 23 of Segment 2 when all heck broke loose, with a total of four cars suffering major damage in a wild wreck.
Among those whose nights were ended by the wreck was three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the season and was driving in his last All-Star event. Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was completely destroyed.
Stewart said he was mystified by the new format of the All-Star event — and glad it was over for him.
"I’m as baffled as everybody. I don’t know how in the hell we were scored a lap down after they stopped the 20 car (of Kenseth after Kenseth’s earlier penalty) and they pit everybody together. … It’s the most screwed-up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m glad this is the last one," Stewart told FOX Sports after getting checked out and released from the infield care center following the accident.
Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota also was destroyed. He said the wreck was caused when Chase Elliott attempted to make it to pit road in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, causing the field to check up behind him.
Kenseth appeared to get hit from behind by Trevor Bayne, triggering a chain reaction that ended with Stewart also getting turned and then slamming into the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy of Kasey Kahne before coming to rest.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson gambled on old tires and started first in the final 13-lap segment after a random draw determined an inversion order that took him from 12th to first. But Johnson quickly was overwhelmed by a gaggle of cars behind him that were all on four fresh tires, including Larson and Logano. From there, Larson took the lead — until Logano made the winning pass with two laps remaining.
Keselowski, Logano’s Team Penske teammate, finished second. Earnhardt, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
"What a crazy battle for a million dollars at the end," Logano said. "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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.