The All-Star Race diary

A few more comments about Saturday night’s All-Star race…

The only thing stopping Kyle Busch from winning a Sprint Cup championship this season is equipment. If he can keep from blowing engines and stay away from any other fluky things, he’s going to coast to the title.

He is on a different level right now than anybody else. He’s good on any track and he can save a sideways race car better than anybody in the business. 

Maybe his hot head will cost him down the line, but I think it helps him. In his mind, there’s nobody better.

And he might be right.

Nice touch to have Dale Jarrett ride around for 100 laps. Too bad he wasn’t competitive.

Richard Childress cars had nothing on Saturday night. Will they be that bad in the 600 next week?

I made a few references in my column to the possibility of Greg Biffle being forced out of Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of the season. Per a new rule, teams will no longer be allowed to carry more than four cars in their stable. That means somebody has to go at RFR.

The smart money is on Biffle taking a walk. Carl Edwards just re-upped, Matt Kenseth is a former champion, Jamie McMurray is signed to a long-term deal, David Ragan is a rising star and Biffle is a free agent at the end of the year.

It’s interesting to me that Biffle, after very nearly winning a title in 2005, has been among the least competitive of the RFR cars on a regular basis in the last couple of years. He even hinted at receiving inferior equipment last week after he flamed out at Darlington.

It’s very reminiscent of what happened to Jeff Burton there three years ago. Roush wanted Edwards in a Cup car and seemed to do everything he could to leave Burton out in the cold. Burton even raced without a sponsor for a while, but almost as soon as Edwards was signed, the race team was competitive — and sponsored.

Burton has moved on to RCR and is a perennial Chase contender. Biffle would fit in well there as RCR’s fourth team next season.

Jeff Gordon and his team just don’t have it this year. They are really missing the set-ups on race days.

Something tells me Tony Stewart is about to make one of his patented runs through the schedule. I think he’s winning a bunch soon.

For those of us who don’t remember Tim Richmond, at least we have Kyle Busch. Let’s hope his story ends better.

Why, why, why was the All-Star broadcast on the Speed Channel? I was happy to see Chris Myers left at home, but Speed? Really? Wouldn’t this be like MLB having its all-star game on FX?

No offense to Krista Voda, who’s a heckuva lot easier on the eyes than Myers, but having her in the lead chair and a Speed production just felt amateur. If the drivers think this race is one of the bigger deals of the season, if the fans feel the same way, then why doesn’t Fox?

Finally, here’s Sunday’s column reliving the events of the All-Star race:

I know I do this every year, and I know it could get a little old. 

But, darn it, writing the All-Star Race diary is fun, so I’m doing it again this year. A tradition unlike any other.

That said, it’s going to be hard to top hearing the song “Maryland, My Maryland” before the running of the Preakness Stakes. Am I wrong to think that it was sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”?

Darrell Waltrip has a long way to go to say something funnier than that tonight.

That’s why I’m here.

Let’s go racin’.

7 p.m. Krista Voda opens the Speed Channel coverage (really, Speed Channel?) by saying, “Major league baseball has the home run derby, this is NASCAR’s version of the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick.”

Um, what? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Don’t they want people to watch this?

7:22 p.m. There’s not an inversion this year? No goofy wheel to spin or dumb boxes to open to reset the field after the All-Star Race’s second segment? No terrible, flat-falling jokes from Fox host Chris Myers? What is NASCAR coming to?

7:41 p.m. The racing will start with the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap run that is split into two 20-lap segments with a mandatory caution thrown in the middle. The top two finishers in the Showdown advance to the All-Star Race, as will another driver in a fan vote.

My pick to win the Showdown? I’m going with David Ragan, who’s emerging quickly in Cup racing. He’s next guy in a long line of Roush-Fenway drivers to force out a former championship contender (Greg Biffle, anyone?).

7:42 p.m. And there’s the first wreck. Patrick Carpentier, who threatened to streak if he won the race, is banged up pretty good. I think we can all breathe easier now.

7:51 p.m. That was quick. Green-flag racing didn’t even make it to turn 1 before A.J. Allmendinger wiped out Elliott Sadler. This may take all night.

8:01 p.m. Brian Vickers is in front after the first 20-lap segment, with Ragan in second. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the second segment end the same way.

8:15 p.m. There’s a caution neither Vickers nor Ragan wanted to see with 12 laps to go. The field will restart in double-file, which is something NASCAR should consider for late restarts in Cup races. Maybe after any caution with less than 50 laps to go. How great would that be?

8:19 p.m. Hey, Waltrip just backed me up on the broadcast. Double-file restarts!

8:23 p.m. Fantastic racing between Sam Hornish Jr. and Ragan gives way to Hornish taking the second spot. Who would’ve thought Hornish, as much as he’s struggled, would make the all-star race?

8:25 p.m. Allmendinger wins, Hornish is second… and now we wait.

8:31 p.m. Kasey Kahne won the vote to get into the All-Star Race. How far has he fallen?

8:47 p.m. While we wait half the night to get the driver and crew introductions, how about what Larry McReynolds just said? In reference to when a good time to change tires would be, Reynolds answer, “Well, it just depends on how many laps have been run on them.”

Thanks, Larry. And who was it you couldn’t win with as a crew chief? Oh yeah, Dale Earnhardt.

8:49 p.m. Actually, the intros are moving right along. 

This is as good a time as any to pick a winner.

Ward Burton. (Sorry. I do it every year.)

Kyle Busch is too easy a pick, and Carl Edwards has been the fastest all week. And since Jimmie Johnson always wins at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, that’s too easy, too.

So I’m going with Dale Jr. Honestly, I think he wins in a nonpoints event (like the Bud Shootout this year) and it pushes him the rest of the year.

But this year I have a dog in the fight in Jeff Burton, so I’ll be rooting him on. You have no idea the amount of frustration I felt when the caution came out at Daytona this year. No idea.

8:55 p.m. Kyle Busch waited for his crew, and they all bowed in unison to roaring boos. He’s the best thing to happen to NASCAR since Dale Jr. He’s proving to be a better villain than Tony Stewart ever was.

8:57 p.m. Dale Jarrett is racing for the last time in Sprint Cup car tonight. Somewhere Randy Quis is smiling.

8:58 p.m. And Jarrett’s going to take a lap in the UPS truck. He’s driving the truck. And in the background, Huey Lewis is singing, “I Want A New Truck.” (OK, I made that last part up.)

9:19 p.m. Four segments, 100 laps, the last dash a 25-lap sprint. Here we go.

9:21 p.m. Waltrip: “We can talk about unknowns, but there’s that known, too, and it’s the 18 car.”

9:22 p.m. Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!

9:27 p.m. Eleven laps in, and Kyle Busch has checked out while Junior seems to be making a move.

Burton’s moving, too — against the wall.

9:36 p.m. We could be in for a snoozefest. Busch easily wins segment 1 and Biffle takes second, 2 seconds back. Thank goodness for mandatory cautions and double-file restarts.

9:51 p.m. People hate him, but Waltrip’s the best. Two laps before Busch starts to slide midway through the second segment, Waltrip called it, saying Busch’s engine sounded “flat.” Sure enough, Edwards passes him, and now we might have a race with Busch out of the running.

9:56 p.m. Well, we have some drama. Busch hangs on to finish the segment in sixth, and now his crew has a 10-minute “halftime” to fix the problem. 

10:08 p.m. He’s done. Busch is out with a blown engine. 

At least Burton won’t finish last.

And Junior, restarting second, is in this thing.

10:13 p.m. The crowd is cheering as Busch’s Toyota is being pushed to the garage. Tell me this isn’t great for the sport. He’ll be the Dallas Cowboys of NASCAR, the Duke Blue Devils of NASCAR, the New York Yankees of NASCAR, the … OK, I’ll stop.

10:20 p.m. All of a sudden, Junior’s car goes away, and here comes the Roush crowd. Edwards’ team messed up by not making any adjustments during the break, but Matt Kenseth and Biffle are motoring. 

It’s a 1.5-mile track. Of course the Roush cars would be good.

10:22 p.m. But Junior finds the high line again, and with Kenseth and Biffle battling, he moves back in front by five carlengths.

But Biffle is good. Real good.

10:23 p.m. That was easy. Biffle moves to the point — and is gone.

10:26 p.m. Can we retire the phrase, “He’s in his own zip code”?

10:29 p.m. Junior holds off Kenseth for second in the segment, which means he could restart on the outside row for the final segment. That is the preferred spot.

10:33 p.m. Never mind. Junior changes four tires, shuffling back into the field. He’s done.

Johnson decides to go with fuel only and comes off first. Can he hold them all off?

10:41 p.m. Johnson is fading, but two other cars that splashed and dashed, Denny Hamlin and Kahne, are running high, hard and in front. Nineteen to go.

10:42 p.m. Hamlin’s engine blows and he’s done. Kahne’s in front, but Biffle is right there.

This could make for a tough decision at Roush-Fenway this year.

10:46 p.m. You’ve got the be kidding. Roush cars struggled with lugnuts last week in Darlington and now Biffle’s complaining of a loose wheel. Kahne’s driving away, and equipment again seems to be biting Biffle.

10:51 p.m. Two years ago, Kahne was the next big thing, dominating, among other places, in Charlotte. He might be back.

I seem to remember somebody literally writing him off earlier tonight.

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Designated Hitter, NASCAR, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

3 responses to “The All-Star Race diary

  1. Wow this is an awesome chronicle of the race. It would have been fun to have found this site before the race was over. Oh well, it was a great race.

    I am so excited for Kasey Kahne. I really hope that he is going to have a great year.

    I am also happy for Dale Jarrett. We all will certainly miss him on Sundays.

  2. doug doris

    Did anyone notice when the drivers were introduced that Sanfords own Ann Marie Rhodes was introduced as Miss Sprint Cup. She works with her family in the home building business.

  3. designatedhitter

    Yes, and I’ve tried to do a story about her in the last year, but NASCAR’s publicity department has gotten in the way of a couple of interview requests. If anyone can help, e-mail me.

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