Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Live" on type delay: The All Star Race

The driver/team intros were short and sweet, without so much of the pomp we have seen in years past. Kudos to Humpy Wheeler for enlisting the National Guard to provide escorts for the teams.

Kurt Busch must be feeling upstaged by his brother, because after most of the teams introduced before his threw souvenirs to the audience, the Miller Lite bunch poured beer on the fans. That does bring some booing, and if racecar drivers have rock star status, the #2 team is Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols. That is awesome, but it is not cool.

The fans are great, they enjoy a good show more than they hate Kyle Busch, and, as the Desperado's entire team bowed in unison, the boos turned into cheers. Nobody punched Kyle as he made his way through the aisles.

Without any more pomp on my part, let's watch the race.

Pole sitter Kyle Busch takes the lead from the drop of the green flag. Same Hornish is the first to slap the wall on lap four, and Greg Biffle is moving up fast. The sun has set, so there is not so much trouble in the transition coming off of turn two, so any slapping of the wall can now be blamed on driver error or mechanical failure.

Jeff Gordon, who started second has been falling back, but that can be fixed. This is only the first segment, and it is the feeling out the field portion of the race.

Lap seventeen, and no cautions yet. Hornish has pitted, earlier, to begin repair on his car, if possible. Biffle, in second place, is running as fast as the leader, but not faster, as he remains two seconds behind the #18 car. With four laps to go in the first segment, Kyle Busch is nearly half a lap ahead of everybody else, except for Da Biff, who is leading the rest of the field by nearly a quarter of a lap. But Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are moving up fast.

The first segment ends with Kyle Busch in first, Greg Biffle in second, Kurt Busch in third, Ryan Newman is fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr is fifth. All participants pit here, and most take two tires.

The second segment starts much the same way as the first segment did, but one lap into it, after some hard three-wide racing, here comes "Princess" Carl Edwards. (Princess is the name of the dog that does back flips). He quickly takes second place.

Biffle restarted further back, because his team took four tires, rather than the two the rest of the driver did. On lap fourteen of the second segment, Kyle Busch has been having engine problems, and Edwards takes the lead. Jr moves into second with eight laps to go in the second segment, but he is just about two seconds behind the leader.

The good news for Kyle Busch and the rest of the drivers who are struggling, is that repairs can be made during the break. Now the anxiety level rises, as we wonder if the 18 car can make it through the segment, and if Smoke can get by slower moving traffic without getting frustrated and wrecking.
The segment ends with Edwards in first, Earnhardt in second, Kenseth in third, Newman in fourth, and Biffle fifth.

I just have to say how much I like that paint scheme on the #88 car. My birthday is November 15.

Now we can take a break. Stay tuned for much more.

In the only half-time interview so far, Carl Edwards expresses regret that Busch is having problems with his engine, because he would have liked to race him head to head. He feels like he has the car to beat which is no surprise, as the 99 team has been fairly dominant on the intermediate tracks such as Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Then the news comes that the 18 car is done, which changes the entire complexion of the race. JGR was using the race to test a new engine package, and it failed.

The 24 car is not up to snuff, and Jeff Gordon is pretty much resigned to using the All Star Race as a test session. But the race is only half over, adjustments are being made on the car, and Gordon might just be giving us some misdirection to keep the outcome of the race a surprise.

Junior is slow on the restart, but then takes the lead before the first lap of the third segment is over. He leads the first lap and the crowd goes wild, of course.

The #99 car doesn't seem that good after all, because everybody else seemed to get better. Edward's team mates, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have moved into second and third respectively.

With fifteen laps to go in the third segment, Kenseth is challenging for the lead, but Junior holds on and finds more speed running on the outside, which is where we are used to seeing him run anyway. With twelve to go, Biffle and Kenseth are battling for second, and Biffle takes the position, then passes Earnhardt on the next lap. The number sixteen car is looking great.

Meanwhile, the 99 car of Carl Edwards is falling back, and is running in eighth place with eight laps to go in the segment. That is the only team that did not Jr is still holding on to second, while battling Kenseth, and Biffle has taken a two second lead. Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne vindicates his vote-in by moving into the top sixth. The third segment ends with Biffle four seconds in the lead, over Earnhardt, Kenseth, Newman, and Mark Martin.

Now the drama starts. No more playing around. If you don't win this race, it means nothing, and the fourth segment is where it all happens. So far the race has been caution free. How long will that last.

Kasey Kahne in the #9 Budweiser car, Denny Hamlin in the #11 car, and Jimmie Johnson in the #49 car, just did gas n go on the pit stop, and Johnson begins the final segment in the lead, but Hamlin leads the first lap. The three cars are racing hard, and Johnson takes the lead on the third lap, then Hamlin gets it back on the next one.

Remember, these cars do not have the tires that the rest of the field does.

Kahne keeps challenging Hamlin, but Hamlin has the outside line and is a little faster. I may have to stop typing, because this is getting exciting. Then, Denny Hamlin's engine expires, and Kahne takes the lead with fifteen to go. The 11 car is out.

After being two laps down, Sam Hornish, Jr is back in the top ten. Tony Stewart, who had to start the race with a new engine, is the last JGR car in the race, and has moved into seventh. Thirteen laps to go.

It would have been cool watching Tony Stewart and Mark Martin racing each other for sixth, but Martin gets loose, and Stewart passes low. But none of these positions mean anything in this race if they are not the winning positions. Eight laps to go and Stewart moves into the fifth position. Come on caution.

No caution.

Kasey Kahne may be the third driver to transfer to the main event and win, and if he does so, he will be the first winner of the fan vote to win the race. But there are still five laps to go, and anything can happen.

Earnhardt is back in seventh with three to go, and Kahne has a three second lead. Final lap, no cautions, and Kasey Kahne makes history!

And, after a long drought, Budweiser is back in Victory Lane!

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