Everything about the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race is different, including qualifying. Normally on any given weekend qualifying is broken up into three rounds, with the final round determining the eventual pole winner. But, for the past three years NASCAR has changed it up a bit for this special event.
Each of the 20 drivers gets three laps. In those three laps the driver must make a mandatory four-tire pit stop and while entering and exiting the pits there is no given speed limit. This allows for some of the best athletes in the sport- the pit crew shine as they are a key element to where their respective driver will line up.
Denny Hamlin will start from the pole position. He had the second slowest entry speed onto pit-road. However, his Joe Gibbs Racing pit-crew is one of the best every single week and they had the fastest pit-stop. In the end the pit-stop saved the team and they ended up having the best time on the night.
“This was a great job by this FedEx Camry team,” Hamlin said after earning the pole. “I’m terrible at this, I really am. I leaned on Kyle (Busch) and (Carl) Edwards to learn a little bit from them. When I came onto pit-road I literally just could not get any more. Once I got to pit-lane it was just inches over. I’m proud of this team.”
With the interesting format it allows for the pit-crews to get creative in the way that they approach the pit-stop.
Brad Keselowski’s entry speed of 162mph was the fastest in the three years of this qualifying format. However, he was disappointed with his run.
“This track has night time grip,” said Keselowski after his qualifying lap. “I think we left a little bit out on the table. There is a lot of grip out there and these cars will stick.”
Both Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne were the only teams to change left-side tires prior to changing the right-side. On just about every track on the circuit the team will change right-side tires and then come around to the left-side of the car and change lefts. However, with qualifying being so important it allows for the teams to change things up a little bit. Bowyer will start in fourth which is very impressive because he was not able to practice getting onto pit-road during the 10-minute practice on Friday. Kahne will start from the fifth position.
Kyle Busch was making his much anticipated debut back to the Sprint Cup Series following his vicious crash in the XFINITY Series back at Daytona. However, qualifying didn’t go as planned. When entering the pits, Busch had an entry speed of 160mph but gassed it up and evidently slid through his pit-box. In fact, he slid through three stalls. Busch will have to come from the back as he starts in the 19th position.
“It felt good until I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stop,” said Busch discussing his exciting trip down pit-road. “I just misjudged it. I think it’s the combination of the sticker tires and in yesterday’s practice it was hotter, so you weren’t able to be as fast coming to pit road, and you can judge off of that. Our timing from yesterday just wasn’t going to work.”
Former All-Star Race winners such as Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick also slid through their pit-stalls. Ryan Newman was the only driver to receive a five second penalty for an uncontrolled tire.