By admin | May 17, 2008
By Richard Allen
In the Major League All Star game the starting line ups for each team are determined by fan voting. Conversely, all but one driver in the Sprint All Star Race have to earn their way into the event.
Race winners from the previous season, past Sprint Cup champions and winners of the Sprint All Star Race from the past decade make up the field for the non points paying contest. Also, two drivers can earn a spot by racing their way in via a qualifying race held just before the main event.
But there is one driver who does not necessarily earn a spot. One driver is chosen for the race based on a fan vote. In the 2008 version of this race it was Kasey Kahne who achieved the highest vote total among those not already qualified and thus he was allowed to start from the rear of the field.
For that vote of confidence, Kahne owes his fans a thank you, make that one million thank yous. From the back of the pack Kahne made it to the front with the help of a pit road gamble and collected $1 million for his troubles.
From the start of the event it looked as if Kyle Busch had a lock on the big prize. His Toyota was clearly the dominant car and easily took the race’s first segment.
After a caution between segments 1 & 2 Busch regained his hold on the lead and was again driving away until his car suffered engine woes and he faded back through the field.
Carl Edwards led at the halfway point of the event and looked to be leading the way on what seemed to be a promising night for the Roush Fenway Racing team. However, after the ten minute intermission between the second and third segments his car lost whatever strength it had and faded into the pack.
During that ten minute break the Joe Gibbs Racing team tried valiantly to repair the ailing engine in Busch’s #18 ride but the problem was found to be terminal. His car had to be pushed behind the wall much to the delight of the crowd.
The heavily partisan crowd also took delight as fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove to the front of the field on the first lap of segment 3. Junior held the lead until about the midway point of that quarter when Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle charged to the front.
Biffle crossed the line first at the end of the third segment.
It was during the mandatory pit stop between the third and fourth segments that Kahne’s crew chief, Kenny Francis, decided to gamble for the win. The #9 car did not take tires and got back on the track in 2nd place behind fellow gambler Jimmie Johnson.
Early in the fourth segment those two cars along with Denny Hamlin, who also chose not to add fresh rubber staged a furious battle for the lead. All the while Greg Biffle, who had taken two tires, appeared to be waiting in the wings to pass the three drivers in front of him.
Hamlin suffered the same engine troubles as his teammate, Busch. Johnson fell back to 4th place, but Kahne held on. Biffle was unable to track him down and was actually losing ground by the time the finish rolled around.
Kahne became the first driver in the history of the event to be voted in and then go on to win. “I can’t believe we won $1 million and this race,” he admitted in victory lane.
“I can’t believe I got beat by no tires,” a frustrated Biffle said.
Hard to believe as it may have been, Kasey Kahne, a driver who had not even qualified for the race, won the Sprint All Star Race.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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