Opinion: More Changes Needed
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on May 19, 2013 | 1:54 A.M. EST
Johnson’s victory marked the third consecutive year the winner led at least the final 10 laps. (Photo: Getty Images)
CONCORD, N.C. - For all the changes the Sprint All-Star race has endured, more are needed.
Not to keep Jimmie Johnson from winning - Saturday’s win marked his record-breaking fourth in this event and second in a row - but to bring back the drama in the final segment.
Johnson’s victory marked the third consecutive year the winner led at least the final 10 laps. The reason is simple. Night races mean cooler temperatures, which gives cars more grip and allows them to run faster. That makes passing more difficult.
“Before we came this weekend, you knew in a 10-lap segment at night at Charlotte whoever gets the lead first on that final 10 laps, it’s not going to be close,’’ said fourth-place finisher Kasey Kahne. “I knew it when they set the rules. I think everybody did.
“When you’re racing at night on a track with this much grip ... you’re just not going to pass cars. Whoever gets the lead first is going to win the race every single time.’’
It could be easy to dismiss Kahne’s comments because he went from first to fourth in the final 10-lap segment, but his opinion is shared by others.
“That’s the way it is on these fast tracks,’’ said Johnson, who collected $1,039,175 for the victory. “You look at any mile and a-half, 2-mile track, in the first couple of laps when everybody is on stickers, you’re going to have that. We’ve seen that here for a long time. We all knew it going into it.’’
Kurt Busch, who entered pit road first but exited fifth before the final segment, knew that his chances for a win dwindled even though it was clear he had one of the better cars.
“If I had to do it all over again I’d love a faster pit stop and have clean air,’’ said Busch, who won two of the five segments and led 29 of 90 laps.
Kyle Busch could relate. He also won two segments and led 29 of 90 laps but fell from second to third after that pit stop, costing him a spot on the front row for the double-file restart.
“Just didn’t quite get the best pit stop there to get us out on the front row,’’ he said after placing third. “Then when you’re back behind cars, you’re getting beat up on.’’
Joey Logano exited pit road before the final segment fourth but he could only get to second. He never challenged Johnson.
“(Johnson) was really, really fast,’‘ Logano said after his career-best All-Star finish. “ Once he got that clean air he was gone.’’
The challenge is what is the solution.
Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus offered an interesting idea.
“I think that the amount of tires that we get, half of them should be super softs and the other half should be normal and that gives you an opportunity to try to do your tire strategy,’‘ Knaus said in a nod to what is done in IndyCar. “Once you have super softs, you know they're only going to last 20 laps as opposed to the set that's going to last 60 laps like we're going to run here on a typical weekend. You can strategize, use that. When those tires fall off, that's when you're going to start to see some passing, and in a 20‑lap or 10‑lap segment I think it could be very exciting to see who plays the tire strategy.’’
“I don't foresee it because Goodyear is in a tough spot. They have to build a tire that's going to last. I'm just saying it would make it exciting, because the only way you're going to get passing is to have tire falloff like we have at Atlanta, like we have maybe at Texas when the tires start to fall off. That's the only time that you're going to get it.’’
While some can argue it’s too soon to panic about the finishes of this event - Kurt Busch won in 2010 by taking the lead with eight laps to go and Tony Stewart took the lead with two laps to go in 2009 - this race is built on those moments of drivers racing hard for a win.
But what is the last All-Star finish that stands out because of its drama?
Is it’s Stewart’s win or some other year?
Either way, it’s been too long.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.