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CONCORD—Kasey Kahne won Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race after being voted in through a fan vote. Kahne failed to finish in one of the two transfer spots in a last-chance race for drivers who otherwise didn’t qualify for the big race, but he received an overwhelming vote from the fans to get a starting slot at the rear of the field.
Kahne made the best of his chance, racing his way through the field in four 25-lap segments and taking the lead on the 84th lap, when Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 lost power.
He had put himself in position by not taking tires on the final pit stop. Greg Biffle, who had been leading, took on two tires, but he was mired back in the field on the restart and was never able to catch Kahne’s No. 9 Budweiser Dodge.
“We took our time, got in the right place and made the right call with no tires there at the end,” Kahne said. “I didn’t think we needed them. The car was exceptional. I just wanted to be sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and lose the race.”
At the end, it was Kahne, Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart in the top-five spots. Stewart raced from the rear to fifth after an engine change during practice forced him to start in the back.
Ryan Newman was sixth, just ahead of teammate and rookie Sam Hornish Jr., who raced his way into the All-Star field by finishing second in the showdown earlier. He finished just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose car lost its grip in the final segment.
Trailing Earnhardt in ninth place was veteran Mark Martin, followed by Carl Edwards.
Kyle Busch took off like a jackrabbit at the start and put plenty of distance between his No. 18 Toyota and the rest of the field, but a broken rocker arm in his engine forced him out.
A.J Allmendinger and Hornish raced their way into the All-Star race by finishing one-two in a twin, 20-lap, last-chance, throw-caution-to-the-win preliminary event.
NEVER, EVER GIVE UP SAYS MATT CRAFTON
CONCORD—It took Matt Crafton 178 starts to get his first Craftsman Truck Series victory. It took about 35-crash filled laps at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Friday night to set the unlikely win in motion.
Despite a chaotic turn of events that took Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday out of contention in the late stages of the race, Crafton hung on and survived for an unlikely triumph in a race that may well be remembered more for who didn’t win than who did.
Chad McCumbee placed second, followed by Brendan Gaughan, Erik Darnell and Rick Crawford.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck series leaders after 6 of 25: 1. Hornaday-874, 2. Crawford-869, 3. Bodine-836, 4. Crafton-829, 5. Setzer-817, 6. McCumbee-808, 7. Kyle Busch-797, 8. Benson-796, 9. Darnell-771, 10. Cook-760
CAN JON WOOD REVIVE
The Wood Brothers Racing team is one of the oldest on the NASCAR circuit, but it has fallen behind the learning curve this season. With only a one-car operation (the No. 21) in the Cup Series, it has been tough for the team to keep up with the multi-car teams like Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs.
The 26-year-old Jon Wood says he’s thrilled to be taking a larger role on the family racing team’s NASCAR Sprint Cup driving schedule. He is set to drive the car in the upcoming races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
Bill Elliott drove for the team two weeks ago at Darlington Raceway, but Wood has been at Lowe’s this week participating in the NASCAR test session. He says he’s not eligible to compete in the all-star race there, but he did run in the Craftsman Truck Series race as part of his full-time effort in that series.
Wood tested with the No. 21 Ford Fusion Cup Series race car at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for two days last week in preparation for the Coca-Cola 600. He said the test was very positive as they left the qualifying runs for the last session of the two days.
He finished with an official 11th-place standing with a lap time of 29.618 seconds. This test has given Wood extra laps on the track and should help him in the truck a bit for the team and says all of that has boosted his confidence and dedication.
“I tell you this, and this has been a big eye-opener for me in the past two weeks, it’s very difficult to maintain interest—first off when you can’t pay attention to anything like I can’t—but it’s very tough to maintain focus and interest in something that you really have no involvement in,” he said Tuesday at Lowe’s.
“And now that I’m getting the calls to go do the testing, I’m getting the calls to go drive the car whenever the opportunity arises. That’s all it took for me to jump in, and the next thing I know, subconsciously and without effort, I’m showing up at the shop every day early, for me. I can’t believe the change in attitude that I’ve had without being told, ‘Act like you’re interested.’ I really am.
“It took being involved, and it took a call from the crew chief saying we want you to do it, to turn all that around. I guess it’s maybe a low self-esteem, I guess maybe frustration, but I’m more eager than ever now and I can’t wait.”
Now he’s been in the car a couple of weekends and is preparing for three races for which NASCAR has scheduled test sessions, so he’s gained confidence in both his input into the team and his ability to gain solid results with it.
Wood says although he’s heard the complaints about NASCAR’s new model Cup car, he feels completely comfortable in it.
With his team well outside the top-35 in owner points, it most likely will remain there, and Wood will have to make the field for the Coca-Cola 600, based on speed. While his times in testing haven’t topped the charts, he says that’s because the team is working on a variety of things and no indication of how well it can perform when the race weekend arrives.
Wood says he is confident both in his team and in his ability to make the field for his next race.
“We took our time yesterday and ran through a lot of things that we needed to do and get out of the way that wouldn’t show on the stopwatch,” Wood said. “So I feel very comfortable.”
Richard Petty’s 50th anniversary in NASCAR.
The Sprint and Nationwide teams will be at Charlotte, while the Craftsman Trucks are at Mansfield, Ohio. This Sunday night’s 600-mile Cup race will be the longest race of the season.
Sat., May 24, Craftsman Trucks Mansfield 250; Starting time: 12:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel.
Sat., May 24, Nationwide Series Carquest Auto Parts 300; Starting time: 7 p.m. (EST): TV: ESPN2.
Sun., May 25, Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600; Starting time: 5 p.m. (EST); TV: Fox; Distance: 400 laps/600 miles; Defending champion: Casey Mears.
Racing Trivia Question: This past Saturday night’s All-Star race at Lowe’s was Dale Jarrett’s last race. How many Cup championships has he won?
Last Week’s Question: What is NASCAR’s longest race of the season? Answer. This weekend’s 600-mile, Coca-Cola 600.
GERALD HODGES is a Beacon correspondent. You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.