Kurt Busch bounced back from hitting the wall twice during the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race to win the event for the first time in his career. The former Cup champion had started from pole position after qualifying was rained out on Friday and led a total of 19 laps during the night. However, a lot happened for the Penske driver in the 100-lap race, in which he had to fend off several challengers.
Busch prevailed in the first and longest segment, beating his sibling Kyle Busch at the end of the first 50 laps. He lost the lead in the pits after that, following a four-tire stop while others, led by Jimmie Johnson, took on right-side tires only.
Johnson led the way in the second and third 20-lap segments, looking dominant ahead of the final 10-lap sprint. At that point, chances for Kurt Busch looked slim as during that third portion of the event and following a two-tire stop, he struggled with the balance of his No. 2 Dodge, hitting the wall on two different occasions.
The fourth segment started with a four-tire mandatory stop for all drivers, where Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch jumped ahead of Johnson. As soon as the green flag was waved, a multi-car crash was ignited by contact between Joey Logano and Mark Martin, taking several cars out of contention, including former race winners Martin and Jeff Gordon.
Hamlin led the following restart and raced up front with Kyle Busch, their battle ending when Busch hit the wall out of Turn 2 while trying to pass his teammate on the outside. The elder Busch took advantage to jump from fourth to first with seven laps to go in a move that looked to have won him the race.
Two caution periods for further incidents tightened the battle for victory in the end, but Busch first held off Johnson and then Martin Truex Jr. on the final restarts to cross the line first and claim a check for $1,078,000, giving his boss Roger Penske further reason for joy after Helio Castroneves claimed pole position for the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day.
"Our car was on the money when it counted," said Busch. "We really had a fast race car and it was a pleasure to drive it. The segment before that, though, I wouldn't have given a million bucks for it. But now it's got a million-dollar name to it.
"The right side, we have to replace it, and we'll think about of bringing this car back for [the Coke 600] next week. I'm very proud of our effort tonight as a team and how my crew chief [Steve Addington] and I continue to develop our relationship."
Truex made his way into the race by virtue of winning the Sprint Showdown, which is his first win for Michael Waltrip Racing. Starting from the back in the main event, he charged through the field and jumped from fourth to second on the final restart to get his best career result in the All-Star race.
"I could smell [victory], and a couple more laps and I was right there," said Truex. "What a good night and what a lot of fun we had. Second is not what we came here for, but it was a lot of fun and we were glad to get into the big show."
Joey Logano, making only his second appearance in the event, was third ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, while last year's All-Star winner Tony Stewart rounded out the top five, recovering from the multi-car incident at the start of the final segment.
Johnson, who led the most laps during the night, was classified 13th in the end after running through the grass on the penultimate restart following a spin while battling for second place with Denny Hamlin.
"I knew we were coming to the white [flag]," said Johnson about his spin. "I knew I had to clear the No. 11 on the outside of me so I just kept my foot in it and I could feel them outside of me kind of pulling the back end of my car around but I said 'the hell with it, it's the All Star race'. I kept my foot to the floor and hoped that I made it off the turn and I didn't. It turned around on me."
Kyle Busch didn't finish the race after a blown right-front tire sent him into the wall as a consequence of his previous contact with the yellow barriers while battling for the lead with Hamlin.
Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle had been second in the Sprint Showdown but was only ninth in the main event and not a contender for victory. Neither was his teammate Carl Edwards, who got voted into the All-Star race by the fans, but was one of seven drivers caught up in the final segment's multi-car wreck.
Next weekend the Sprint Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the longest race of the season, the Coke 600.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Kurt Busch Dodge 100
2. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 100
3. Joey Logano Toyota 100
4. Denny Hamlin Toyota 100
5. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 100
6. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 100
7. Brad Keselowsk Dodge 100
8. Matt Kenseth Ford 100
9. Greg Biffle Ford 100
10. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 100
11. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 100
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 100
13. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 100
14. Kyle Busch Toyota 98
15. Kasey Kahne Ford 98
16. Casey Mears Toyota 95
17. Mark Martin Chevrolet 90
18. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 90
19. David Reutimann Toyota 90
20. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 90
21. Carl Edwards Ford 90