Joey Logano is an All-Star Race winner, but his victory may not be the thing NASCAR fans remember most about Saturday night's exhibition race.
Instead, the memories could be of the various comments from drivers about the way NASCAR officiated the race, which had a new format designed to produce a great finish.
And the format came through, although it didn't go as planned. Logano ran down Kyle Larson over the race's final 10 laps and made the pass with two laps to go as the two drivers went into turns 1 and 2. Logano was on the low side of Larson and as the driver of the No. 42 kept Logano pinched down on the bottom, his car slid up the track and slammed the wall.
The impact paved the way for Logano to take the checkered flag ahead of teammate Brad Keselowski, the driver who helped inspire the format for the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, and perhaps had the best summation of the night's craziness after he climbed out of his car.
"Lap down cars were pitting with lead lap cars," Junior said. "Wave-around cars were up front and in the middle, but NASCAR did a good job of sorting the lineups out. Everybody was where they were supposed to be when we went back green so I can't complain. They were just doing it unlike any other way I'd seen them do it before.
"I'm sure they ran into some scenarios tonight that they weren't anticipating. That was probably part of it."
Or, you may prefer Tony Stewart's characterization of the race.
"It’s the most screwed-up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad this is the last one," Stewart said after he crashed out of the second segment.
Mind you, Stewart – who missed the first part of the season because of a back injury – was the race's grand marshal and gave the command for drivers to start their engines.
"I’m alright, except I’m just madder than hell because I don’t understand how in the hell they’ve officiated this whole thing from start to finish."
Those scenarios Junior mentioned happened in the first segment of the race. Teams were forced to make at least a two-tire pit stop under green during the race's first 50 laps. Many cars elected to pit at around the halfway point of the segment while others waited until the end.
Matt Kenseth waited too long. He was the last driver to be called to pit road and didn't make it in time as Jamie McMurray spun with four laps to go in the segment while the rest of the drivers who hadn't pitted were already on pit road.
The caution flag meant the segment ended under yellow and since Kenseth didn't pit under green, he was penalized a lap by the rules of the race.
To make matters even more complicated, the combination of Kenseth staying out on the track too long and the drivers on pit road as the caution flew meant a scoring fiasco for NASCAR as it sorted out which cars were on the lead lap and which cars were a lap down to Kenseth and possibly the other cars who were on pit road at the time of the caution.
The scoring confusion is the only explanation for the craziness that ensued. NASCAR let everyone pit at the same time during the mandatory pit stop between segments one and two (usually the cars a lap down pit after the cars on the lead lap) and the scoring situation wasn't officially figured out until the green flag flew for segment two – and after the cars were all checked to see if the lug nuts were tight.
NASCAR Vice President Scott Miller called Kenseth's scenario "unique" and admitted that NASCAR didn't have an immediate way to balance out the the rest of the field's positions relative to each other based off his running position before the penalty.
"Hindsight is really easy ... we didn't really have a mechanism to do that in our race procedures," Miller said (via Jeff Gluck's Periscope).
Here's how that confusion looked on Twitter.
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 22, 2016
Dale Jr speaks for the people: "This race reminds me of the first time I tried to fly a remote control helicopter - no idea what's going on"
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) May 22, 2016
Tony Stewart: "This makes no f***ing sense to me where we're supposed to be right now."
— Jordan Bianchi (@Jordan_Bianchi) May 22, 2016
— Tyler Burnett (@_TylerBurnett) May 22, 2016
The race was reformatted with the goal of building to a thrilling finish. The first two segments each had mandatory green flag pit stops and the final 13-lap segment of the race was preceded by a mandatory pit stop for some of the race leaders.
However, the number of leaders forced to pit wasn't known until after the conclusion of the second pit stop when Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen chose an envelope with "11" in it, meaning that the top 11 cars were forced to make a pit stop. Before making the choice of envelopes, Olsen himself admitted that he didn't know what was going on either. So the confusion clearly wasn't limited to those in the cockpits of the cars.
The idea behind the draw was to prevent drivers from racing for a specific position in the middle of the field to not have to pit and to create a thrilling finish by forcing the best cars with the freshest tires to pass a lot of cars in a limited number of laps.
While a great idea in theory, it didn't work out that way because the previous chaos left just 14 cars on the lead lap. And to cap it all off, the driver who restarted first (Jimmie Johnson) likely played a strategy to finish the second segment in 12th and the driver who restarted second (Kyle Busch) was caught for speeding on pit road during the second segment.
Neither driver played a role in the final outcome though. Larson, who restarted third, had the lead off turn 2 on the first lap of the final segment.
Despite the nuttiness – which snowballed when Kenseth's penalty got combined with abnormal officiating – the format itself wasn't a disaster. Had McMurray not spun, there's probably minimal complaints. Anyway, the absurdity was certainly entertaining and the last segment featured a pass for the lead in the waning laps.
That pass just didn't happened the way we all envisioned it would. And that's OK. There's no need to lambast Keselowski's idea. This is NASCAR, after all. The sport where the wackiest and most bizarre scenarios almost always seem to come true.
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