Chaos and failed strategy played a major role in Saturday Night’s Sprint All Star Race at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Because of the confusion that happened towards the end of segment one involving Matt Kenseth, many drivers took to social media and TV to complain about a format that the driver’s met and unanimously agreed upon. What seemed to be a simpler format caused more problems and confusion than anybody would have thought of.
Kenseth was the leader of the race because he had not taken his required green flag pit stop. However, the caution flew with just a few laps left in this segment. Kenseth was penalized for one lap for failure to follow the rule. However, when NASCAR allowed for him to pit under the caution, many cars were caught one-lap down, unable to take a wave-around. This caused drivers, like Tony Stewart, to call out the format.
In a colorful interview after being released from the infield care center, Stewart told Fox Sports 1, “I’m as baffled as everybody,” Stewart told Fox Sports 1. “I don’t know how in the hell we were scored a lap down they stopped the 20 car and pitted everybody together a lap down, a lead lap and lap down…it’s the most screwed up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad this is the last one.”
Other drivers explained their thoughts about the new format
In a press release, Carl Edwards, who finished fourth on Saturday, stated, “I think there were some unforeseen things. With all those guys going a lap down, I didn’t expect that. That wasn’t in our game plan. We didn’t know that could happen and also didn’t know that a guy could get stuck like Matt (Kenseth) did at the beginning. I didn’t know that was a possibility so in a way, there were some things that happened and circumstances that maybe nobody fore saw.”
Denny Hamlin, who finished ninth, stated, “I think when you start to set rules on you can pit at this time, but you have to do it before this or that and then the caution comes that you don’t expect like we saw then it puts cars laps down. I don’t know. How do you keep up at home to be honest with you? I knew when it took about 10 minutes to explain the rules in the driver’s meeting that it was going to be a complicated night. All this is to give the fans a great finish and we’re trying to fabricate something for them to look at this All-Star race and say that it’s exciting. You want to create a last lap pass every race you can, but you also don’t want to get too goofy trying to create it.”
In his post race media availability, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stated, “I was pretty confused right up until it was 13 laps to go, and then I knew, well, we're racing from here to the end, and this is all the normal rules. But everything before that was really out of my -- I was out of my element. But NASCAR did a good job making sure -- even though all the pitting was confusing and how the lap cars were pitting with the leaders, people weren't really where they were supposed to be, NASCAR did make sure all the lineups were correct before we went back to green. So you can't really complain about that too much. It was just an unorthodox way of doing it. I don't know. I think they ran into some scenarios tonight that they didn't really anticipate and got caught off guard. I think the 20 obviously not pitting, however that worked out, that threw them for a loop and everybody was confused from that minute on.”
After the pomp and circumstance of All Star night, NASCAR spoke to the media to clarify what took place on the end of segment one. NASCAR admitted that they did not have the proper procedure in place, which caused the confusion. NASCAR will strive to make sure that the confusion will not occur again.