Kahne wins -- thanks to the fans
Kasey Kahne needed the fan vote to make this year's Sprint All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway, thanks to a nearly two-year long winless drought, and he made sure those fans went home happy Saturday night by winning the race.
Kahne started third in final segment, taking the lead from Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. From there, Kahne held off Greg Biffle to claim his $1 million prize.
"I thank them so much," Kahne told the Associated Press. "I can't believe it. The car was mediocre in the open and the fans voted me in."
Kahne finished a distant fifth in the Sprint Showdown, which A.J. Allmendinger won. Sam Hornish Jr. finished second to secure the other transfer spot into the field. But Kahne took advantage of a rule some just aren't in favor of.
Kyle Busch, the event's polesitter, won the first segment going away, but fell back in the second segment when he lost a cylinder and eventually his motor. Carl Edwards won the second segment before Roush Fenway teammate Biffle took Segment 3, taking the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 11 laps left when Earnhardt began losing the handle on his ride.
Amazingly, the event finished without a single caution -- all three incidents occurred in the Sprint Showdown. Some might construe that as a boring race, but considering some of the near-wrecks we saw in the All-Star Challenge and the amount of side-by-side racing I saw, I refute that opinion.
Just no pleasing some people
I've already linked you to one man's opinion regarding the fan vote in the Sprint All-Star Challenge. There have also been those who feel the race isn't that big a deal considering everyone gets a shot at it.
Why call it an all-star race if nearly everyone can run in it?
But one thing I've noticed the past few years is this: any time NASCAR has the audacity to change something, people are up in arms. They introduce the Chase For The Cup, people are mad. Rockingham shuts down, fans are livid. Darlington loses its Labor Day race to California and ... okay, I actually agree with the haters on that one.
There are still people unhappy with the new car, in spite of its obvious safety advances and the fact that the racing is starting to get better every week.
Never mind that any company looking to succeed has to change at some point. Status quo leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads, eventually, to losing money. And if NASCAR were to lose money, and do so for an extended period of time, eventually the sport would fade to nothingness.
Just ask Champ Car and the IRL.
Even when NASCAR makes a change I don't agree with, I usually understand the reasoning behind it. And I'm willing to give just about any change a shot before forming a final opinion; I hated the Chase when it was first announced, but once I saw the drama surrounding who would get in and who would win it all, I was convinced this was a successful -- if contrived -- idea.
Are certain parts of the All-Star Challenge gimmicky? Yeah, but what all-star game these days isn't? The fan vote is one more way for fans to get involved with the sport, and it helps generate interest for the race. And with Kasey Kahne winning both the vote and the race tonight, there has to be something said for the fans choosing a guy who can wheel it, right?
Besides, it's still better than the Pro Bowl.
I joke with my friend Kenny all the time that he's merely a "fat white guy afraid of change," but sadly it seems most NASCAR fans are that way. I understand their frustrations to a degree, but I don't see any of the changes that have been made in the past decade as reason enough to turn my back on the sport.
As long as the engines still fire and there's still a trophy on the line, I'm still a NASCAR fan.