It started a day late, but the Sprint Showdown didn’t disappoint with great racing, and great segment finishes.
Practice was rained out yesterday, so the starting grid was decided by points, which put Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon on the front row.
Elliott led nearly every lap of the first segment, but a caution came out with just a few laps ago for Michael McDowell sliding through the grass.
Elliott and fellow rookie Ryan Blaney led on the one-lap dash restart. Blaney got away from Elliott on the restart, but NASCAR called the No. 21 for jumping the restart. Meanwhile, Elliott and Blaney ran side-by-side for the lead, but going into turns one and two, Trevor Bayne saw a gap in between the two rookies, and threaded the needle. Bayne won the first segment following his daring last lap pass, leading only one lap. Bayne won the segment in a photo finish by only five one-thousandths of a second.
By virtue of finishing second in the first segment, Elliott led on the segment two restart with Austin Dillon on the front row. Once again, Elliott couldn’t get away on the restart, and quickly dropped the fifth, relinquishing the lead to Dillon. Dillon led the first five laps before giving up the lead to Trevor Bayne’s Roush-Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle. Biffle went on the win the second segment of the Sprint Showdown.
The final segment would be a 10-lap shootout to decide a winner. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott were early favorites to advance through to the All-Star race, and now, there was only room for one to advance.
Following pit stops in between segments, Kyle Larson would lead. He would start alongside AJ Allmendinger for the restart with Landon Cassill and Ryan Blaney in tow. Chase Elliott restarted seventh, but made big moves on the outside lane to get his way to the front. Elliott made his way up to second, and with two laps to go, made a move on Larson to try and take the lead in turns three and four. Elliott got loose underneath Larson, nearly putting the two drivers in the wall. Elliott and Larson gathered it back up, and kept racing hard. Elliott made one more move on the final lap, trying to go around Larson on the outside of three and four. Larson squeezed Elliott up in the wall, and the two continued to race side-by-side, beating and banging for the lead. It was a finish reminiscent to Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003. Larson came out on the good end with a win, while Elliott finished second.
Ryan Blaney overcame his restart violation at the end of the first segment to finish third in segment three, but it wasn’t enough, and he wouldn’t advance to the Sprint All-Star Race. Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Landon Cassill, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top-10.
While Bayne, Biffle and Larson advanced to the main event through the Showdown, two drivers would get the Sprint Fan Vote to fill out the minimum 20-car field. Rookie Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick were the drivers to get voted in by the fans. For Patrick, it marks the third time the fans voted her in.
The Sprint All-Star Race is expected to start at 9 p.m. ET tonight.