Friday, May 20, 2016

Remembering the 2015 #NASCAR All Star Race

Last year's All Star Race concluded with Denny Hamlin capturing his first NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race win on May 16th 2015, a Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The victory was also the first NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race win for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.

Hamlin outlasted second-place finisher Kevin Harvick during the final 10-lap shootout as Kurt Busch wound up third, just behind the two. Rounding out the top five were Jeff Gordon in fourth and Matt Kenseth in fifth.

Hamlin took the lead on the restart for the final 10 laps and held off a fast closing Harvick, who got loose and lost ground with two laps to go.

"The first for Joe Gibbs Racing, for Toyota and for myself; it was an awesome night," said Hamlin. "I mean everything just came together. We obviously had to hold off the 4 (Harvick). It was a total team effort." Hamlin reported at the time.

The starting lineup for the final 10 laps was determined by pit stops, however the average finishing positions of the first four segment winners determined the order in which the drivers entered pit road.

The winner of the second and third segments, Brad Keselowski, came out first but was caught speeding exiting pit road and was forced to restart in eighteenth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Quotes from the 2015 All-Star Race

Winner - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) "The first for Joe Gibbs Racing, for Toyota and myself; just an awesome night. I mean, just everything came together. Definitely with 15 to go, I didn't see this coming. They made a smart call on the third segment in taking two tires to try and bring our average finish back up. Still didn't think we were going to get on the front row coming from a sixth average finish. But, I didn't think about that number one pit stall being so close to that camera. That is usually worth two positions anyway. And then the pit crew just knocked it out of the park. I mean that was prime-time, under pressure, pure performance they did there. That won it. Obviously, we had to hold off the 4 (Harvick).

We haven't been able to do that for about two years. The turning point for me was when I moved up to the middle of the track. I knew that eventually he (Harvick) was going to get the high line on me and once he did that, it was going to be over. That was where my car actually took off.

Hopefully, we learned something for next week. It was a total team effort because if we didn't win the pole we weren't going to come out first; if we didn't have the first pit stall, we weren't going to come out first; if they didn't make the adjustments on the car that they made, it didn't matter if we came out first or not. Those guys were going to run me over. Everything came together perfectly for the final 10 laps."

Team owner Joe Gibbs - "I think for us, it was a team effort, but it just shows how hard this sport is. We have been blessed. It's been a long time coming. We have been here a long time and to have a first time experience is unbelievable. It is really special to have the family here, son J.D. and the grandkids. They have been going through a lot lately."

Second Place - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet) "He saw us coming there at the end. I just got a little aero tight and the car pushed up the track. I kind of put us in a hole during qualifying. Our car was really fast and I was able to come up through traffic. We made some really good changes throughout the night and got the car where it really needed to be. I was able to move around the race track and Denny (Hamlin) saw I was running the middle of the track and he moved up. I had to get out of the throttle. I'm real excited for next week to pass cars and run cars down."

Third Place - Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) "We finished no worse than fifth in all the segments and that put us in position for the finish. We did our job, but I was asleep at the wheel on the restarts."

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