Josh Wise wasn't the only one who qualified for Saturday's All-Star Race, as Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger each gained entry via their finishing position in Friday's Sprint Showdown.
Bowyer and Allmendinger placed first and second, respectively, in the 40-lap event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The two were dominant most of the evening leading a combined 37 laps. Pole-sitter Austin Dillon led the other three laps.
For Bowyer, advancing to the All-Star Race was especially meaningful.
Just two years ago the Michael Waltrip Racing driver won three races and finished runner-up in the championship to Brad Keselowski. But a trying 2013 season saw Bowyer go winless and become a central figure in a cheating scandal that resulted in record penalties for MWR. Bowyer, once popular with fans, was decried for his involvement.
Bowyer hasn't had much success this season, entering Charlotte 20th in points.
"I wasn't very thrilled about being in this race, but that's what we deserved," Bowyer said. "We haven't run well, haven't run where we're capable of running, and it's been frustrating.
"It's a humbling sport. It always has been. I'm a big boy. If this is where we are, we've got to go out there and race hard and qualify into that race and become an all-star."
Casey Mears, Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose finished third through fifth. Ambrose spun on Lap 4 following contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but quickly charged back to the front.
Bowyer passed Allmendinger two laps before the mandatory caution at the halfway point, but fell back after pitting for four tires. He restarted sixth and, with little haste, was back in the lead within four laps and motored away.
"It's just been a crummy year," Bowyer said. "It's been one of those years it's been so confusing. We've been really fast in practice, and for whatever reason not able to back it up in the race. Finally one race we had a good strong practice session and then the car backed up what we felt in practice. It was good, kept turning all race long."
Wise, thanks to large support from Reddit.com members, won the fan vote. He beat Danica Patrick, who tallied the most votes the year prior and was expected to do so again.
"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it," Wise said. "... For whatever reason this huge, awesome community just got behind us, and everyone knows about them raising money to sponsor us at Talladega, and then it was on to the fan vote."
Said Patrick: "Last year, we were lucky enough to get the Sprint fan vote and that didn't happen this year. It's my understanding that I had more votes than I did last year, but you know, it is what it is. I don't doubt my fans at all. I know they voted and I'm grateful for all they did to try and get me in the race."
Sprint Showdown finishing order
|7||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||40|