CONCORD, N.C. --- After tinkering with the format throughout the 25-year history of the Sprint All-Star race, the sport might have hit on something good. By returning to a 10-lap shootout at the end, it minimized the effects of the Car of Tomorrow and created another stirring finish.
Tony Stewart benefited from four cautions in the 10-lap sprint -- all resulting from aggressive driving -- to pass Matt Kenseth with two laps to go and give Stewart-Haas Racing its first win.
The first three segments of 50, 20 and 20 laps had only one pass under green-flag conditions, making the race nothing more than a game of high-speed follow the leader.
The 10-lap finale changed everything. Restarts turned into drag races to the first corner, with the leader gaining the kind of clean air that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to take over.
"I know we weren't in a position, we didn't have our car driving good enough at that point," Stewart said of his No. 14 Chevrolet after the third segment. "But I think that's what made it so exciting for the last segment was that we gave the crews and the crew chiefs 10 minutes to get everything ready."
In the final 10 laps, as everyone else dropped out, Stewart moved up. When Matt Kenseth swung wide in the first and second turn late, it allowed Stewart to sweep past along the bottom groove.
"When we went to the COT, whoever gets out front and takes off is really hard to catch," said Kurt Busch, who finished third.
NASCAR apparently is willing to make some changes to the COT. Some teams were told changes could be coming in the next couple of weeks to make passing easier.