Cup teams pick up valuable experience

With NASCAR's limited testing schedule, Saturday night's competition was invaluable to most race teams in the field.

While the Sprint All-Star Race provided top entertainment for the fans, more importantly, the event served as the perfect opportunity to build momentum and provide a test session for the Coca-Cola 600 -- and beyond.

Although NASCAR held a test with the new spoiler two months ago, for those who went the distance, there could not have been a better chance to test set-ups and strategies under track and weather conditions that will more closely resemble next Sunday's 600-mile marathon.

Certainly, All-Star winner Kurt Busch maximized his experience throughout the night -- particularly given the infancy of his relationship with crew chief Steve Addington and the inconsistency of this team in the first 12 races.

Busch and the No. 2 team learned as the track cooled down a two-tire stop without adjustments tightened up the car to the point where it was out of control. That information will come in handy for the end game next weekend and on future intermediate tracks.

"Just a whole different attitude in the race car," Busch said. "It wore on me pretty heavily. I was telling the guys, 'We're way tight. We're out of the mix.' Faded all the way back to eighth or 10th place, bouncing off the wall. Just trying to get all I could out of the race car. ... I thought our night was done after that third segment."

The driver and his new crew chief, just six months into his gig with Penske Racing, were also able to build on their relationship. The 10-minute break before the final segment gave the team the opportunity to regroup and build a strategy for the finish. The decisions paid off with Busch blistering the field as he moved from 11th to first in three laps and the partnership learning how far they could push one another.

"I wasn't very helpful," Busch acknowledged. "I told Steve Addington, 'The car is way tight. Just fix this bad boy. Go for it. Go for everything you think we need. I'll drive the wheels off it.' If we spin off loose going for it, it means we made adjustments to make the car better. It helped us communicate in a certain fashion where the crew chief has to stand up and take the role of being the leader and make the changes.

"That's sometimes the best-case scenario, where the crew chief makes his work done, puts the faith in the driver and the driver understands that the crew chief gave it all that he's got, and the two of us went at it."

Martin Truex Jr. didn't enter Saturday night's romp as a favorite to pull off the big race. Having won the Showdown in 2007, however, Truex knew what it took to be a contender in the preliminary race and transfer that knowledge when the money was on the line.

Similar to Busch's situation, Truex is still in the honeymoon phase of his relationship with crew chief Pat Tryson, who came on board at Michael Waltrip Racing in January. With both driver and crew chief in their first season with MWR, the March test at Charlotte was invaluable to building a data base for the team. Saturday night's race went further to filling their playbooks.

"We had a really good test here," Truex said of the March experience in Charlotte. "That was really our first big test together as a group. A lot of the stuff we learned is things we've been doing the last three or four weeks that have been working for us at the racetrack. So we used everything that we learned here then for here tonight, and I suspect we'll do the same next week because it worked well for us.

"We thought we were going to be real good coming here, so it wasn't unexpected. It wasn't like we just come out of the blue, won the Showdown. We've been competitive.

"But momentum is a big thing in this sport. You see it all the time. It worked for us a couple years ago. It seemed to just give us that confidence in each other and know that we can get it done. Hopefully, it will do the same thing."