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Defending champ Edwards out of All-Star race

Saturday - 5/19/2012, 10:09pm  ET

By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Once again there will be no repeat champion at the Sprint All-Star race.

Defending champion Carl Edwards bowed out in the second segment Saturday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway after the engine in the No. 99 Ford blew up on lap 25.

Edwards was looking to become the first repeat champion at the All-Start event since Davey Allison did it in 1991 and '92, but had to park his car in the garage for the night.

"We were running really well the first segment and I knew something wasn't right," Edwards said. "I'm just glad someone didn't run me over."

Edwards said the racing was "treacherous" early on as drivers looked to capture the four 20-lap segments, giving them a spot in the top four heading into 10-lap shootout for the $1 million prize.

Edwards took the setback in stride.

"This race lost a driver but it gained a fan," he said. "I'm going to go watch this thing because it was insane in traffic."

Edwards was in the TV booth by the end of the second segment.

___

LISTENING TO FANS: NASCAR Chairman Brian France is aware of the fan debate surrounding the last two months of racing, and acknowledged the sanctioning body is studying several areas to ensure the on-track product is entertaining.

But France indicated it's difficult to judge where NASCAR is based solely on the last eight races.

"You just can't snapshot and give a grade like that," France said Saturday night before the Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Fans have been voicing disapproval since the March race at Bristol, which lacked the short-track punch people have come to expect. Then came California, which went green until rain brought out the only caution of a race that was called not long after the yellow.

Texas had only two cautions, Kansas had three and Richmond didn't heat up until the very end. Although ardent fans are insistent they don't root for wrecks, there seemed to be some satisfaction after Talladega, which was the first race in a month to feature multi-car accidents.

France seems to have heard the frustration with the long green-flag runs.

"We are very attentive to the fan base," he said. "We look at it a lot of different ways. You can look at lead changes and cycles of things and more green flag laps than at other times. But we look at it overall and look at things very carefully, and we have a hard job, and it's hard to put the rules forward that allow the best competition to come forward. That's what we've done for 60-plus years.

"It's not getting any easier with all of the technology and great teams and great innovators but we're zeroed in on what we have to get done."

All four manufacturers will introduce new cars in 2013, and France called it an opportunity to "make the racing better."

He has tasked senior vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell with repurposing the research and development center, which should help NASCAR "increase our focus on things that can make the racing better."

With that comes taking a hard look at aerodynamics, which many drivers have said is what's effecting the racing. NASCAR this week added a side skirt to the cars, which four-time Jeff Gordon called "a baby step" in addressing aero issues.

France said NASCAR is looking at everything.

"We're zeroing in on if there's an aero issue," he said. "From time to time, there's going to be other issues that we're able to get at those faster."

___

NASCAR JOINS BEYOND SPORT: NASCAR officials announced Saturday that it would join Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change.

"We're obviously very honored to be a part of what's going on at Beyond Sport," France said. "The idea is that teams, leagues, athletes come together to share best practices of what they're doing. It puts us on a big stage, which we're excited about. And frankly, it matches perfectly with directionally where we're going. We're investing a lot with kids. We're certainly focused on the environment and giving back to different communities."

NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya also attended the announcement.

"Pretty much every driver has a foundation or does something to support other charities and other drivers' foundations," Johnson said. "This is a perfect fit. I'm very proud of the effort and the work the Jimmie Johnson Foundation has done, and I look forward to sharing our best practices and just trying to give back. There's a huge void out there, and if it wasn't for the nonprofit world, there would be even a larger gap."

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