Charlotte, N.C., – Jimmie Johnson picked up another All-Star Race win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night bringing the five-time Sprint Cup Champion’s All-Star win total to three.
Johnson jumped out to a dominating lead as the green fell on the final 10 lap segment and drove away from the field to capture a million dollar paycheck. It’s been a busy week for Johnson, and owner Rick Hendrick. Johnson picked up win No. 200 for Hendrick Motor Sports in Darlington one week ago, and Thursday night in downtown Charlotte the No. 48 team won the pit crew competition. The All Star win is the icing on the cake, and it came down to successful strategy.
“We had a strategy we knew what would be best for our team,” said Johnson, who won the first segment of the night. “We weren’t sure we could get the starting six, but this race car was so amazing.”
“I put it up on the outside in that first heat and let it rip around the top and got up to the lead and then we were smart from there and worked on the car and made sure we got it right so that we could be good at the end.”
The end, and Johnson’s victory celebration was interesting as Hendrick hitched a ride with the winning driver.
“He said come pick me up, and once I got to him he didn’t want the ride,” Johnson said. “I was like ‘no, no I came to get you so get on the car’ it was great to take him around.”
Brad Keselowski finished second, Matt Kenseth was third, Kyle Busch was fourth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was fifth after winning the Sprint Showdown to transfer into the race. Earnhardt also won the fourth segment of the race guaranteeing a top-four starting spot.
“The car was good,” said Earnhardt. “The race was good, we didn’t adjust on our car. It was quick. We need to start on the front row at the end.”
Keselowski said restarts and clean air were at a premium.
“It’s all about the restart,” said Keselowski, who was the winner of segment three. “I was hoping for a yellow to get another shot at Jimmie [Johnson].”
Kevin Harvick finished sixth, Marcos Ambrose was seventh, Kurt Busch was eighth. Kasey Kahne was ninth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-10.
All Star Race Segment Highlights:
Segment 1 (20 laps):
Kyle Busch started on the pole and jumped to a dominating lead until Johnson took over the lead on lap 15. Teammates Harvick and Paul Menard made contact on lap 15 off Turn 4. Harvick said over the team radio, “if he wants to hit me, I’m going to hit him back.” Harvick had minimal body damage and pitted when the caution came out at lap 20.
The top-five after 20 laps were Johnson, Kyle Busch, Newman, Denny Hamlin, and Greg Biffle.
Segment 2 (20 laps):
Seven drivers did not pit during the caution laps between segments to gain valuable track position. Hamlin took the green as the leader of segment two and jumped out to the point while three-wide racing was close behind. Carl Edwards had an engine expire on lap seven of the second segment.
“I knew something wasn’t right and I’m glad nobody ran over me,” said Edwards.
The top-five finishers of the second segment were Kenseth, Earnhardt, Hamlin, Ambrose, and Keselowski.
Segment 3 (20 laps):
Brad Keselowski stayed out on the track with the remaining top-eight drivers as the rest of the field pitted to prior to the start of the third segment. Keselowski led at the drop of the green flag. As the third segment wound down Keselowski and Kahne battled for the lead, but Keselowski held Kahne off by inches at the flag stand to win the segment.
The top-five finishers of the third segment were Keselowski, Kahne, Earnhardt, AJ Allmendinger, and Ambrose.
Segment 4 (20 laps):
Kurt Busch took the lead early in the final segment, but could not contain the lead and was passed by Earnhardt. Biffle had to make a quick exit from the car when it went up in flames and plumes of smoke after an engine expired midway through the segment. Earnhardt took the green and didn’t look back on the way to victory in segment four.
The top-five in segment four were Earnhardt, Ambrose, Allmendinger, Kahne, and Gordon.