By Jason Schultz
Jimmie Johnson won his third All-Star Race Saturday Night and he won his second straight race in the Sprint Cup Series. Johnson played a major strategy game and it paid off in the end. Johnson held off Brad Keselowski in the final segment for the win a million dollars. This All-Star Race featured some great racing along with few incidents. Kyle Busch led the first 15 laps from the pole before being passed by Jimmie Johnson.
A battle between teammates included Kevin Harvick in the No.29 and Paul Menard in the No.27. Harvick blocked Menard down the backstretch, Menard didn’t appreciate it and cut Harvick off coming out of turn four and Harvick made contact with the wall. At the end of segment one, Jimmie Johnson led. Now Johnson will come down pit road first after segment four.
Ryan Newman won the race off pit road after the caution but Hamlin opted to stay out and inherit the lead. Johnson started a trend by leading a segment and earning the ability to come down pit road in the top four before the final segment and then Johnson would just hang in the back until the final round of pit stops were to begin. Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus said “We’re definitely going to fall back.”
Kurt Busch had troubles on lap 22 when he got into the wall off turn four and had some damage but was able to continue. This led to some great side by side racing. The first unscheduled caution came out on lap 26 when Carl Edwards motor expired. Just three laps before the end of the second segment, Matt Kenseth took the lead from Denny Hamlin. Kenseth would go on to win the segment and earn the second spot on to pit road before the final segment would begin.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would win the race off pit road but Brad Keselowski stayed out to take the lead. Once the field strung out after the restart Keselowski lead followed by Kahne, Harvick, Ambrose and Earnhardt Jr. Coming off turn four to end the second segment the No.2 and No.5 were side by side and Keselowski beat Kahne to the line by inches. Denny Hamlin would win the race off pit road but Kurt Busch stayed out and would take the lead. On lap 63 in the third segment, Kurt Busch was passed by Earnhardt Jr. for the lead.
On lap 68 the second unscheduled caution came out for Greg Biffle’s engine which had expired. That was the second Roush-Fenway engine to expire this race. Biffle commented that they were all trying something new this weekend with the engines. After advancing to the All-Star race by winning the Sprint Showdown, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would win the fourth segment. Earnhardt Jr. would pit fourth in line. All four drivers who came down pit road first made stop and go pit stops.
They stopped in their pit boxes and then took off. Johnson just beat Kenseth off pit road to take the lead. That was likely Johnson’s race winning move. Coming to the green to start the fifth and final segment, Johnson led followed by Kenseth, Keselowski, Earnhardt Jr. and Ambrose. Jimmie Johnson would pull away from Brad Keselowski and win his third All-Star Race. After Johnson’s victory celebration, he picked up his team owner Rick Hendrick and gave Mr. H a ride to victory lane.
A disappointed Brad Keselowski said after the race “Got beat by a 5-time champ and 2 (now 3) time All-Star winner.” After a great night for Earnhardt Jr, he commended the fans for coming out by saying “Best crowd I’ve seen at a race in a while, great to see.” Johnson was pumped up in victory lane. He said his car was “… so amazing.” A great week for Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports was capped off by Johnson’s third All-Star Race victory. Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race the longest race of the season in the Coca Cola 600 right back here in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Results via Nascar.com
|1||6||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevrolet||Lowe’s Patriotic||0||90||Running|
|2||19||2||Brad Keselowski||Dodge||Miller Lite||0||90||Running|
|3||15||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||Fifth Third Bank||0||90||Running|
|5||21||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||Dale Jr. Foundation / National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew||0||90||Running|
|6||5||29||Kevin Harvick||Chevrolet||Budweiser / Rheem||0||90||Running|
|8||17||51||Kurt Busch||Chevrolet||Monster Energy||0||90||Running|
|9||20||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||Farmers Insurance||0||90||Running|
|12||10||78||Regan Smith||Chevrolet||Furniture Row Racing||0||90||Running|
|14||12||15||Clint Bowyer||Toyota||5-hour Energy||0||90||Running|
|15||11||21||Trevor Bayne||Ford||Good Sam Club / Camping World||0||90||Running|
|16||7||27||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Menards / CertainTeed||0||90||Running|
|17||9||14||Tony Stewart||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops||0||90||Running|
|18||14||34||David Ragan||Ford||US Shredder||0||90||Running|
|20||3||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Office||0||90||Running|
|21||16||55||Mark Martin||Toyota||Aaron’s Dream Machine||0||90||Running|
|22||4||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||3M / American Red Cross||0||67||Engine|