Under the lights at one of NASCAR’s biggest events of the year, Jimmie Johnson powered his way to a win at the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The victory capped an amazing week for the Hendrick Motor Sports No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team who started the weekend’s events by winning the Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday night.
Johnson and company then won the first of four 20 lap segments in the All Star Race that put them at the lead position for the last 10 lap shootout to take the win. With clean air, a strong and fast car, and the five-time Sprint Cup Champion, two-times former All Star Winner at the helm, Johnson easily piloted his car to the checkered flag.
For an extra-special highlight to end the race, Johnson met his owner, Hendrick, and drove him around the track with the man straddling the driver’s side window. Hendrick was all smiles; first Johnson gave Hendrick his 200th career win at Darlington last weekend, and then handed him the All Star Race victory.
The night began with the Sprint Showdown, a forty lap race that sends its first and second place finishers in to the All Star competition.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. easily won that contest providing for the HMS driver to earn his way into the All Star Race and being a threat for the ultimate victory.
AJ Allmendinger who started the Showdown with a cut tire before the race got underway, muscled his No.22 Penske Dodge to the front to battle Jamie MacMurray for second and a spot in the All Star Race. Allmendinger proved the better, finished second, and secured his position.
After the Top 20 teams in the All Star Race were introduced amid raucous fanfare and goofy taped introductions by lucky home contest winners, Earnhardt and Allmendinger and teams were introduced by Miss Sprint Cups.
Finally the 23rd and final entrant was announced by the third Miss Sprint Cup, the All Star Fan Vote driver. The winner was veteran driver and 2000 Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte.
After Johnson won the first 20 lap segment, Roush-Fenway driver Matt Kenseth won the second.
The Penske Dodge Miller Lite No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski took the third segment.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued to show his strength, focus, determination, and confidence when he earned the win in the fourth segment.
The last mandatory pit stops were held after the end of segment four and then began the final ten lap shootout.
Jimmie Johnson, having won the first segment, pulled out of the pits first followed by Kenseth, Keselowski, and Earnhardt.
With clean air, a dialed in car, and Johnson expertly piloting the car, the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet never lost the lead in the last ten.
Keselowski, winner of Talladega, tried to reel Johnson in, but did not have enough laps to cut into Johnson’s lead. No cautions occurred to bunch the field up either making what could have been a spine-tingling contest rather lackluster.
The other stories of the night were the Roush Fenway cars of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle blowing up taking them out of contention.
The All Star Race, being so short and a non-points race with a huge purse and bragging rights up for grabs, leads teams to soup up their engines in a way that gives them huge horsepower for a short tenure.
Now the drivers are set to take the grid for the start of the Coca Cola 600, the longest race on the circuit, on Memorial Day Sunday, May 27th. Car set ups will be vastly different but look for strong contenders in Johnson, Earnhardt, Allmendinger, Kenseth, Keselowski, Ambrose, and possibly Kurt Busch.
The broadcast begins on Fox at 5:30 pm. Tune in for that glorious night of racing and be sure to return here for the Coca Cola 600 Race Recap after the race.
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