Johnson wins his record fourth NASCAR All-Star race
A five-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson can now refer to himself as a four-time All-Star Race winner after Saturday.
The Sprint Cup Series points leader added to another record to his already impressive resumé by claiming his second-straight All-Star Race trophy at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
With the victory, Johnson passes the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and teammate Jeff Gordon for the most titles in All-Star Race history.
Johnson is also the first driver since Davey Allison (1991-92) to win back-to-back All-Star Races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"It's incredible, especially in the way we had to go about it tonight," Johnson said of his historic accomplishment. "I didn't do us any favors qualifying yesterday. With this average that we had through the first four segments, I was really fearful I wouldn't have a shot at a front-row start or a second-row start, and I felt like the winner would come from one of those two rows. Not to state the obvious, but that's really the goal from all of us is to try to be in that front row for the final restart."
Starting the event in 18th place, Johnson worked his way to 15th by the end of the first segment and was in fifth place by Lap 30.
"Through a lot of aggressive driving, a great handling race car and a lot of different things, Chad's strategy at different times to have us on better tires than some cars that were around us, we were able to keep clicking away at good finishes through the second, third and fourth segment," Johnson said. " That got us to fourth and then pit road came around and our guys had awesome pit stop."
Heading into the final mandatory pit stop, Johnson was placed in fourth by virtue of his average finish in the first four 20-lap segments of the event.
Johnson's trip to pit road was the second-fastest of any car, putting him towards the front of the field heading into the final 10-lap shootout.
"We knew what we needed to do on the race track to try to get ourselves in good position," said Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus. "We felt like that if we could come down in the top five and try to get a solid pit stop and maintain that that we would be solid. It's kind of our train of thought from last night. I really didn't think that we would be able to come down pit road and have a stop that fast, and man, those guys just absolutely nailed it. My hat's off to them."
Johnson managed to work his way past teammate Kasey Kahne during the final 10 laps of event to come away victorious.
Joey Logano also passed Kahne late in the race to finish in second place after starting the event in fifth.
"The 48 was really, really fast," Logano said of Johnson's car. "Once he got the clean air, he was gone. We gave it all we had. All I could do was hope for clean air and try to stack everything up and give it one more shot. Second is nothing to hang our head down, but it doesn't mean much when there's no points. It's all about the million bucks tonight."
The Busch brothers — Kyle and Kurt — dominated a majority of Saturday's exhibition race, winning four of the five segments and leading a combined 58 of the 90 laps run.
After winning Segments 2 and 3, Kyle Busch started the final 10-lap segment in second place.
Following the mandatory four-tire pit stop, he slipped to third place behind Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson.
Kyle Busch would eventually finish the race in third.
He believes the gaffe on pit road is what ultimately cost him a chance at his first All-Star Race victory.
"We ran up front most of the night and had really good runs through the segments there," Kyle Busch said. "We had two of them, and average finish-wise, we were right there with Kurt. He beat us out a little bit. Ultimately, it came down to pit road where my guys always prove their worth. Unfortunately, tonight we didn't have the best of stops and come out third, and that was the race right there. You've got to be on the front row if you're going to win this thing."
Kurt Busch won Segments 1 and 4 and started the final segment in first place after a tiebreaker with his brother for the best average finish in the four segments.
However, mistakes also caught up to Kurt, as he fell to fifth place after his pit stop. He would also finish the All-Star Race in fifth.
“We won a couple of segments, but we weren’t perfect,” Kurt Busch said. “We’re stoked with the finish, but yet you want more. The cool thing is we won a couple of segments at the All-Star Race with a team that we don’t get all the credit we deserve sometimes, but we’re working on it ... You’re a half a click off on the stop watch on a pit stop and half a click off on an adjustment, and you can go from batting four out of five to striking out the last time out.”
The All-Star Race also remained relatively accident-free except for an incident on the front stretch between rookie Ricky Stenhouse and veteran Mark Martin on Lap 25.
Stenhouse, who transferred into the All-Star Race by finishing second in the Sprint Showdown, scuffed the wall in Turn 4 and ran into Martin, who slid across the front stretch grass.
Martin would finish in 21st, while Stenhouse came in 16th.
Another incident took place on Lap 66 when contact between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Greg Biffle caused Biffle's tire to go down, forcing another caution to come out.
Biffle wound up in 15th place in the running order.
Kahne, who led going into the final segment after the required pit stops, finished in fourth place.
Denny Hamlin and Earnhardt, Jr. finished in sixth and seventh.
Sprint Showdown winner Jamie McMurray was in eighth, while last week's Southern 500 champion, Matt Kenseth, took ninth.
All-Star Race polesitter Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.