Jimmie Johnson sprays champagne and celebrates with his crew after winning Saturday night’s weather-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race for the fourth time.
CONCORD, N.C. — For most of the night, Jimmie Johnson had to watch brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch steal the spotlight.
But when it came time to earn the $1 million prize for actually winning the race, it was Johnson who was at his best as he captured his second straight Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a record fourth overall. No other driver has won more than three.
“Man, this is crazy,” Johnson said. “This means so much to me. To have won this race more times than Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, two guys I have looked up to my whole career, is just hard to believe.
“I really thought we were in trouble starting so far back (18th), but (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) made some great changes and the pit crew was awesome, especially on that last pit stop — what was it, 11 seconds? The car was just super that last segment. Once I got out front, I mean, it was awesome.”
Because Johnson only won the final segment, he did not win the additional $1 million bonus put up by CMS owner Bruton Smith that required one driver win all five segments to take home the additional cash.
Kasey Kahne and Johnson won the race off pit road following a mandatory pit stop after the fourth segment, followed by Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch. The elder Busch brother won the fourth segment, but a poor pit stop dropped him to fifth place for the final restart.
Johnson and Kahne battled hard for the lead on the restart with Johnson winning the duel. Johnson led the rest of the way to earn the million dollars that goes to the winner of the special event.
Logano pushed his way by Kahne to finish second. Kyle Busch ended up third, followed by Kahne and Kurt Busch
Finishing sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.
Logano said he thought he had a “fifth- or sixth-place car most of the night. But my guys got me to the second row for that final restart and gave me a shot at winning it. But the 48 was really, really fast once he got out in clean air. On a night like (Saturday), second isn’t too bad.”
Kyle Busch felt he had “the best car but just didn’t get the best pit stop at the end. And that is what it ultimately came down to — the last pit stop. And then on the restart, guys are side drafting me and I am getting hit from behind and just lost too much ground to get back to the front. It’s hard to take when you feel you had the best car.”
Kurt Busch made it an All-Busch affair by winning the fourth segment to make it two wins apiece for Kurt and Kyle going into the deciding 10-lap shootout.
Kahne and Kevin Harvick were 1-2 at the start of the fourth segment after deciding not to pit. The two ran side-by-side for almost two laps before Kahne took the lead.
Behind them, things got really interesting as drivers started bouncing off each other and making wild moves including Ryan Newman going by three cars on the outside and then diving low and hitting Kyle Busch but causing minimal damage to both cars.
Kurt Busch had moved into second place when the yellow flag was waved for debris. On the restart, Kurt Busch and Kahne raced side-by-side for two laps before Kurt took the lead and led the rest of the way in the fourth segment. Kahne edged Jimmie Johnson for second.
Kyle Busch made sure that no one would win the $1 million dollar bonus that CMS owner Bruton Smith offered if any driver won all five segments of the special event by winning the second segment after brother Kurt won the first segment.
Kyle dominated the third segment, while Kurt held off Jimmie Johnson in the battle for second place.
Polesitter Carl Edwards decided not to pit after the second segment and was the leader on the restart. But Kyle quickly shot by Edwards and was never challenged as he led all 20 laps of the third segment.
During the 41-minute rain delay that brought the first segment to a stop after just 13 laps, Clint Bowyer said the All-Star race needed “a little extra excitement.” And he was the one who provided it by diving low on the second lap of the second segment to make it a three-wide battle for the lead with Kurt Busch in the middle and Kyle up high. Bowyer grabbed the lead with Kyle sliding into second place.
Three laps later, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and bounced into Mark Martin, who spun sideways through the tri-oval to bring out the second yellow flag of the event.
On the restart with 11 laps remaining in the second segment, Kyle Busch roared into the lead and led the rest of the way.
Kurt Busch made it look easy in the first segment by leading all 20 laps.
Jamie McMurray started second in both segments of the preliminary event, the Sprint Showdown, but he quickly grabbed the lead both times and led all 40 laps to secure a spot in the night’s main event, the 29th Sprint All-Star Race.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second, 1.5 seconds behind McMurray, to also earn a starting spot in the main event in his rookie Sprint Cup season.
Finishing third, fourth and fifth and out of the money were Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and Martin Truex, Jr.