Jimmie Johnson takes his third NASCAR All-Star race win
|By Diego Mejia||Sunday, May 20th 2012, 04:43 GMT|
Jimmie Johnson claimed his third career NASCAR All-Star race win by comfortably beating Penske's Brad Keselowski at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The five-time Sprint Cup Series champion was able to carry his momentum from last week, when he gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th Cup victory at Darlington, to dominate the decisive final 10 laps of the non-points event on Saturday night.
Johnson rose through the order during the first 20-lap segment from sixth on the grid, taking the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch on lap 16 and then pulling away to win the first portion of the event.
That gave him the key advantage of being first in the order for the final mandatory pitstop of the race, which would later be key in determining how the field would line up for the restart ahead of the last 10 laps of the fifth segment.
Having claimed that edge over his rivals, Johnson ran at the back of the field saving his machinery and avoiding any accidental contact while working on fine-tuning his car's balance.
The Californian was then able to make the most of his lead into the pits after the fourth segment, preserving the top spot off pit road partly thanks to his strategic advantage of having the first pit-stall, which his team earned on Thursday thanks to its pit-crew challenge victory.
When the green waved for the final 15 miles of racing, Johnson pulled away from Keselowski and was never threatened by the Penske racer.
Johnson's victory, his ninth at Charlotte, earned him US $1,071,340 and gave his boss Rick Hendrick a seventh All-Star win in what has been a stellar week for NASCAR's leading organisation.
"To make the odds be in your favour, being in the front row for the final segment was going to be the key, so winning the first or second segments was the goal," said Johnson, who now ties the late Dale Earnhardt and his team-mate Jeff Gordon for the most career All-Star wins.
"We weren't sure we could get there starting sixth but the racecar was so amazing. I put her on the outside at the start of the first heat and let her rip around the top to get the lead.
"Then we were smart from there and worked on the car and got it right so we could be good in the end."
Matt Kenseth was the winner of the second 20-lap segment, where his Roush Fenway team-mate Carl Edwards caused the first caution of the night following a fiery engine failure. It would be the first of two such incidents for the team, as Greg Biffle's car succumbed to the same issue during the third segment.
Keselowski, who pitted during the second segment's caution flag, stayed out during the optional pitstop following the second segment, and led the entire third portion of the race, just edging Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne to the line in a photo-finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr won the Sprint Showdown to race his way into the main event, followed by Penske's AJ Allmendinger, and eventually won the fourth segment, lining up fourth in the order ahead of the final mandatory stop, where the top five opted for a stop-and-go.
In the end Kenseth, who was second at the final restart, was third at the flag followed by Busch and Earnhardt.
Former Cup and Nationwide champion Bobby Labonte won the fan vote to get into the main event, where he finished 19th.
All-Star results - 90 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 1h28m00.000s 2. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 0.841s 3. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 1.747s 4. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 4.100s 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 4.779s 6. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 5.187s 7. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 5.915s 8. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 6.342s 9. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 6.447s 10. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 6.786s 11. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 7.866s 12. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 7.880s 13. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 9.062s 14. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 10.241s 15. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 10.250s 16. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 10.290s 17. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 11.458s 18. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 11.908s 19. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 11.909s 20. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 12.428s 21. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 24.450s Retirements: Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 67 laps Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 25 laps Showdown results - 40 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 28m40.000s 2. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 2.384s 3. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 3.031s 4. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 4.484s 5. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 5.174s 6. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 7.282s 7. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 8.050s 8. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 9.496s 9. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 10.026s 10. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 10.718s 11. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 12.747s 12. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 13.830s 13. Josh Wise Front Row Ford + 14.624s 14. Scott Speed Leavine Family Ford + 15.218s 15. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 20.250s Retirements: Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 28 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 26 laps David Stremme Inception Toyota 22 laps David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 20 laps Tony Raines Baldwin Chevrolet 20 laps Stephen Leicht Little Joe's Chevrolet 7 laps JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota 3 laps