You can argue that Jimmie Johnson might be the best race car driver on the plant, but after his performance in Saturday’s Sprint All Star Race the conversation could shift to the best in the universe. That’s because he won the final segment, a ten-lap dash to the cash, at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual event to pocket a cool $1 million.
The 37-year old Californian is picking up nicknames like the Joe Pesci character did with small rocks in the movie With Honors. When he captured his most recent Sprint Cup championship in 2010 he has been referred to as “Five Time” when his name came up in conversations, however, “Four Time” has been added after he snagged the All Star race for the fourth time which snapped a tie with Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt Jr. Johnson’s name can also be tied to the late Davey Allison as the only back-to-back winners of this race.
“To beat Jeff and Earnhardt, two guys I’ve looked up to my whole life—two massive icons of our sport—this means the world to me,” said Johnson. “”I really didn’t think we had a shot at winning tonight, but we had a great race car and worked our way through there and got the job done. Over time, honestly, it’s just dedication and drive from every member at Hendrick Motorsports, every member on this No. 48 team. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we know we’ve got to keep pushing harder and pushing one another.” Johnson started 18th.
The victory overshadowed the performance of the Brothers Busch, Kurt and Kyle, who dominated the first four segments and it was believed they would battle each other when the checkers came out at lap 90. As it turned out it was Johnson would finish ahead of runner-up Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
“It was entertaining to say the least,” said Logano who piloted the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford for Penske Racing. “I think my guys did a great job calling the race. I thought we were a fifth or sixth place car at the beginning part of the race but I thought if we got track position we could run decent. So we averaged fifth (through the first four segments) and we beat one car out which put us on the second row. The guys got me where I needed there and then it was up to me.”
Logano and everyone else in the field knew that anyone who got out into clean air didn’t need help from anyone to push them along. Once Johnson did that “he was gone.”
Busch, on the other hand, wasn’t too thrilled with a third place finish and despite saying the right things in the media center afterward his body language spoke otherwise as he rocked back and forth in his chair with a kind of unhappy facial expression as Logano spoke.
“It was really good,” he said. “Obviously we felt like we had a really fast race car. The Snickers’ Bites Camry was awesome, probably the best car here. [I] ran up front most of the night and won two of them. Average finish wise we were right there with (brother) Kurt but he beat us a little bit. Ultimately it came down to pit road and my guys always prove their worth, unfortunately tonight we didn’t have the best of stops and we came out third and that was the race right there.”
Busch knew that being on the front row would give him the best chance to possibly finish ahead of Johnson, but he claimed it was more than the botched final pit stop that took him out of contention. He was sucked around with side-drafting, got loose when hit from behind and by the time he finally got everyone off him so he could race he was done.
“[It was] just another missed opportunity here with the best car and me behind the wheel and come home without a win.”
All Star Notes: This was Johnson’s eighth top-five finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race.
Joey Logano’s second was the best All Star finish of his career and third top-10 in his three starts.
Kyle Busch’s third place finish was his third consecutive top-five in this race.