Johnson wins record-tying third NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
May 19, 2012 2 Comments
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
May 19, 2012
CONCORD, N.C.—-Jimmie Johnson joined an elite club on Saturday night.
In beating Brad Keselowski to the finish of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by .841 seconds, Johnson won the exhibition event for the third time, tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most all-time.
Matt Kenseth ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified for the event by winning the preliminary Sprint Showdown.
Johnson was the first to stake his claim to a top spot in the running order, winning the first 20-lap segment after passing polesitter Kyle Busch for the top spot on Lap 15. In winning the first segment, Johnson earned the right to lead the field to pit road before the final 10-lap dash.
Thereafter, Johnson made frequent pit stops and ran behind the rest of the field to save his car for the finish.
Kenseth passed Denny Hamlin with three laps left in the second segment and secured the win in that leg. Like Johnson, Kenseth spent segment No. 3 running at the back while Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne waged an intense battle for the win.
Kahne got a strong run from the high line through Turns 3 and 4, but Keselowski held on to win the segment by .006 seconds.
Earnhardt won segment No. 4 by 1.618 seconds over Marcos Ambrose. After the 20-lap run ended, Johnson, Kenseth, Keselowski and Earnhardt entered pit road in that order, took no tires or gas and came out in those same top four positions for the final 10-lap run.
Of the top four drivers, Keselowski and Kenseth had the freshest tires, having stopped under caution for Greg Biffle’s blown engine on Lap 73. But Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was the class of the field and pulled away for the win in an anomalous All-Star race that did not see a single caution for a racing accident.
Though Earnhardt transferred into the main event with a decisive victory in the Sprint Showdown, the compelling story of the preliminary event was polesitter AJ Allmendinger’s run from the back of the field to the second transfer spot after pitting with a flat tire coming to green at the start of the race.
Allmendinger took four tires during a pit stop between the Showdown’s two 20-lap segments, and the new rubber paid off.
After two cars dropped out between segments and three others went to the rear because of pit road penalties, Allmendinger restarted 13th.
From the drop of the green flag on Lap 21, Allmendinger surged forward, finally passing Jamie McMurray for the second position with a hard run off Turn 2 on Lap 39 of 40.
“Jamie’s real good—he knows how to get around this place,” Allmendinger said. “He kept making sure he got good exit shots. Finally, he just got off the bottom a little bit. At that point, I wasn’t going to lift. I didn’t care if we all wrecked, if I got into him or what.
“These guys on this Pennzoil Dodge, this Penske organization, they belong in this race. They deserve it more than I do. I was going to do everything I could to get ‘em in, or I was going to die trying.”