By: Billy Tewes
Jimmie Johnson coasted to his fourth All-Star race victory last night after a quick pit stop gave Johnson prime track position. Johnson held off a mounting charge from Joey Logano to win the million. Johnson won last years All-Star race as well and has always had a firm grip on Lowes Motor Speedway.
The action started with Sprint Showdown, the qualifier for drivers who did not initially qualify for the big show. Jamie McMurray in the Bass Proshops Chevy led both 20 lap showdown segments and transferred into the five segment all-star race. In addition to McMurray and second place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr, a fan vote determined one final entry and that would be none other than Danica Patrick. Drivers like Martin Truex Jr and Paul Menard were more worthy as they were competitive and actually challenged for the lead in the showdown.
This year had a new twist that Nascar implemented to try to make things more interesting. In addition to the one million that drivers take home for winning the final segment, if one driver were to win all five segments, they would take home an additional million. Its pretty safe to say that this will never happen and it did not happen last night. The five segments were broke into four 20 lap segments and one final 10 lap segment to win it all.
Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch (my pick to win it) started on the front row for segment one due to the competition qualifying session that took place the night before. Brad Keselowski broke a transmission on lap 3 effectively ruining his night. Kurt Busch led every lap of segment one to win it and the first segment saw two red flags for a small shower that passed through.
There was plenty of hard racing as this is a non points paying race and every driver wanted to win that million dollars. Three wide racing down the backstretch and speeds approaching 200 MPH could have been a major recipe for disaster. Luckily for all involved, the only accident was a single car spin by Mark Martin in which he barely managed to avoiding hitting the slowed car of Danica Patrick at the start finish line.
Kyle Busch would end up winning the second and third segments and first segment winner Kurt Busch won the fourth segment.
The final 10 lap shootout put Kurt Busch in the prime seat to win and prove that I could be right with my picks two weeks in a row. Unfortunately for Kurt a slow final pit stop cost him valuable time and gave eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson the track position and he capitalized like he and his team usually do.
Johnson’s victory at Charlotte marked his record fourth All-Star victory and 10th overall in Sprint Cup Series competition. It is very clear that Johnson and company have this track figured out and will be hard to handle next week for the 600.
Next Sunday’s race is one of my favorite weekends for racing. There is 1,100 miles of racing between the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca Cola 600. I think that Kyle Busch will win after a grueling 600 miles. If the racing of the All-Star race is any indication of what is to come next sunday, I think we are going to see a fantastic race. I will also add that I will be watching the Indy 500 and am pulling for Takuma Sato to win his first Indy 500 after last years debacle where he nearly won it. It is sure to be an exciting weekend for race fans!
2012 Coca Cola 600 Winner Kasey Kahne