Five-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, just became one million dollars richer Saturday night holding off his teammate Kasey Kahne and a late-charging Joey Logano to win the Sprint All-Star race. Johnson also became the only driver in history to win four All-Star races in his career.
The night started off with the annual Sprint Cup showdown featuring drivers racing for a chance to make the 90 lap feature later in the night. Jamie MacMurray led all 40 laps of the showdown, gaining entry into the All-Star race. Rookie of the year candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also qualified for the feature event by finishing second in his first Sprint showdown.
The final spot in the race was rewarded to Danica Patrick who finished ninth in the showdown, but was voted into the race by the fans later in the night. The vote gave Danica her first All-Star race start and she became the only female driver in history to race in the event.
The race was halted after eight laps in the first segment due to a rain storm in the Charlotte area. The race was yellow flagged for about ten minutes before the drivers were called back to pit road to allow the jet dryers to dry the track. The race remained red flagged until 10:20 pm EST when the drivers were called back to their cars to continue the race. At 10:37 pm EST the green flag dropped once again as Kurt Busch led the field into the turn one.
The Busch brothers dominated the entire first half of the race winning three of the five segments of the night. Before the final segment, NASCAR lined up the field in order of average finishes in the first four segments. The Busch brothers tied for best average finish, but the first starting position was rewarded to Kurt Busch for winning segment four as a tie breaker.
Everything seemed to go downhill from there on out as Kurt had a slow pit stop and lined up fifth for the final restart. His brother Kyle didn’t have much better luck coming onto pit road second and lining up fourth. After segment four, Jimmie Johnson found himself 11th, but by time they lined up for the final segment his crew gained him nine spots moving him to second behind teammate Kasey Kahne.
The final restart pitted teammate versus teammate as the rest of the field faded into the rear view mirror. Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne sailed into turn one side by side neither driver giving up an inch of space on the race track. In the end, the inside line gave Johnson the speed he needed enabling him to stop Kahne’s run on the outside, and ultimately drive on to victory.
Joey Logano wound up finishing second his best career All-Star race finish. Kasey Kahne finished fourth behind Kyle Busch who never really got going on the final restart. Brother Kurt Busch finished fifth after having a dominating car all day, and Denny Hamlin finished sixth in just his second week back from his spinal cord injury.
While Jimmie Johnson may have had a night to remember, other drivers had a night they truly want to forget. Dale Jr. started 15th and finished seventh after battling a tight racecar all night and getting into Kyle Busch on a restart. Series Champion Brad Keselowski didn’t even make it past the first segment blowing an engine on lap three and finishing 22nd. Last week’s winner, Matt Kenseth, showed great speed in segment one of the race, but ultimately finished the night in ninth.
Personally I thought the All-Star race as a whole was confusing. The announcers didn’t start updating fans on the average finishes of the drivers until after the 3rd segment; making it difficult for anyone to keep track of who would line up where in the final segment of the night.
The added million dollar bonus for the driver who could win all five segments certainly provided for some excitement heading into the race, but after Kurt Busch lost segment two the excitement of the evening kind of faded away. NASCAR needs to think of better ways to engage the fans and make the All-Star race exciting.
With the race being kind of a snooze fest, I fully expect next year’s formula to be revamped to make for healthier and more exciting completion. What NASCAR really needs to do is put more power in the fans’ hands. The fans only get to vote one driver into the race each year. A far cry from other sports All-Star events. Even if NASCAR were to just host an award show after the race, and have trophies and prizes for best wreck and best move on the restart. That way everyone could enjoy the race, and the fans would have much more power than they have now.
Now that the All-Star race is behind us, the attention now turns to next week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway. Last year’s winner, Kasey Kahne, along with many other drivers who faired poorly in the All-Star race may be looking for some redemption next Sunday.
Can Jimmie Johnson win both races at Charlotte? What driver do you think learned the most from tonight’s race? Please comment below and let me know