Jimmie Johnson used a calculated strategy Saturday night to win NASCAR’s All-Star race and its $1 million prize for the third time in his career.
The five-time champion won the first 20-lap segment of the Sprint All-Star race, then rode around at the back of the field for the next 60 laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. His plan was to stay out of trouble, and make his play for the victory in the fifth and final segment.
The new format this year set it up so that the winners of the first four segments would be the first four drivers down pit road for a mandatory stop before the 10-lap sprint to the finish. Johnson’s win in the first segment meant he was guaranteed to be the first driver down pit road, and he had the first stall – the reward for his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team winning Thursday night’s Pit Crew Competition.
The race was then just to beat everyone else off pit road, and Johnson did by edging Matt Kenseth across the line.
He then had a great restart, and pulled away to become just the third driver – joining Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon – to win three All-Star races. Johnson’s other wins were in 2003 and 2006.
Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne, who won the 2008 All-Star race, finished ninth.
Points leader Greg Biffle, from Vancouver, Wash., suffered engine troubles, which led to a 22nd-place showing.
QUITE A DUEL
Roger Penske’s strategy beat Michael Andretti’s team by inches Saturday in Indianapolis – 9.168 inches to be exact.
In the closest pole duel in Indianapolis 500 history, Team Penske sent points leader Will Power onto the track with two minutes to go in the Pole Day shootout – a shrewd move that prevented three Andretti drivers from taking one last shot at the pole and preserving the No. 1 starting spot for Ryan Briscoe.
It was a remarkable finish to a wild afternoon.
Briscoe was the surprise winner with a four-lap average of 226.484 mph. He completed the 10-mile qualification run 0.0023 seconds quicker than James Hinchcliffe. The previous record was set in 1970 when Al Unser edged Johnny Rutherford by 0.01 seconds over the four-lap qualifying run.
BROWN TOP QUALIFIER
Antron Brown earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season, leading the Top Fuel field in the NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka in Topeka, Kan.
Brown took the top spot with his Friday run of 3.797 seconds at a track-record 324.98 mph.
Cruz Pedregon topped the Funny Car lineup, and Allen Johnson took the No. 1 position in Pro Stock.
Earnhardt Jr. led all 40 laps of the Sprint Showdown to race his way into the main event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. … Elliott Sadler claimed the pole for the Nationwide race today in Newton, Iowa. Sam Hornish Jr. is second and Danica Patrick will start ninth.