Johnson Executes Strategy to Earn All-Star Win
Jimmie Johnson executed his strategy perfectly, winning the first 20-lap segment, hanging back for the next three, and catapulting to the lead at the beginning of the final 10-lap sprint to win Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson shot to the lead as the green flag flew in the final segment and was never seriously challenged. Brad Keselowski, winner of the third segment, finished second, and segment two winner Matt Kenseth was third.
After clinching his position with the first-segment win, Johnson fell to the back of the pack at the beginning of the next segment. He stayed out of trouble and also had time to experiment with his car.
Meanwhile, Kenseth won the second 20-lap segment and then employed the same strategy Johnson did, lagging behind the pack for the remainder of the 20-lap segments.
In the third segment, Keselowski led nearly every lap, but Kasey Kahne was challenging hard in the closing laps. A drag race off Turn Four was capped by a photo finish to the segment, with Keselowski edging Kahne by .006 seconds.
The final 20-lap segment began with Dale Earnhardt Jr. shooting to the lead on lap 63. Once in clean air, he was untouchable, cruising to the win in segment four.
During the mandatory pit stop leading into the final segment, all of the leaders employed a stop-and-go strategy. Johnson, in the front pit stall by virtue of his crew winning the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge Thursday, peeled out inches ahead of Kenseth to earn the first position on the restart.
As the green flag fell for the final 10-lap event, Johnson shot to the front and cruised to his third NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race win.
JIMMIE JOHNSON (Sprint All-Star Race Winner, No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet) – “We had a strategy; we knew what would be best for our team. We weren’t sure we could get there starting sixth. This race car is so amazing. I put her on the outside at the start of that first heat and let her rip around the top and got to the lead. And then we were smart from there and worked on the car and got it right so we could be good at the end.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI (Second place, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) – “It’s all about the restart. I was hoping we’d get a yellow and I’d get another shot at Jimmie. I don’t know if I’d have been able to do anything, but I’d like another shot. I thought I could do something with him the first few laps; I thought we might have been just a touch faster, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m proud of our effort, and I’m really proud of my team. I think we’re a really young team and growing and getting better every day and every hour. We got beat by a five-time champ and a two-time All-Star winner, so I think we’re doing pretty good. But I wanted that one more spot, man.”
MATT KENSETH (Third place, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford) – “It was good we were able to win that second segment, kind of by accident. Jimmy and I were talking about pitting and then decided at the last minute to stay out. We got up front and got our car pretty good and had a really great, hard race there with Denny (Hamlin). From there on out, we just tried to save our stuff made sure we saved our tires. In that last restart I just couldn’t get going. In a 10-lap shootout, when you’ve got all the fast guys up front and you’re third going into turn one, it’s going to be pretty hard to win it.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 88 Dale Jr. Foundation/National Guard/Diet Mtn Dew Chevrolet) – “Well, the car was good. It was a lot of fun; really is a good weekend. Had a lot of fans here. Never really did a lot of adjustment. Just needed to start on front row at the end of this thing, especially to beat guys like that 48 team.
PAUL WOLFE (Crew Chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) - “At the end, we needed a little more speed to run with the 48 car. We needed a few more adjustments. With him winning one of the earlier segments, it gave them more time to work on their car. There at the end, we didn’t have enough to run with him. Overall, it was a great effort tonight coming from the back and being able to use some strategy into our favor and get up front. In clean air he (Keselowski) was able to maintain it. We definitely learned a lot. I feel like this was probably the best car we have had here at Charlotte, so that’s encouraging and something to build on. The driver was up on the wheel. He did a great job. He was able to move around and keep the 5 (Kasey Kahne) behind him on that segment. And that is what it takes. These guys are so competitive and the cars are so close.”