NASCAR SPRINT SHOWDOWN – Earnhardt Nation can breathe a sigh of relief. It may have just been a qualifying event for a non-points race, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won a race. And he won it in commanding fashion, leading all 40 laps of Saturday’s Sprint Showdown to transfer to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. AJ Allmendinger took the second transfer spot, and Bobby Labonte earned the Sprint Fan Vote to earn the final transfer.

Polesitter Allmendinger thought his night was done before it really started, suffering a flat tire on the first lap. He pitted and fought back through the field, overtaking Jamie McMurray with two laps remaining in a gutsy move that had them both wiggling through the corner. Allmendinger held on to the position and transferred to the main event.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. (Sprint Showdown winner, No. 88 Dale Jr. Foundation/National Guard/Diet Mtn Dew Chevrolet) – “We had a really good car in practice. I thought if we could get our nose out front, we’d be hard to beat. We worked really hard on the first restart to get to that spot. Gotta give most of the credit to the team. They put a great car under us tonight; it was fast right out of the gate. Tonight you have to go right out of the gate. You don’t have time to work on the car, and that really comes down to the team and really putting the best package they can under the car.”

(What did you learn?) “I think our car’s pretty good, is what I think I learned. Great opportunity to have a lot of fun. We’d love to win a million dollars and we’re pumped up.”

AJ  ALLMENDINGER (Second transfer position, No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge) –“I mean I couldn’t believe we were getting that flat tire coming to the green. We had a fast race car. The guys did a great job getting us two tires and back out without losing a lap. From there, I could see Dale (Earnhardt Jr.), and he was behind me, so I knew at that point we at least had a shot at it. I think I was one of the few cars that had four good tires. The car was just fast. I gave everything I had. If I didn’t make it, I didn’t want it to be for lack of trying. If I wasn’t gonna make it, I was gonna wreck trying.”

(On the pass of Jamie McMurray for the transfer spot) “Jamie’s one of the best, especially at this place. When I got behind him, I was really aero tight. I couldn’t ever get to his bumper to get him up out of the way. I knew if he got up off of the bottom I could get under him because we had such a fast race car. I was a little bit freer than he was.”

BOBBY LABONTE (Sprint Fan Vote Winner, No. 47 Kingsford Toyota) – “Well, obviously I’ve got to thank Sprint and all the fans. That’s awesome. That’s probably the only word I can use to sum that up. Just hoping we can excel in the big race. Two weeks ago we weren’t even going to show up here because this is not in our budget to run this race. You just don’t know. You always want to be and you like to be, but a lot of good drivers here. Been doing this a long time, always try to do the right thing, and hopefully that’s what pays off sometimes at the end.”