Sunday, May 20, 2012

All-Star All the Time: Johnson Wins Million Dollar Race

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/HHP - Pool/Getty Images

Since 1986, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has recognized some of the sports superstars with the running of an All-Star race. Held up Charlotte Motor Speedway for all but one year (Atlanta in 1987), the All-Star race is NASCAR’s top series’ title sponsors reward to event winners.

For 2012, 20 winner of 2011 and 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events were granted an instant pass into the latest Sprint All-Star event worth a million dollars to the race’s ultimate victor. Prior to the event, a 40-lap race of non-recent Sprint Cup Series winners was held resulting in three additional places. By winning the Sprint Showdown, Dale Earnhardt Jr and the #88 Dale Jr Foundation Chevrolet was granted the for entry into the All-Star race. Finishing behind Earnhardt Jr, AJ Allmendinger’s charge to 2nd place was rewarded with the second pass. The third and final entrant in the 2012 Sprint All-Star event at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Bobby Labonte who gained access to the race by being the Fan Vote Favourite.

A 23-car field led by Kyle Busch and the #18 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing, the 23-car field started for what would be a total 90-lap race (divided into four 20-lap segments and a final 10-lap sprint). In the first segment of the 2012 Sprint All-Star race, Kyle Busch led the first 14 laps until the #48 Lowes Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson motored by the Toyota. Johnson would storm to win in the first 20-lap segment of the event. Winning the initial segment of the Sprint All-Star event, Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsport team would play strategy by pitting through the end of the remaining 20-lap races. The win of a race segment by Johnson and other segment winner gave the drivers a top spot in the final 10-lap run.

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR

In the second segment, the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth took the victory from Denny Hamlin in the few 3 laps of the 20-lap race. The success at the end of the segment for Roush Fenway Racing was accompanied with some disappointment when the #99 team car of Carl Edwards suffered an engine problem 7 laps into the second race. Using special engines developed for the short non-points race, Roush Fenway Racing would also lose the #16 Ford of Greg Biffle to a spectacular engine explosion during the mid-way point of the third race segment. The issues with the Roush Fenway Racing Ford engines would be the only race incidents that would result in yellow flags during the segments.

Dominating the third segment for almost the entire event, Brad Kieslowski’s #2 Miller Lite Dodge was being reeled-in by the #5 Chevrolet driven by Kasey Kahne. Driving a back-up after crashing in qualifying, Kahne sized up the blue Penske Racing-fielded Dodge through the final laps never able to find a full advantage on Keselowski. Through the final corner of the final lap of the segment, Kasey Kahne swung his Chevrolet under Brad Keselowski on a run to the finish line. By a matter of inches, Keselowski’s Dodge held into a victory in the third segment.

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Segment four was possibility the biggest crowd-pleaser as NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Most Popular Driver showed some major fight. Early in the run, Sprint Showdown winner Dale Earnhardt Jr found the edge on front-starting #51 Chevrolet piloted by Kurt Busch. Going onto victory in the fourth and final segment, Earnhardt Jr and the #88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports bucked the trend of usually unimpressive All-Star races. During the entire 2012 Sprint All-Star race, Dale Earnhardt Jr was able to pass fast cars with the #88 car in the Charlotte Motor Speedway event.

Setting up the final 10-lap run for the Sprint All-Star race, the winners of the previous segments were rewarded with top starting positions (at risk if they lose spots during a pit stop). After a mandatory trip down pit road for all NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders, the top-four leaders chose to stop-and-go preserving their race positions. With Jimmie Johnson starting at the front, the #48 Lowes Chevrolet needed only a strong restart to chart a path to victory. As Johnson accomplished a textbook launch, the outside front row starting car spun its tires. Holding off Brad Keselowski handsomely through the final laps, Jimmie Johnson powered the #48 Chevrolet to his third All-Star race victory (last win coming in 2006).

The win #48 team concludes what has been a fully strong week for the organization who appeared to be struggling through the early part of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Winning Hendrick Motorsport’s 200th Cup race last Saturday at Darlington, the crew also won the annual pit competition held in conjunction with the NASCAR all-star race weekend. The victory celebration for the Sprint All-Star was complete with Johnson taking the Checkered Flag from the flagman while during a burn-out and team owner Rick Hendrick riding on the race car.

Rounding out the top five in the 2012 Sprint All-Star race is Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sprint All-Star Race
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Race Results

1 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet
2 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
3 17 Matt Kenseth Fifth Third Bank Ford
4 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. DaleJrFndtn/NationalGuard/DietMtnDew Chev
6 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser / Rheem Chevrolet
7 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
8 51 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet
9 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
10 39 Ryan Newman Tornados Chevrolet
11 22 AJ Allmendinger Pennzoil Dodge
12 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
13 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
14 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
15 21 Trevor Bayne Good Sam / Camping World Ford
16 27 Paul Menard Menards / CertainTeed Chevrolet
17 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
18 34 David Ragan US Shredder Ford
19 47 Bobby Labonte KingsFrd Toyota
20 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
21 55 Mark Martin Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
22 16 Greg Biffle 3M / American Red Cross Ford
23 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford

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