Jimmie Johnson Wins All-Star Race at Charlotte Dale Jr. fights ill-handling race car, finishes 9th Jimmie Johnson passed Kevin Harvick two laps into the final 20-lap segment and pulled away to a comfortable margin to win the Nextel All-Star ...
Jimmie Johnson Wins All-Star Race at Charlotte
Dale Jr. fights ill-handling race car, finishes 9th
Jimmie Johnson passed Kevin Harvick two laps into the final 20-lap segment and pulled away to a comfortable margin to win the Nextel All-Star Challenge Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It is Johnson's second Nextel All-Star win, and it was his seventh victory at LMS. Harvick finished second and Jeff Gordon third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team finished ninth despite an ill-handling car that never responded to countless adjustments all night. The finish was Junior's sixth top-10 in seven Nextel All-Star Challenges, and it marked his 19th top-10 finish in 20 career "non-points-paying" races.
Key Moments: Starting 17th, the Bud team spent much of the first and second segments making major adjustments to its car at every opportunity, and with five cautions, two red-flag periods, and a mandatory green-flag pit stop, there were many. The Brew Crew also gave close attention to the left-front valance of the Budweiser Chevy, as the nose of the car took a minor beating on two separate evasive moves to avoid accidents -- the first on lap 17 that sent Junior trudging through the infield grass to avoid a spinning car, and the second a six-car crash on lap 49 that took out many of the front-runners. Having survived all of that, Dale Jr. restarted the final segment in 11th and climbed as high as eighth before Kyle Petty took it from him two laps from the finish.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
"No matter what we did to the car tonight, it wouldn't turn. It just chattered the front tires all night. We made all kinds of changes -- big changes -- and it didn't faze it at all. It's frustrating. I'm not happy about it, and I know Tony Jr. and the guys aren't happy about it. We worked real hard, and to not even be in contention tonight when half the field wrecked out is really disappointing. But we'll figure it out. We've got a lot of work to do this week to get ready for the 600. Not sure what car we're going to bring, but we've got a lot to improve on if we're going to keep climbing in the points."
Best Radio Chatter:
The harder tire compound NASCAR mandated for this race altered the pit strategies normally used in sprint races such as this (for instance, most teams preferred "scuffed" tires -- or old tires -- to new ones because the extra wear provided more grip.) The Bud team's strategy to re-use old tires was evident as the opening 40-lap segment winded down.
Dale Jr.: "I just slide the left front all the way in through the center. The left front just skates."
Tony Jr.: "Alright, we'll be pitting here."
Dale Jr.: "Ten-four, pitting this time when it's open... Look at the left front valance. I went down into the first corner, and might've hit the apron with my left front and beat it up. Just take a look at it."
Tony Jr.: "Alright, ten-four. (To tire specialist Ray Osian) Grab a set of stickers and put them up there, Ray. Grab a set of stickers, because we've got to make a (mandatory) green-flag stop in four laps."
Dale Jr.: "Just glue these up (with new lug nuts) and use these in the last 20 (laps)."
Tony Jr.: "Ten-four, that's why I don't want to use up a set of scuffs here. I can turn these into a set of five-lappers. We'll just use this little deal to scuff a set."
Dale Jr.: "I prefer never to be on stickers."
Tony Jr.: "Yeah, ten-four. That's kind of why I'm doing what I'm doing here."
All the changes in the first segment -- and there were many -- didn't improve the Bud car. Dale Jr. on lap 42:
Dale Jr.: "What's wrong with my car!?"
The caution came out one lap later...
Steve Hmiel (spotter): "You know June, it does look weird."
Dale Jr.: "I know, and it sounds weird, too."
Tony Jr.: "I mean, is it no change whatsoever?"
Dale Jr.: "It needs some changes... tight!"
Tony Jr.: "I need to know what the changes did. If it did nothing, just say nothing. I'm making drastic, drastic changes here. I'm not just playing around."
Dale Jr.: "Alright."
The biggest wreck of the night -- a six-car pile-up on lap 49 that took out many of the top contenders -- left Junior taking evasive action yet again.
Hmiel: "Wreck in front of you! Go low, go low, go low! (Realizing Junior stopped instead...) Or just stop, that works too."
Dale Jr.: "I don't think anything went underneath, but a lot of (stuff) went over. (Long pause). There is a lot of debris on the back. If I'm a crew chief, I put new tires on."