Thousands of screaming fans and a million-dollar prize on the line...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Despite the pressure brought on by the star-studded lights, thousands of screaming fans and a million-dollar prize on the line, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is, well, "keeping it cool" this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And why not?
Johnson leads the series in NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race wins with four (2003, 2006, 2012 and 2013); including capturing the last two in stirring fashion.
“It’s usually such a fun weekend for us,” said Johnson. “There are always a lot of family and friends in town for the race, and there is a lot of money on the line. It’s so relaxed and the atmosphere is just exciting. We just go out there to try and win it.”
Johnson became the second driver to win back-to-back Sprint All-Star races last season (Davey Allison was the first, in 1991-92) and could become the first to win three consecutive this weekend.
These all-star events apparently are made-to-order for Johnson; he has competed in 12, posting four wins and eight top-five finishes. His average finish is a stellar 6.1.
This weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race – featuring winners of series points races from the 2013 and 2014 seasons plus three wild-card berths from Friday’s Sprint Showdown and the Sprint Fan Vote – could be the antidote for Johnson’s dry spell this season; he has yet to win, after 11 races. Historically, an all-star victory often has led to much more; 10 times, the all-star winner has gone on to win the series championship, including two times by Johnson (2006, 2013).
Regarding those wild-card berths, they’ll be determined Friday night. Two will go to the top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap/60-mile race for drivers who haven’t won races in either 2013 or ’14. Also on Friday, the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote will be announced and awarded a spot in the all-star field. The Showdown starts at 7:15 p.m. (ET) On Saturday night, all-star qualifying starts at 7:10 with the 90-lap/135-mile all-star race slated for an 8:30 start. FOX Sports 1 coverage starts at 7 p.m. on both nights.
NASCAR Wire Service