Johnson wins a million at the Winston

Johnson wins a million at the Winston

Concord, NC - Jimmie Johnson is a million dollars richer this morning, after his win at NASCAR's annual All-Star event, The Winston. Johnson, manning the helm of the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy, grabbed the lead from car owner Jeff Gordon on the ...

Concord, NC - Jimmie Johnson is a million dollars richer this morning, after his win at NASCAR's annual All-Star event, The Winston.

Johnson, manning the helm of the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy, grabbed the lead from car owner Jeff Gordon on the seventeenth lap of the final segment, and easily held off Kurt Busch for the win.

Jimmie Johnson.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
"We learned a lot last year in winning those first two segments. It kept us in clean air and we didn't really work on the racecar for traffic. The first segment we fell in behind Tony (Stewart) and [I] was racing real hard and trying to understand what or car needed for traffic. We made some adjustments after the second one, and then actually had to come back off of it, we over adjusted the car a little. We made sure that we would be caught up in the inversion in some way that would benefit us, unlike last year. A little bit of track position worked out for us

It was a win a year in the making. Last year Johnson won the first two segments, but got shuffled to the back of the pack on the final segments fan choice inversion of ten cars. That inversion put Johnson out of contention for the win. This year, the Hendrick team played it smart, attempting to stay within positions four to six on the second leg of the event, the strategy paid off; as Johnson started the last 20-lap sprint in fourth.

"We got bit on that last year," Johnson said. "We knew if we were fourth to sixth we'd be all right. We played our cards right and did what we needed to do."

Johnson becomes the thirteenth different driver to win the event; it is his first career Winston victory.

Kurt Busch, who won the second segment, finished second.

"That was a lot of fun," said Busch. "I think they should give out money for passing cars and we'd have ended up with a lot of cash tonight. It's just a testament to the crew. It's a lot of fun to drive these kind of cars and I hope that we've got a great car like that next weekend."

Bobby Labonte scored third.

"We had a great race car all night," said Labonte. "Getting up to third in that last segment and second in the second segment, the guys did a great job. The car was really good; it was fast. It was just hard to get by. We caught a couple of lucky brakes there and had to check up a little bit, but all in all a great night."

Joe Nemechek was fourth, followed by Michael Waltrip in fifth. Fourteen cars were slated to race in the final 20-lap segment, however a wreck on the final lap of portion knocked the field down to twelve.

One lap to the finish a wild wreck started when Stewart bumped the No. 5 Chevy of Terry Labonte and he began to spin. The other cars were victims of circumstance as they came through the turn with nowhere to land. Involved in the incident were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, and Mark Martin.

The field had just restarted after a red flag caused by defending race winner Ryan Newman's bad luck. The 2002 Winston winner wrecked the No.12 Penske Dodge after getting loose and backing into the wall. Newman became quite volatile as he was initially was under the impression that Stewart had wrecked him purposefully. It was not until Newman saw the replay video that he realized Stewart had not made contact with the No. 12 Dodge.

"I thought Tony hit me and they say he didn't," Newman said. "I was going down the straightaway and it turned around on me, so I don't know what happened. I could have sworn Tony hit me."

Tony Stewart and Bill Elliott.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
Even a victory in the first portion of the event couldn't stop Stewart from being frustrated with the entire concept.

"Next year I'm gonna take the weekend off -- somebody else can drive this thing next year for this race," Stewart said. "It's starting to become not worth it. I want to be racing a long time, and I don't want to get wrecked on a non-points race that has turned out to be a hack-fest every year."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in his unsinkable style was more upbeat about his misfortune.

"I saw a couple of guys spin," said Earnhardt. "And I saw the "5" get sideways and just didn't really know what to do. I think I ran into the back of somebody and got ran into the back of, and I lost control of the car after that. I hate that we tore the car up because I didn't feel like we had a car to win.

"I was trying to get in and out of here in one piece. It's "Winston" excitement though. You kind of expect that going in and you can't really complain after it's over with if your car's tore up because you go into the race knowing what you're up against. We'll just go home and try and fix it."

"This is the first car we've tore up this year," continued Earnhardt. "A lot of my Busch Series buddies and Bobby Labonte have come to me for sheet metal for charities, and I ain't had none to give 'em. Now we got a whole car for 'em to cut up."

Bill Elliott, also mixed-up in the big wreck, broke three bones in his foot and was treated and released from a Charlotte Hospital. Jeff Burton, who won the Winston Open to be transferred into the field of The Winston, wound up ninth.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin