Jimmie Johnson already had a million reasons to smile, but Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway he got a million more. Johnson won the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge and a million dollar payday from the series sponsor. It is Johnson's...
Jimmie Johnson already had a million reasons to smile, but Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway he got a million more. Johnson won the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge and a million dollar payday from the series sponsor.
It is Johnson's second win in his fifth consecutive appearance in the All- Star field and seventh win in a Cup event at LMS.
"We've been working really hard to try and understand this race track and this tire," said Johnson. "Even when we left after qualifying we weren't sure if we had it figured out."
Johnson had to battle back from a bit of adversity to earn the win. He was penalized for speeding during the first segment and almost fell a lap down. He managed to hang onto the tail end of the lead lap and when the field was inverted prior to the start of the second segment the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy, but even that didn't help his track position. In the end, Johnson kept digging as several multi-car crashes thinned the field and allowed Johnson to jockey for a spot unfront.
"I really thought we had the inversion figured out, but we just missed it," explained Johnson. "We battled back from a lot of adversity. When I knew we were still on the lead lap after that pit road penalty I knew we had a shot."
Kevin Harvick was second, "The 48 had a great car, they were better then we were. We had a fast car, just not as fast as the 48."
Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman complete the top five.
"We weren't bad," said Gordon. "You just have to have track position and we just couldn't get it.to come home third we are really happy with that. We just got too tight there in the end."
The start of the preliminary Nextel Open was delayed over an hour due to thunderstorms in the greater Charlotte area. After a thirty lap shoot out, Scott Riggs won a place into the All-Star Challenge Kyle Petty won the Nextel fan vote, rounding out the field of 20 starters for the All-Star event and raising over $400,000 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
"I think this is big, but I think it's big for the Victory Junction Gang Camp. We just appreciate all the fans that voted. I really hope they know how much they have helped touch the lives of the children that will be affected by this. Coca-Cola and our other partners, Wells Fargo, Schwan's and Tire Kingdom have really supported this program," said Petty.
"I think this really shows how much people really care about the camp and the kids. I really believe the fans were voting for the camp and not for Kyle Petty. That really means a lot," he added. "We just really, really, appreciate all the fans that voted."
After another brief rain delay, NASCAR and Nextel's biggest non-point race finally got underway with Kasey Kahne leading the field to the green flag but led just the first three laps before Johnson stuck the No. 48 Chevy out front. The first caution came at lap 12 when Jamie McMurray cut a left front tire.
The field restarted at lap 17 but many cars chose to take their mandatory green flag pit stop on the next lap. Johnson gave up the lead to pit and suffered a drive through penalty for speeding on pit road. After the stops had cycled through Kyle Busch emerged as the leader, Busch led through the second caution on lap 34 when his brother Kurt's car went up in smoke.
Under that caution the skies opened and a steady shower began to pepper the race track. On lap 35, NASCAR threw the red flag due to the inclement weather. After a thirty minute delay the field restated on lap 38 with Busch remaining out front to easily win the first segment.
The random draw to invert the field was ten cars, which put Newman and Mark Martin on the front row to start the second thirty lap segment, bumping Busch back to 10th.
Newman only led two laps before Kahne grabbed the top spot. Segment two's first caution came at lap four, when Michael Waltrip smacked the wall in turn four. Kahne restarted on lap nine upfront but Kahne, Martin, Greg Biffle, Jeremy Mayfield, McMurray, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch wrecked.
The multi-car crash gave Harvick the lead as NASCAR red-flagged the event on lap 51 for cleanup. They restarted on lap 53 and Harvick easily sailed away to win the second segment.
After pit stops, Harvick continued to lead for the final 20-lap shoot out with just 11 cars on the lead lap. Johnson passed Harvick with 18 to go, but just as he completed the pass, Stewart and Matt Kenseth hit the wall bringing out the caution.
Johnson led on the restart quickly grabbing a sizeable advantage on the field. The race went green to the end as Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports their fifth win in an All-Star race.