Jimmie Johnson recovered from his qualifying mistakes to take the $1 million NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star race for a second straight year and the fourth time in his career.
Such a result looked unlikely when Johnson overshot the Hendrick pit and then received a penalty for a missing lugnut during Friday's qualifying session. A win also seemed a long-shot for Johnson when he could only make it up to 15th in the first 20-lap segment, which was interrupted for nearly three quarters of an hour by a rain shower. But, through segments two to four, Johnson worked steadily forward.
Rapid pit work from Hendrick then meant Kasey Kahne and Johnson would lead the field into the decisive 10-lap shootout. They ran side by side for a long spell at the restart before Kahne began to lose ground.
As his teammate fell back to fourth, Johnson quickly established a one-second lead and ensured he could not be caught in the sprint to the flag.
With the victory, Johnson broke a tie with teammate Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most wins in the non-points race, won his second straight All-Star Race and collected $1 million for his efforts.
“To beat Jeff and Earnhardt, two guys I've looked up to my whole life – two massive icons of our sport – this means the world to me,” said Johnson. “I really didn't think we had a shot at winning tonight, starting (18th), but we had a great racecar and worked our way through there and got the job done.”
The Busch brothers won all four preliminary segments between them, Kurt triumphing in parts one and four, and Kyle finishing first in the middle two. That meant they led the train of cars into the pitlane for the mandatory tire stops ahead of segment five, but both lost ground.
“We just didn't get the best pit stop there at the end to get us out on the front row, and when you're back behind cars, you're getting beat up on,” Kyle said. “We'll just take this as a good learning day and hopefully bring back some speed like this to the (Coca-Cola) 600 (May 26).”
While Joey Logano worked his way up to second for Penske, Kyle eventually recovered third with a late pass on Kahne, but Kurt had to settle for fifth in a race he led nearly one third of.
That was still a much better evening had Brad Keselowski managed. The reigning Cup champion's Penske Ford hit transmission trouble only two laps in.
Results - 90 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 1h29m20.000s
2. Joey Logano Penske Ford + 1.722s
3. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota + 2.856s
4. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 3.254s
5. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 4.001s
6. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota + 4.444s
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 5.086s
8. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 6.182s
9. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota + 6.674s
10. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 7.207s
11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 7.547s
12. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 8.306s
13. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 8.529s
14. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 9.446s
15. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 9.901s
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 10.001s
17. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 10.840s
18. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 12.211s
19. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 12.671s
20. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 13.543s
Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 87 laps
Brad Keselowski Penske Ford 2 laps