- Published on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:04
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In beating Brad Keselowski to the finish of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by .841 seconds, Jimmie Johnson won the exhibition event for the third time, tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most all-time.
Matt Kenseth ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified for the event by winning the preliminary Sprint Showdown.
The All-Star Race win and accompanying seven-figure first prize ended a spectacular eight days for Johnson, who delivered victory No. 200 to owner Rick Hendrick May 12 at Darlington, and on Thursday night cheered his crew to its first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge in Charlotte, N.C.
All told, Johnson won $1,071,340 for his third win in 11 All-Star starts. “It means a ton to me,” Johnson said of tying Earnhardt, Jr. and Gordon.
“Those are two of the greatest drivers that have ever been in a stock car. I want to set my goals high, and I want to be considered one of the best to sit in a stock car, and the only way you can do that is by winning big races and piling up those stats.”
The All-Star Race victory was the seventh as a car owner for Hendrick, who sat on the window ledge and took a ride on Johnson’s winning Chevrolet after the race.
“That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in racing,” quipped Hendrick, who caught his foot in the dash while straddling the window.
Johnson was the first to stake his claim to a top spot in the running order, winning the first 20-lap segment after passing polesitter Kyle Busch for the top spot on Lap 15. In winning the first segment, Johnson earned the right to lead the field to pit road before the final 10-lap dash.
The Sprint Cup All-Star Race is the traditional opening event of two of the year’s biggest weekends for race fans. Since most of the NASCAR teams are headquartered in the Charlotte area, it gives the crews a rare break from the road, and a couple of weeks at home where they sleep in their own beds and pretty much live like normal working folks for a change.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has activities every day leading up to Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. Tomorrow, Thursday evening, the World of Outlaws Sprint car drivers will take to the Charlotte Motor Speedway dirt track.
Friday is a day of practice and qualifying for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup cars. Saturday is the History 300/Rallycross race for the Nationwide series.
Sunday evening is the main event, the 53rd running of the Coca- Cola 600, the longest race on the Cup Circuit, a full 100 miles longer than any other race. Only four times in the race’s 53 year history has the race leader at the 500 mile mark gone on to win the race.
Jimmie Johnson, the winner of last Saturday night’s All-Star Race has won the Coca-Cola 600 three times in a row in 2003 through 2005. Johnson also won both the All-Star Race and the 600 in the same year in 2003.
Kurt Busch was the latest Cup driver to sweep both the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year. Busch won both races in 2010.
Sunday’s racing coverage begins at noon with the Indianapolis 500. The Coca-Cola 600 begins after the 500 and will run from daylight into the night.
In spite of the fact that NASCAR has long since surpassed the IndyCar Series in the United States, the Indianapolis 500 remains the world’s largest single day spectator sporting event.
Rick Mears holds the record with six Indianapolis 500 pole positions, 1979, 82, 86, 88, 89, and 91, all while driving for Penske Racing. Current Penske driver Ryan Biscoe is on the pole for this year’s race with an average speed of 226.484 mph for his four-lap qualifying run.
Briscoe beat out Andretti Racing driver James Hincliffe by a scant .0023 seconds in the closest qualifying session since the Brickyard opened in 1911. Penske Racing has won five of the last seven Indianapolis poles, and has 15 Indy 500 wins.
So whatever chores you have to done this weekend, better take care of them on Saturday or let them wait till Monday. Sunday is for racing.