Crew Chief Chad Knaus had the plan, and Jimmie Johnson had the grunt. Together they produced Johnson’s record tying third win in NASCAR’s multi-segment non-points All-Star Race.
Parlaying momentum from Johnson’s drought-breaking win at Darlington last week, with a pit crew competition victory, Johnson executed the $1 million prize winning strategy to perfection. The late Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon are the other three-time winners.
As Knaus explained "we had a meeting after we were able to win at Darlington last week, and we said 'Look, if we can go out and win the Pit Crew Challenge, get that No. 1 pit box, get a solid car, win the first segment,' the rest would be up to Jimmie, we knew we could win the race. It played out perfectly."
So Johnson did his part winning the first of four 20-lap segments. After a mandatory pit stop following the fourth segment he came out of the pits first. Then he blasted off on the final restart for a 10-lap sprint untouchable by second place Brad Keselowski.
"I can't take the credit for figuring the format out," said Johnson. Adding "I think when the rules came down, every crew chief in the garage area realized the importance of that first segment. Chad was the one briefing me. As he mentioned earlier, multiple times. We met three or four times on it again."
Keselowski said, of Johnson, "he was just fast. He had a fast car and he did a great job on the restart to do what he needed to do to get away.
"I tried to run him down and I thought I might have been just a touch faster than him those first two or three laps, but after that his car really took off. I just didn’t have anything for him."
Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After the race car owner, Rick Hendrick, tried to enter the one seat stock car and got a bit tangled and yet still rode outside the Johnson’s No. 48 car to Victory Lane.
"That was the dumbest thing I've done ever in racing tonight. That was it. I may have done some smart things, but that was the dumbest one," said Hendrick.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Showdown qualifier, and second place AJ Allmendinger finished second in that race. Bobby Labonte was the third and final transfer to the All-Star race thanks to a fan vote.