Hendrick Motorsports continued its winning ways Saturday night. After Jimmie Johnson got the organization its 200th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win last weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Speedway and the No. 48 team took victory in the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday in Charlotte, team owner Rick Hendrick got two more wins (non-points-paying) Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Sprint Showdown to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race and Johnson visited victory lane again, this time after winning the All-Star Race. It was a win worthy of Hendrick getting a ride to victory lane in the right-side window of the No. 48 car.
“This race car was so amazing,” Johnson said in victory lane after giving the boss a ride down the frontstretch to wave to fans in the grandstands.
Johnson won the first 20-lap segment and took it easy in the back, cruising through the other three 20-lap segments, knowing that a position up front was secured for the trip down pit road prioir to the final 10-lap sprint to the finish, that is as long as he kept the 48 on the lead lap.
“We were just smart from there,” Johnson said. “We worked on the car and got it right.”
With their spots up front for later secured, Matt Kesneth and Brad Keselowski eventually joined Johnson in the back as the winners of the second and third 20-lappers.
Earnhardt made his way to the front in the final 20-lap segment to take that win on older tires. After the fourth segment, Johnson, Kenseth and Keselowski were moved to the front of Earnhardt on tires that were several laps fresher. They pitted during a caution that came out for the blown engine of Greg Biffle during the fourth-segment.
The field headed down pit road for the mandatory stops, but the front four merely came in for a stop-and-go, not taking time for service to the cars, making sure they kept their positions up front.
Restarting first, Johnson held on to the lead to claim his third All-Star win and the seventh for Hendrick Motorsports. Keselowski got by Kenseth on the final restart and remained in second the rest of he way, relegating Kenseth to third.
“I thought I could do something with him (Johnson) the first couple of laps (after the restart),” Keselowski said. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Kyle Busch got by Earnhardt in the final laps to take fourth, and Earnhardt rounded out the top-five.
A.J. Allmendinger and Bobby Labonte, like Earnhardt, transferred from the Sprint Showdown to the Sprint All-Star Race, Allmendinger by finishing second after heading down pit road because of a flat tire as the field came to the green flag and Labonte after winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Neither driver finished the All-Star Race in the top-10.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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