With plenty of help from his pit crew, Jimmie Johnson joined a short list of drivers to have won three times in NASCAR's All Star race.
By Darrell WaltripFoxSports
Two weeks ago Jimmie Johnson got his first win of the season and his first win in quite a long while. It also gave Hendrick Motorsports its historic 200th win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Not to be outdone by their driver, last Thursday night the crew for the No. 48 gave owner Rick Hendrick his first-ever pit crew championship when they won the eighth annual Sprint Pit Crew Challenge. They beat the two-time defending champion, the No. 11 FedEx team from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Now more important than the pride or the money the crew and the Jimmie Johnson Foundation received for winning the Pit Crew Challenge, it gave the No. 48 team the first pit selection for the Sprint All-Star race.
Last Saturday night Jimmie Johnson went out and won the first segment of the Sprint All-Star race. That allowed him to be the first car on pit road for the final 10-lap segment of the evening. Combining that with the first pit box, well, it gave Jimmie quite an advantage when the chips were down for a cool $1 million dollars.
Jimmie then won the Sprint All-Star race and the $1 million I mentioned, plus it put him in very elite company. He joined teammate Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers in NASCAR history to win three Sprint All-Star races. I think it would be fair to say that May 12 to May 19, 2012 was an amazing seven days for Hendrick Motorsports.
The new format for the Sprint All-Star race was almost perfect. The crowd for the race was one of the best in recent years. The television ratings for Saturday night’s race were up 5 percent.
The No. 48 wasn’t the only Hendrick team to taste victory Saturday night. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Sprint Showdown, which was run before the Sprint All-Star race. By winning that 40 lap event, Dale Jr. transferred to the All-Star race without the aid of the Fan Vote. Showing how strong of a car he had, Dale Jr. then went out and won one of the All-Star race segments.
Actually he may have had a car good enough to challenge Jimmie for the win if not for a poor restart by Matt Kenseth, who was just ahead of Dale Jr., which kept him from going head-to-head with Jimmie for the win.
The other fun part of the evening was after his victory and burnout, Jimmie picked up owner Rick Hendrick and gave him a ride on the frontstretch to the delight of the fans. It truly was a perfect ending to a perfect night for the No. 48 team.