For 80 laps of the 90-lap NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Saturday night it looked for all the world like a Busch brothers’ showdown, with each of the stock-car-racing siblings winning two of the first four 20-lap segments.
But in the final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag, it was old Mister Five-Time, Jimmie Johnson, who ran away with the $1 million stakes that accompany the victor of the non-points exhibition. Johnson broke a tie with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. in setting the new standard for most all-star wins, with four.
Kurt Busch, starting second to pole-sitter Carl Edward, dominated the first 20-lap segment, leading all 20 laps. In the second installment, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won one of the two “transfer” slots for the final in the preliminary 40-lap qualifier before the big race, hit the wall and smacked Mark Martin across the infield grass on the rebound.
On the restart, Kyle Busch worked his way around leader Clint Bowyer and flew away from the field.
In the third segment, Kyle Busch fell to fourth after pitting, but just as he had in the second segment, he soon blew by everybody, with brother Kurt in tow, the latter having to fend off Jimmie Johnson as the two raced each other hard over the final few laps.
At the 60-lap point of the 90-lap feature, Kyle Busch’s winning average finish over the three segments was an astounding 1.3, Kurt coming in with the second best average at 2.3.
Kasey Kahne, opting for a two-tire change, took the early lead in Segment 4 but ultimately fell to Kurt Busch, as the final 20 laps came down to Busch vs. Busch. Kurt took the checkered flag, and now both brothers each had two segment wins. With the final 10-lapper looming, it looked for a dead certainty to be a Busch vs. Busch burst to the flag.
But the anticipated Busch brothers duel instead became a race between two Hendrick Motorsport cars — Kahne and Johnson — who left the brothers behind on pit row when both suffered poor final pit stops. The HMS pair raced neck and neck for two laps before Johnson, who started 18th in the 22-car field in the opening segment, pulled ahead with eight laps to go. Joey Logano then picked off Kahne and set sail for Johnson.
But no one would head the 48.
And the Busches? Kyle rallied for third behind Logano, but Kurt was unable to find the earlier speed that had put him in front much of the night. He finished fifth.
Johnson and the rest of the Cuppers remain in Charlotte for this Sunday’s World (Coke) 600.
Indianapolis 500 Pole Day
Surprises galore filled the front row of the starting grid for this year’s Indianapolis 500, with little-known Ed Carpenter shocking the masses with a four-lap sequence of 228.762 mph around the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
The expected heavyweights — Penske and Ganassi — were locked out of the front row, with rookie Carlos Munoz and Andretti Autosport veteran Marco Andretti claiming second and third on the starting grid. Three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti qualified 17th, while his Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner, qualified 16th; both slot into Row 6. Penske’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves, another three-time winner, gained spots in the second and third rows respectively.
The 97th Indianapolis 500 is this Sunday.
Alan Ross is the author of “Speaking of Graduating…Excerpts from Timeless Graduation Speeches”.