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All-Star: Johnson's the million dollar man

Jimmie Johnson picked up a cool million dollars for winning the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the Showdown qualifier.
It's been a very, very good week for Jimmie Johnson. Last week he broke an annoying personal drought of victories to deliver Hendrick Motorsport's 200th Sprint Cup series win; and buoyed along by that success, he rolled right on to win again this week and walk away with NASCAR's biggest race prize of the year, the All-Star million dollar jackpot.

The non-championship All-Star Race had re-jigged its format again this year, so that the event consisted of four 20-lap segments with the winners of each portion of the race then taking the four leading spots for a final 10-lap dash for the cash at the end.

The field consisted of Sprint Cup race winners from 2011 and 2012 together with previous Cup and All-Star champions of the last decade. To this 20-car line-up was added the winner of a fan vote, and the winner and runner-up of the Sprint Showdown race open to all Cup regulars not otherwise qualified for the All-Star.

AJ Allmendinger had claimed pole for the Showdown, but then had disaster strike before the green flag when his left front tyre go down, forcing him to pit road just as everyone else was getting up to race speed. That left second place man Martin Truex Jr. fighting it out with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead, a battle that Earnhardt won out of turn 4 to lead the first lap. Despite a bobble next time around that could have provoked a wreck, Earnhardt held on to the top spot for the next 40 laps to claim the Showdown win and one of the three remaining spots in the All-Star race. It was his first Showdown win, but he's only had to compete in the race twice since before he's been able to move directly into the All-Star Race via other means.

"Tonight, you have to go, right out of the gate. You don't have time to wait on the car," said Earnhardt later. "You've got to go right out of the gate, and that really comes down to the team."

Despite some early door-banging between Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray that sent Logano perilously close to the wall on lap 5, the first half of the Showdown proceeded without stoppages. The scheduled mid-race caution and pit stops did nothing to shake up the running order but made show everyone was nicely compacted together for the restart, by which time AJ Allmendinger had managed to work his way back into the top ten after that early misfortune. The remaining caution-free 20 laps of the Showdown were all about watching AJ work his way forward, and thanks to capitalising on a late mistake by Jamie McMurray, by the time the chequered flag came out Allmendinger had done enough to finish in the runners-up spot behind Earnhardt and book his place into the All-Star Race.

"I gave it everything I had," said Allmendinger. "If I didn't make it, I didn't want to it be for a lack of trying ... I wasn't going to let them down - I was going to do everything I could to get them in there, or I was going to wreck trying!"

That just left the winner of the fan vote to be added to the line-up. The winner of this vote would normally be a formality - Earnhardt always wins these sort of popularity contests - but his win in the Showdown meant he was out of the running. AJ Allmendinger would probably have been the next favourite to win the vote, but he too no longer had any need of it. All of which was much to the good fortune of Bobby Labonte, who swept in and won the poll after 2.4 million votes had been cast, and he duly joined the other 22 drivers for the main event, his 17th All-Star start - having come close to deciding to skip the event altogether for financial reasons.

"That is a great honor," said Labonte. "You always want to be, and you'd like to be, and there are a lot of great race-car divers in this event that could easily get this same type of vote. But thank the fans for doing it."




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On his way to winning the first segment, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, races Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/HHP - Pool/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 28, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Johnson advances to the Contender 12 phase of the Chase which begins next Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  (Photo by Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, races Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, lead the field to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Wurth Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover sInternational Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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