JOHNSON TALKS FINAL RESTART
For the final restart of the NASCAR All-Star Race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson was right where he wanted to be.
Starting in the second position, Johnson didn’t get to line up in the preferred inside lane, but the race leader on his inside – Brad Keselowski – was on old tires.
“I really felt like we were in a great situation, even though I didn't have control of that final restart,” he recalled. “I thought Brad would really be able to hold back that inside lane, and I would be able to at least clear him through the center of (Turns) 1 or 2 on newer tires.”
But when the green flag flew, eventual race-winner Kyle Busch found the inside of Keselowski and raced ahead of him and Johnson into the lead.
“That was kind of it for us on the win,” Johnson said, noting that often the cars behind the front row are able to get a better start than the second-place competitor, who can’t jump the leader. “We learned a little bit tonight and we’ll come back next week and have some more fun.”
FROM THE OPEN TO FINAL STAGE
Chase Elliott’s Saturday began with a third-place qualifying outing for The Open, and though he didn’t race his way into the All-Star Race, the fans voted him in for the second consecutive year.
And he took advantage of the opportunity, advancing to the fourth and final stage of the exhibition event due to his average finish in the first three stages.
“I was happy we made that last round,” he said. “I guess I was the only car of The Open guys to make it to the last round, so that was kind of cool. Just hard to start in the back and expect to move that far forward. Had a good car, though – I was happy about that. Hopefully we can take some of that toward next week.”
Elliott started the All-Star Race on his set of softer tires, which were designed to give teams more grip and speed for one-time use. He was pleased that the No. 24 team’s strategy worked out.
“I think we played our cards the best we could at least,” he said. “I’m happy about that and appreciate Mountain Dew and their support this weekend. Cool to have them on the car, cool car this week and I’m excited to get back for the 600.”
SOFTER TIRES MAKE FOR 'FUN' RACING
While Elliott and the No. 24 team elected to utilize the “option” set of Goodyear tires to start the All-Star Race, Johnson and the No. 48 team utilized the special set in Stage 2.
“I think knowing a few cars started on greens, (No. 48 team crew chief) Chad (Knaus) just wanted to strike first and get some track position, get some finishing positions in the bank, in a sense, just to increase our chances at a top-10 average and get us up front,” Johnson explained.
It ultimately worked out for both drivers, as Elliott gained seven positions in Stage 1 and Johnson moved from fourth place to the runner-up position in Stage 2.
And both made the final stage.
“It was fun with the strategy, in putting those softs on, knowing I could drive like a maniac for a handful of laps. That put us in a good position in segment two, then we won segment three,” Johnson said. “So, it worked out well. I was able to hold off a couple guys on greens in the third segment to win that stage, so it played out just right.”
Elliott agreed that the strategy play added an extra element in a fun evening.
“I thought it was good,” he said. “I thought it offered guys options and opportunities to do different things, which is nice.”