Kyle Busch and his brother, Kurt, were the stars of the segments that weren’t the most important.
Jimmie Johnson was the star of the one that was.
After Johnson stormed out front in the fifth and final segment to easily win Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race, the Busches were left to wonder about what might have been.
Kurt led the first and fourth segments, while Kyle led the second and third. But Johnson, thanks to the reliable work of his No. 48 pit crew, beat both Busches out of the pits on the night’s final stop and started the 10-lap money shootout alongside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on the front row.
From there, it was an easy 10 laps to the big money. Johnson led every one, finishing first in the All-Star Race for a record fourth time. Kyle finished third and Kurt fifth.
After the race, Kyle described his Toyota as “probably the best car here.
“We just ran up front most of the night and had really good runs through the segments there,” he said. “We had two of them, and, average-wise, we were right there with Kurt.”
But Johnson’s team turned in an 11-second pit stop to move the 48 around the Busch cars. With passing at the front on the track so difficult, Johnson roared along without a serious challenge after taking the lead.
“Ultimately, it came down to pit road, where my guys always prove their worth,” Kyle said. “Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t have the best of stops and came out third, and that was the race right there. You’ve got to be on the front row if you’re going to win this thing, and, unfortunately there on the restart I was getting side-drafted and sucked around and hit from behind and loose and everything else. I had to finally get straight and get everybody off me to be able to race, and once I could do that I could go forward.”
Kyle called the race “another missed opportunity here with the best car with me behind the wheel and come home without a win.”
Each of the Busch brothers led 29 laps for the night. Johnson led only 10 – but the final 10.
Kurt sprinted to the front at the start of the first segment and led all 20 laps. Later, he led the final nine laps of the fourth segment.
With their strong runs in the first four segments, the Busch brothers earned the first two spots in the lineup as drivers dropped off the track and onto pit road for the critical final stops. Johnson was fourth, behind Kahne.
Kahne edged Johnson to roll off pit road first, with the Busches following in the top five.
ALL-STAR Race Results
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.