CONCORD, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dominated the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday, cruising to victory and a guaranteed starting spot in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race later in the evening.
A.J. Allmendinger finished second, also guaranteeing himself a starting spot in Saturday’s main event after a great battle with Jamie McMurray in the last five laps of the 40-lap event.
Allmendinger qualified on the pole, but a flat tire on the pace laps forced Allmendinger down pit road as the field came to the green flag. That allowed Earnhardt to move up to the inside pole position alongside Martin Truex, Jr.
Earnhardt took the lead on lap one and led the entire 40-lap distance for his first victory in the Sprint Showdown.
“This was all about going fast right out of the gate,” Earnhardt said. “All the credit goes to the guys that are putting the car out on the line with a good setup underneath it.”
While Earnhardt showed the way, the real battle was for the second All-Star Race transfer spot. During the mid-race caution at lap 20 all but Earnhardt and second-place Truex opted to pit.
When the field returned to racing McMurray, who took only two tires during his pit stop, drove by Truex. Meanwhile, Allmendinger was flying through the field on four fresh tires. He caught McMurray with only a few laps left.
Allmendinger followed behind McMurray until getting a run coming out of turn two with two laps left, clearing McMurray as the pair came to the white flag.
“The Pennzoil Dodge was so fast,” Allmendinger said. “He (McMurray) just had to get off the bottom. I was just aero tight behind him. I was so much quicker than him but I was just aero tight.
“Finally he just got off the bottom a little bit and at that point I wasn’t going to lift. I didn’t care if we all wrecked, if I got into him or what. These guys on this Pennzoil Dodge and this Penske organization deserve to be in this race and I was going to do everything I could to get them in or I was going to die trying,” Allmendinger said.
Bobby Labonte won the Sprint Fan Vote and also advanced to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.