NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Jimmie Johnson Goes Flag-to-Flag to Win the 2010 Prelude to the Dream at Eldora

The Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream is, for all intents and purposes, an All-Star race where some of the biggest names in auto racing come out and race for fun. Yes, there is a lot of money surrounding the event, but the drivers aren’t racing for any of it. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the drivers aren’t going to give their all.

During practice, Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart was by far the fastest driver on track, turning laps under 15.5 seconds. However, when qualifying came along, Stewart hit the wall before taking the green flag and qualified back in the pack. Clint Bowyer ended up putting up the best time with a 16.07.

A couple of additional wrinkles were added to the Prelude to the Dream for 2010. First, the 27 participants were grouped into four teams, each of which had a captain. Denny Hamlin was the St. Jude captain, Kasey Kahne was the Cincinnati captain, Kyle Busch was the Levine captain and Bowyer served as the Riley captain.

Each team represented a different Children’s Hospital that benefited from the race. The benefiting hospitals were St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Ind. The team with the lowest score resulting from the summation of their top-five finishing positions wins the largest share (45% of the pot). The second-place team wins 25% of the pot for their charity. Third- and fourth-place will each split 15%.

On top of that overall amount of money, a new wrinkle was added last minute. Each captain had the option to delegate one member of his team to start at the rear of the field. If that person could come from the back to win the Prelude, an extra $50,000 would be added to the charity’s pot.

Jimmie Johnson‘s night started out with an unfortunate meeting with the wall during hot laps. This contact broke the right-front corner of the car so that the right-front tire was pointed out towards the wall at a severe angle.

However, when the feature came around, Johnson drew the pole position. From the start of the race, Johnson was in control. However, this was not a complete and total cakewalk for the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion.

Johnson’s main competition for much of the event was the No. 18 of Busch. Busch tried multiple times to try to pull a slide job on Johnson during the event, but was never successful. Eventually, he dropped back to a fourth-place finish.

Most of the competitors that started up front simply could not keep up with Johnson’s pace and dropped back through the pack in the short bursts of on track action between cautions. This allowed drivers from the back of the pack, like Hamlin and Stewart (who bit on the offer to start at the back for the extra $50,000) to race up into the top 10.

However, none of these drivers were able to do much of anything with Johnson, who was able to jump out to a good lead on all of the restarts over the rest of the pack. Johnson led all 30 laps in winning the Sixth Annual Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream in front of roughly 20,000 fans.

Jimmie’s winning margin was .638 of a second over Bowyer, who was technically his teammate and car owner for the race. Carl Edwards used a masterful final restart to move up to the third spot. Busch and Hamlin (from 24th on the grid) rounded out the top five. Stewart, one of only two drivers delegated to go after the extra $50,000, finished sixth.

As a result of Johnson’s victory and Busch’s strong top-five run, Team Levine snagged the victory in the overall competition and the 45% share of the proceeds.

The race was run in a fashion similar to rush hour traffic, with no less than 12 caution flags slowing the field, mainly due to spins. In addition, a couple of restarts were waved off due to spins under cautions, or one of the cars running over the restart cone. This slowed the average to an anemic 27.626 mph, an average speed similar to that of a ride to school on the bus.

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