Jimmie Johnson became a $1 million man Saturday night by racing away to win The Winston and a record cash prize.
Johnson took the lead from teammate Jeff Gordon three laps into the final 20-lap segment, then pulled away to an easy victory over Kurt Busch in NASCAR's annual all-star race.
"This thing is going to be nice!" he yelled over his radio. "We're going back to Victory Lane. We did it!"
Johnson almost won this race as a rookie last year, taking the first two segments and $100,000 in bonus money.
But in a unique twist to the all-star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the fans vote on how they want the field inverted for the final segment. They always choose to invert the maximum 10 cars, and Johnson was shuffled to the back of the pack last year and ended up fifth at the end of the night.
So his Hendrick Motorsports team wasted no time trying to win the first two segments this year, instead settling in for a run over the final 20-lap sprint.
He finished the second segment in seventh place and moved up to fourth on the inversion. It put him right behind Gordon on the grid, and he followed his teammate past leader Sterling Marlin on the restart.
Then he set his sights on Gordon and passed him two laps later. No one was catching Johnson from there.
Johnson was almost unbeatable last year in the Coca-Cola 600 -- the race held the week after The Winston -- but a mistake in the pits on the final stops cost him the victory. It was another disappointment for the driver who is sponsored by Lowe's and wanted to win on his home track.
So everyone knew his team would be back to settle the score over the two weeks of racing here: track President Humpy Wheeler made Johnson his pick in his annual prediction, and Johnson made him right for the ninth time in 15 tries.
"We're all here for Humpy, so this is for you, Humpy," Johnson said. "To come out and win on our home track and win $1 million is great."
Bobby Labonte finished third and was followed by Johnson teammate Nemechek and Michael Waltrip.
Around the tracks
Today is Bump Day for the Indianapolis 500, but with only 24 of 33 spots for the May 25 race filled, there may not be much bumping involved. Only nine more are expected to make attempts in the final round today (1 p.m., ESPN).
Sarah Fisher (224.170 mph) would be the first driver knocked out of the lineup if she remains the slowest qualifier once the starting grid is full.
Michael Schumacher edged Kimi Raikkonen to take the pole for today's Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg, setting up a front-row showdown between the top two drivers in the point standings for today's race.