AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Jamie McMurray won the Sprint Showdown to transfer into the $1 million All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second Saturday night in the 40-lap race to earn the second transfer spot, and Danica Patrick moved into the 22-car field by winning the fan vote.
McMurray dominated both 20-lap segments to earn a spot in the Sprint All-Star race for the first time since 2011. It's only his seventh time making the All-Star race and he appreciated being part of Saturday night's main event.
"If you're a full-time Sprint Cup guy and don't get it, that's hard," McMurray said. "You want to feel like you've been a part of it. When you go home early, it's hard. It's hard to get in your car and drive out of here while the race is going on."
Stenhouse made it into his first All-Star race in his first season racing the Sprint Cup Series. He and Patrick, his girlfriend, are racing each other for Rookie of the Year honors this season and made a video earlier this month about the difficulty in deciding who to vote for in online fan polling.
After making it into the event by racing his way in, Stenhouse said he didn't vote for anyone.
But Patrick, who last year was voted most popular driver in the Nationwide Series, made a point to thank her fan base. Her public relations crew even had a bumper sticker made -- it said "Thank You Fans" -- that Patrick said she'd slap on her car before the race.
Knowing she likely was getting into the All-Star race regardless of how she finished, Patrick was able to take it easy during stretches of the Showdown.
"I think that it enters your mind that you don't want to do something that will put you in position to crash," she said. "When you get to the end and I was running around and clearly wasn't going to be first or second, so if I was in fortunate enough position to be where I am now with the fan vote, I can't move on with a crashed car.
"There is nothing to be gained by trying something desperate in the last five laps. I suppose at that point in time you say finish the race and there is nothing to gain."
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