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NASCAR Nation – 5-24-2006

By Rick Racela

After he made an unscheduled pit stop in the first segment of the three segment NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, some felt that Jimmie Johnson would be out of contention. They must have forgotten where the race was being held. Johnson was indeed in contention and won the $1 million payout for winning NASCAR’s version of an All-Star game. The race was held in Charlotte, N.C. at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, at a track that Johnson has dominated at. Referred as his home because Johnson’s sponsor is Lowe’s, Johnson has won the last four points races held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Pit Crew Challenge: The All-Star weekend kicked off with the Nextel All-Star Pit Crew Challenge on Wednesday night in the new arena for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Ocean County native Martin Truex Jr.’s number one Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boat team beat Kasey Kahne’s number nine Dodge Dealers team in the final to bring home the $70,000 grand prize. Truex’s crew changed four tires, filled their car with gas, and pushed the completed car 40 yards across the finish line in 25.44 seconds. All-Star Open: With two races that evening, the action heated up in the first, the Nextel All-Star Open. With 18 of 20 spots filled for the All-Star Challenge, the final two spots would be filled through the All-Star open. The winner of the race, as well as one driver voted in by the fans, would advance to take part in the Challenge. After a fierce battle, open pole sitter Scott Riggs took the checkers to advance to the feature race for the evening. Kyle Petty edged out Truex Jr. to win the fan vote and advance to the final race. All Star Challenge: With a newly-paved surface, Lowe’s Motor Speedway made for excitement in the All-Star Challenge, including some All-Star style saves by drivers from preventing their cars from wrecking. But one driver who could not save his car was pole sitter Kasey Kahne. In the middle of the longest second segment, Kahne’s car, leading out the time, slid up in front of second place Mark Martin, triggering a seven- car wreck which put six cars out of the race. Another incident involving Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth claimed two more cars, Michael Waltrip took a hard shot in the wall, and one car with engine trouble claimed a total of 10 cars, half of the field. Out of the cars that were left, Jimmie Johnson brought home the checkered flag and the $1 million, while Kevin Harvick finished second, Jeff Gordon third, Carl Edwards fourth, and Ryan Newman fifth. Craftsman Truck Series: In the Quaker Steak and Lube 200 at Lowe’s Friday night, the new hard-tire compound was as much of a factor as many felt. Kyle Busch cruised to victory lane in his first start of the season, defending his race win from one year ago. Out of six truck series races this season, three have been won by Nextel Cup regulars (two by Mark Martin, who will run a full time truck series schedule next season, and one by Busch), leading Truck Series loyalists to dub these drivers “truckwackers”. But the truck series regular drivers don’t seem to mind the cup regulars racing. Terry Cook, Todd Bodine, Ted Musgrave, and Ron Hornaday rounded out the top five. Kyle Busch ran the new 51-truck, the opposite number of his usual number 15 truck. Modeled after one of the vechicles in “Days of Thunder.” Busch had his name written as Rowdy Busch over the window. When Busch climbed from his car in victory lane he shouted “Rowdy Busch in Victory Lane tonight!” Coming Up: The Busch Series comes in while the Nextel Cup Series remains put at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Don’t miss any of the action from Charlotte, N.C. Bruce Knoll, 14, of Eldora, can be contacted by email at bknoll jr4cmcherald@yahoo.com

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