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All Star Challenge News and Notes

All Star Challenge News and Notes

All Star Challenge Preview
May 15, 2007
By Micah Roberts

With Jeff Gordon’s win last week at Darlington, the gang at Hendrick Motorsports has now claimed eight of the last nine wins this year. Through 11 races, Gordon has three wins with nine top-5 finishes while Johnson has four wins and eight top-5 finishes. It’s no surprise that Gordon and Johnson are 1-2 in the standing, with Gordon leading by 231 points.

Their dominance has been helped by being ahead of the game with the new “Car of Tomorrow”. The endless testing Hendrick did with their cars have paid huge dividends. While other teams played the wait and see game, the Hendrick team had those cars running multiple laps on multiple tracks in different conditions. They were prepared, the others weren’t so none of the other teams should complain or be surprised that Hendrick has won all five COT races this season.

It doesn’t get any easier for the rest of the field over the next two weeks either. The teams all return to their home base in Charlotte and will run their regular cars for Saturday’s All Star Challenge and then May 27th’s Coca-Cola 600. The others will have better shot a competing for wins, but in the scenarios where the series has run on similar tracks already this year Johnson has won two of those three races.

The new banking at Las Vegas makes the required set up similar to what crew chiefs do for Atlanta, Texas, and Charlotte. Johnson won at both Las Vegas and Atlanta and if he didn’t get involved in an accident at Texas he may of won there too. Because of all the success Johnson has had on these types of tracks, and Charlotte in particular, Johnson is the 4 to 1 favorite to win NASCAR’s All Star event.

The All Star Challenge is a non-points race with the winning driver getting a $1 million dollar prize. Drivers who have won a race since the beginning of the 2006 season are automatically invited. Others invited are past NASCAR champions and past Nextel Challenge winners. The only way the other drivers can get in is by finishing 1st or 2nd in the Nextel Open which is a qualifying race prior to the Challenge and if they don’t race their way in, one lucky driver can get in by fan voting.

The format has changed a bit this year, but it still remains one of the drivers favorite races of the year not only for the big cash prize, but for the pure competition with the best of the best in a non points format.

“You let it all hang out from the first corner to the last. It's totally different”, 2000 Nextel Challenge winner Dale Earnhardt Jr said.

“It's more like the racing that I enjoyed in the late models-the 50-lap sprints, the 100-lap features. You go hard from start to finish and you're totally worn out. You're more drained mentally and physically after 80 laps of that than you are the 600. For some reason, some of the hardest races are those short ones that you've really got to put your whole heart and soul into."

Junior then reflected on winning that race and what it meant to both him and his father.

"That win here in the All-Star race was, and still is, the favorite moment of my career-being in victory lane with my dad," Earnhardt Jr. said about the night in 2000 when, as a rookie, he drove the Bud Chevy to victory.

"The wins that I had before, he (Dale Earnhardt) would come in and shake everybody's hand and take off. That was the only victory lane that he stood in the entire time; he was there for the whole half-hour, 45 minutes we were there, even as the car was taken off for inspection he continued to stay," Earnhardt Jr. recalled. "He was talking to his brother, Danny, and the guys on the team. He was really enjoying not only the father-son relationship, but I think he was enjoying the fact that he had built a team that was the winner of the All-Star race.

"That was a big, important race to him. It's the best of the best. There are no points, there is no reason to be conservative," Earnhardt Jr. continued about the race that returns to Charlotte this week.

"There is no excuse for not having your A game for that race. It ain't, 'Well, I took a fourth or a top-five because it was a great points day.' or whatever. It's all out-there are no excuses and you come with your A game, you run hard and that's what you get in the end. That was your best that night.

"That was a race and a format that dad really admired," Earnhardt Jr. said about his father who won the All-Star race three times. "I think what he wanted as a driver, it meant the most to him. It was right up there with winning the (Daytona) 500. I think winning it as a car owner was something he never really imagined, so that was pretty cool to see him enjoy that moment that night."

Most Las Vegas books will offer odds on The Challenge, the feature race, with just a few doing odds on the Open. Because of the pageantry of the event with all fireworks and the drivers letting it all hang out, it really is one of the more fun races of the season to watch.

TOP 5 Nextel Challenge Finish Prediction:

1) #2 Kurt Busch (7/1)
2) #01 Mark Martin (10/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (4/1)
4) #17 Matt Kenseth (7/1)
5) #31 Jeff Burton (8/1)

TOP 5 Nextel Open Finish Prediction:

1) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (5/1)
2) #07 Clint Bowyer (5/1)
3) #40 David Stremme (12/1)
4) #26 Jamie McMurray (7/1)
5) #99 Carl Edwards (4/1)

NASCAR’s Top 12 heading into week 12

1 – Jeff Gordon

• 35-years-old from Vallejo, Calif., 78 career wins
• Three wins, nine top fives, 10 top 10s
• Five poles
• Average finish of 3.8 this season
• Led in 10 of 11 races for 674 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: Charlotte hasn’t been kind too Gordon over the last few seasons. His last points race win was the Coca-Cola 600 in 1999. His last win overall in Charlotte was the All Star Challenge in 2001. That year also coincided with the first year Jimmie Johnson ran a Cup car at Charlotte. The next season under Gordon’s wing, Johnson was given a fleet of Jeff Gordon cars. Since then Johnson has went on a run where his worse finish in 10 Charlotte races has been 7th. Gordon has gone the other direction with awful finishes in 5 of his last 6 starts there. This year Gordon looks much better on the 1.5 mile banked tracks with an average finish of 6th in the 3 starts at Texas, Vegas, and Atlanta.

• Four wins, 13 top fives, 15 top 10s; seven poles
• 16.5 average finish
• Finished 13th and 41st, respectively, last season
• Led in 19 of 28 races for 460 laps

2 – Jimmie Johnson

• 31-years-old from El Cajon, Calif., 27 career wins
• Four wins, eight top fives
• Average finish of 9.9
• Led in seven of 11 races for 529 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: The easy odds on favorite for both the All Star Challenge and the Coca-Cola 600; He’ll be tough to stop and it will likely take some misfortune to happen with the crew or being involved in a wreck to stop him.

• Five wins, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles
• 5.8 average finish
• Finished second twice last season
• Led in 10 of 11 races for a total of 956 laps

3 – Matt Kenseth

• 35-years-old from Cambridge, Wis., 15 career wins
• One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
• Average finish of 8.5
• Led in nine of 11 races for 203 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: He won the Coca-Cola 600 back in 2000 and won the All Star race in 2004. He’s always a contender to win there, but he might be evn more prepped this year. No one has a better average finish than Kenseth on the 1.5 mile banked tracks this season. He’s averaged 3rd in those races, yet doesn’t have a win to show for it.

• One win, five top fives, seven top 10s
• 14.8 average finish
• Finished fifth and 14th, respectively, last season
• Led in 10 of 15 races for a total of 169 laps

4 – Denny Hamlin

• 26-years-old from Chesterfield, Va., two career wins
• Five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
• Average finish of 10.5
• Led in six of 11 races for 611 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: The top Gibbs teammate of Tony Stewart should figure to have the equipment to get around Charlotte pretty well. He has a 3rd at Vegas and 9th at Texas this season.

• Two top 10s
• 15.0 average finish
• Finished ninth and 28th, respectively, last season
• Led in two of three races for a total of 26 laps

5 – Jeff Burton

• 39-years-old from S. Boston, Va., 19 career wins
• One win, five top fives, seven top 10s
• Average finish of 12.3 this season
• Led in five of 11 races for 27 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: Burton’s last Charlotte win was the 2001 Coca-Cola 600. he finished 3rd in the fall last season, his best finish there since that 2001 win. He’s never won the All Star race, but he may have his best shot ever because of how strong he’s been on the 1.5 mile banks. He won in Texas and finished 4th in Atlanta.

• Two wins, six top fives, 12 top 10s
• 15.3 average finish
• Finished sixth and third, respectively, last season
• Led in seven of 26 races for 369 laps

6 – Tony Stewart

• 35-years-old from Columbus, Ind., 29 career wins
• Two top fives, seven top 10s
• Average finish of 15.5
• Led eight of 11 races for 592 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: It’s surprising that he’s never won the All Star race. Much like Gordon over the last few seasons, Stewart has had some poor luck in Charlotte. He won in the fall of 2003, but has mired with 4 straight tough outings. Stewart finished 2nd in Atlanta this season.

• One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
• 13.7 average finish
• Finished 42nd and 13th, respectively, last season
• Led eight of 16 races for 475 laps

7 – Kurt Busch

• 28-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., 15 career victories
• Two top fives, three top 10s
• Average finish of 15.9 this season
• Led in six of 11 races for 195 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: The track hasn’t really been his best over his career but he has the natural ability to run very well on these fast tracks. There’s a glimmer of light showing as they roll into Charlotte that they’ll have one of the better cars there for the next two weeks. They had an excellent Charlotte test last week, even had the top speeds for one session, and they look to be much improved by their runs at Texas and Atlanta.

• Two top fives
• 21.3 average finish
• Finished 39th and 32nd, respectively, last season
• Led in five of 13 races for a total of 54 laps

8 – Kevin Harvick

• 31-years-old from Bakersfield, Calif., 11 career victories
• One win, two top fives, five top 10s
• Average finish of 16.7 this season
• Led in six of 11 races for 176 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: JUNK; that is about the oly thing you can think of when you look at Harvick’s career at Charlotte and his 2007 season on the three 1.5 mile banked tracks. Upon taking over for the late Dale Earnhardt in 2001, Harvick won in Atlanta right away and then finished 2nd in the Coca-Cola 600. It’s too easy, right? Since 2002, he has cracked the top 10 only once in 10 starts, and that was a 10th. This season on the 3 similar tracks, his best finish is 25th.

• One top five, three top 10s
• 20.2 average finish
• Finished 34th and 18th, respectively, last season
• Led in two of 12 races for a total of two laps

9 – Clint Bowyer

• 27-years-old from Emporia, Kan., zero career wins
• Five top 10s; one pole
• Average finish of 16.0
• Led in five of 11 races for 21 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: While you may want to stay away from Harvick the next two weeks, his teammate may the one to keep an eye on. He’s been charging and has showed a nice uprising this year. He looks more like a championship contender than Harvick does.

• 21.0 average finish in two races
• Finished 19th and 23 rd, respectively, last season
• Led in one of two races for three laps

10 – Carl Edwards

• 27-years-old from Columbia, Mo., four career wins
• One top five, three top 10s
• Average finish of 16.0
• Led in two of 11 races for 36 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: He’s done a great job at taking what his car will give him and not pushing too much. This season he’s had less than perfect cars, but he’s rolled them to successful runs at all 3 similar tracks. We know he’s got those two wins in Atlanta and also two 3rd place finishes at Lowe’s. Steady as they get and definitely not a driver you want to bet against in matchups.

• Two top fives, four top 10s
• 6.0 average finish
• Finished third and eighth, respectively, last season
• Led in three of four races for 33 laps

11 – Kyle Busch

• 22-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., four career wins
• One win, three top fives, six top 10s
• Average finish of 18.1
• Led in six of 11 races for 83 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: He hasn’t had much success on any of the SMI sister tracks of Atlanta, Texas, and Charlotte. Last season in the fall he came in with a best of 6th. His all time best on the 3 tracks is 4th. He drives for the elite team and does so well on the small tracks and Superspeedways, but can’t cut it on the 1.5 mile banks. Sounds kind of like Kevin Harvick doesn’t it?

• One top 10
• 29.0 average finish
• Finished 38th and sixth, respectively, last season
• Led in three of six races for 63 laps

12 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• 32-years-old from Kannapolis, N.C., 17 career wins
• One top five, four top 10s
• Average finish of 17.5
• Led four of 11 races for 236 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: The DEI team has been getting better on these tracks. Last season Junior rolled to a 4th in the fall here and took 3rd twice in Atlanta. Don’t expect much change with DEI’s forward progression because of Junior’s announcement. If anything look for the team to actually do more to impress Junior for hopes he doesn’t leave. They’re all professionals and Junior will not accept mediocrity if he can help it. He’s a good long shot to win both the All Star race and the Coca-Cola.

• Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
• 17.4 average finish
• Finished 11th and fourth, respectively, last season
• Has led in seven of 15 races for 235 laps

Sitting outside looking in is Mr. Magic J-Mac

13 – Jamie McMurray

• 30-years-old from Joplin, Mo., one career win
• Two top fives, five top 10s; 18.3 average finish
• Led one of 11 races for two laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: Finished 5th at Texas. The team finally looks like they found the garage that housed the Kurt Busch championship cars. Still looking for that first win since winning at Charlotte while subbing for Sterling Marlin

• One win, two top fives, five top 10s
• 15.4 average finish
• Finished eighth and 34th, respectively, last season
• Led three of nine races for 112 laps

Has Anyone seen the real Kasey Kahne?

30 – Kasey Kahne

• 27-years-old from Enumclaw, Wash., seven career victories
• One top 10; one pole; Average finish of 26.0
• Led in three of 11 races for 38 laps

Lowe’s Motor Speedway Outlook: Absolutely puzzling! They dominated last season on these track and now can’t even compete for top 20’s. What are they doing over there at Evernham Motorsports? They are making their COT better and their digressing in the one area they were good at. There is no daylight at the end of the tunnel. They are terrible with no fix planned.

• Two wins; 15.8 average finish
• Won both Lowe’s races last season
• Led in all six races for a total of 550 laps

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Re: All Star Challenge News and Notes

Nextel All-Star Challenge

01 Mark Martin
2 Kurt Busch
5 Kyle Busch
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9 Kasey Kahne 
11 Denny Hamlin
12 Ryan Newman
16 Greg Biffle
17 Matt Kenseth
20 Tony Stewart
24 Jeff Gordon
25 Casey Mears 
29 Kevin Harvick 
31 Jeff Burton 
43 Bobby Labonte
44 Dale Jarrett
48 Jimmie Johnson
83 Brian Vickers

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Re: All Star Challenge News and Notes

Nextel Open       

00 David Reutimann*
1 Martin Truex Jr.
4 Ward Burton
6 David Ragan*
7 Robby Gordon
07 Clint Bowyer
10 Scott Riggs
13 Joe Nemechek
14 Sterling Marlin
15 Paul Menard*
18 J.J. Yeley
19 Elliott Sadler
21 Jon Wood
22 Dave Blaney
26 Jamie McMurray
34 Kevin Lepage
36 Jeremy Mayfield
37 Boris Said
38 David Gilliland
40 David Stremme
41 Reed Sorenson
42 Juan Montoya*
45 Kyle Petty
49 Mike Bliss
55 Michael Waltrip
66 Jeff Green
70 Johnny Sauter
78 Kenny Wallace
84 A.J. Allmendinger*
88 Ricky Rudd
96 Tony Raines
99 Carl Edwards
180 Aric Almirola

* Denotes Rookie

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NEXTEL OPEN - Odds to Win

Carl Edwards     3-1

Clint Bowyer     9-2

Martin Truex Jr 6-1

Jamie McMurray     6-1

Juan Pablo Montoya 6-1

David Stremme     12-1

Reed Sorenson     18-1

Scott Riggs     15-1

Elliott Sadler     15-1

JJ Yeley       20-1

Paul Menard     30-1

Dave Blaney     30-1

Sterling Marlin  30-1

David Ragan     30-1

Jeff Green     20-1

Joe Nemechek     30-1

Johnny Sauter     25-1

David Gilliland     50-1

Ricky Rudd     50-1

Field (Any Other Driver) 25-1

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Re: All Star Challenge News and Notes

Wheeler picks Johnson to win All-Star race
May 15, 2007

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Seconds after closing a large box containing Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car, a magician did what fellow Nextel Cup drivers could only dream about:

He made it disappear.

But if Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler is right, Johnson will continue to frustrate competitors and be $1 million richer Saturday by repeating as winner of the Nextel All-Star Challenge.

"He's going to be strong and it's his race to lose right now," Wheeler said Tuesday in his carnival-barker style while making his annual prediction with an assist from an illusionist.

Johnson has won a Nextel Cup-best four races this year and five of the past nine at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson's team, Hendrick Motorsports, has won four straight races and eight of nine.

A win Saturday would give Johnson three All-Star victories, tying him with teammate Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt.

"He's got his act together. He could win eight races this year or more," Wheeler said. "He's in a sweet spot in time and he's going to continue to be successful. I think the Hendrick cars have just a tad more torque coming out of the corners."

Wheeler picked six of seven winners from 1989-95, but has been right only twice since. He correctly picked Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000 and Johnson in 2003.

Wheeler decided to go with Johnson again because of his skill driving loose cars and after watching him test last week at the track.

"The big thing was backstretch speeds, how fast they were coming off the second turn and going into third, and Jimmie Johnson was just flying," Wheeler said. "He was the fastest car there."

Saturday's All-Star race will include four 20-lap segments. Unlike recent years, the field will not be inverted. Those not already eligible for the race can qualify by winning the 40-lap Nextel Open. Wheeler thinks Juan Pablo Montoya, in his first season driving stock cars after moving from Formula One, will edge Carl Edwards.

"He's adjusted to these stock cars faster than any open-wheel driver except maybe Mario Andretti or A.J. Foyt," Wheeler said.

Two-time winner Mark Martin is Wheeler's dark horse for the All-Star race. Running a limited schedule for new owner Bobby Ginn, Martin has five top-10 finishes in 11 races.

Wheeler also thinks Dale Earnhardt Inc. will finally have reason to smile less than a week after Earnhardt Jr. announced he'll leave the team after the season. Wheeler picked Martin Truex Jr.'s team to repeat Wednesday as winner of the pit crew challenge. The winner will be able to select the pit box location for the All-Star race.

"We prefer to stay under the radar, but this will make it a lot more intense for them," DEI pit crew coordinator Walt Smith said. "The heat will be on."

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NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge Format
Lowe's Motor Speedway

The All-Star Challenge is 80 laps, 120 miles (run in four segments of 20 laps each). Green flag and yellow flag laps will be counted during segments 1, 2 and 3. Only green flag laps will be counted during segment 4. All restarts will be double file and the free pass rule is maintained throughout the event.

Between segments 1 and 2, there will be a 5-lap caution period during which teams may elect to pit, but cars will restart in the order they leave pit road.

Between segments 2 and 3, there will be a 10-minute break during which teams will pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted.

Between segments 3 and 4, the caution flag will be waved and teams will be required to make at least a stop-and-go pit stop. Cars will start the final segment in the order they leave pit road.

Purse: $3,264,364 (event record)

NEXTEL All-Star Challenge winner's purse: $1,011,125 Bonuses for Leaders of Segments 1 and 2: 1st, $75,000; 2nd, $20,000; 3rd, $10,000

Qualifying: One round of qualifying will be held Friday, May 18, at 7:10 p.m. (EDT). Each driver will run three laps with a mandatory four-tire, pit stop. The total elapsed time will comprise each team's qualifying effort and the pole-winning team will earn $50,000.

Drivers not already eligible for the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and finished in the top 50 of the final 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points or were in the top 50 of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points on March 12, 2007, may participate in the NEXTEL Open.

The NEXTEL Open will consist of 40 laps, 60 miles, and will be run in two 20-lap segments. Between segment 1 and segment 2, there will be a yellow flag during which teams can pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Teams pitting will not retain their position on the track and will start segment 2 at the rear of the field in the order they leave pit road.

The top two finishers in the NEXTEL Open will earn starting spots in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. A third driver will also advance as determined by the NEXTEL Fan Vote.

Purse: $1,000,000 (event record)

Winner's share: $51,525

Qualifying: The better of two qualifying laps will determine a driver's official qualifying speed for the NEXTEL Open. Qualifying is scheduled for Friday, May 18, at 6:05 p.m. (EDT).

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All-Star race: Fun for fans, feared by racers
Jeff Hammond / FOX Sports

From a fan's point of view, the Nextel All-Star Challenge is among the most fun races of the season. From a crew's point of view, it's probably one of the most nerve-racking times of the year with the exception of the 150-mile Daytona 500 qualifying races.

Who to Watch

Hendrick Motorsports: I don't want to sound like a broken record, but if you're driving a Hendrick car right now, you've got to be feeling pretty good about going to Lowe's Motor Speedway. It's been their candy store for quite a few years now. This year, they have momentum, and their people are loose, playing with an "I don't care" attitude. There's no pressure on these guys so you've got to like their chances.

# Joe Gibbs Racing: Denny Hamlin is getting frustrated, and he's getting a pretty good taste of what it's like to be a bridesmaid. As well as he and Tony Stewart have run, either one of those guys could be spoilers.

# Evernham Motorsports: Kasey Kahne recently said his team was going to make some changes, and they needed to have some improvements. He thought they were going to be good in the near future, including the races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Owner Ray Evernham would like nothing better than to lick his wounds and deposit a $1 million check in the bank on Monday.

What to Watch

Checkers or wreckers: There's a lot of pride and money on the line. When they put their final mark on the checklist at the shop and roll the cars in the haulers headed to Lowe's Motor Speedway, it may be the last time they will see that car. There was an old movie called, "They Were Expendable." That's the way you have to look at these cars because you just don't know if you're going to get them back in one piece.

# Bragging rights: This all-star race carries some of the same bragging rights and significance as sitting on the pole for the Indianapolis 500. With three laps of qualifying and short runs in the race, you've got a couple of chances to get it right, just like the IRL drivers had a couple shots on pole day at Indy last week. At the end of the night, you want to be the one hoisting the trophy and saying, "It ain't about the money. It's about kicking all of y'all's butt." From Ganassi to Roush to Hendrick to Childress, the racetrack is way too close to all of their shops for them to say it's just another race. Any race at Lowe's is not just another race.

# Pits make the difference: Teams will try to flex the rules a little bit. You'll see it on pit road more than anywhere else. It's really going to boil down to just how good and athletic your pit crew can be. They have the opportunity to fly around the car just like their driver has a chance to fly around the track. With the all-or-nothing format, you can throw caution to the wind. One of these drivers is really going to take it to the limit trying to get down on pit road. At the same time, he's going to put a lot of pressure on his crew to make that difference and get him in position to win.

What to Do
There are a lot of great events for the fans in around the Queen City of Charlotte and Race City USA in Mooresville. If you're planning a vacation, there's a lot of racing happening in a 25-mile radius around the track. One of the neatest things I've heard so far is Jimmie Johnson's crew will auction off their uniforms on behalf of the Benny Parsons Foundation. It's going to be a great tribute to a great individual. We still miss Benny tremendously, and it's a great gesture on the part of crew chief Chad Knaus, the entire No. 48 team and Hendrick Motorsports. How many times have you ever seen championship football, basketball or baseball teams put their uniforms up for sale? It's a unique opportunity for some lucky fan or company to get a piece of history and honor Benny Parsons' memory.

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Kenseth Captures All-Star Pole

CONCORD, N.C. - Matt Kenseth captured the pole for Saturday night's NEXTEL All-Star Challenge thanks in part to a lightning-quick 11.6 pit stop by his No. 17 Dewalt team.

With a mandatory four-tire, pit stop during the 3-lap qualifying run, the pit crew known as the "Killer Bees" shined on Friday night to help Kenseth win his second career All-Star pole.

Kenseth averaged a speed of 133.442 mph, which was almost 2 mph faster than second place Jimmie Johnson's run of 131.490 mph, to win the $50,000 team prize.

Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five qualifiers.

Mark Martin spun coming off pit road on his attempt, but was already going to start in the back anyways after losing an engine in practice.

In qualifying for the NEXTEL Open, Carl Edwards and David Ragan made it a Roush Racing front row after the two qualified 1-2 for the 40-lap, two segment race.

Edwards took the top spot with a lap of 28.802 seconds, 187.487 mph.

"I think it's really going to be important to start up front since it's a short race," Edwards said. "We really want to be in the All-Star race."

If Edwards can race his way into the main event and win it, he will donate his portion of the $1 million to Speedway Childrens Charities and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Dave Blaney, David Gilliland and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five qualifiers.

Both David Stremme and Aric Almirola crashed in just about the same spot after both cars spun on their respective laps and backed into the Turn 2 wall.

Michael Waltrip's season woes continued as he crashed his No. 55 Toyota in Turn 4 on his up-to-speed lap.

Both Stremme and Waltrip will start at the rear of the Open field in backup cars, while Aric Almirola and Joe Gibbs Racing has opted to withdraw the No. 80 Chevrolet from the race.

The NEXTEL Open will consist of two 20-lap segments. Between segment 1 and segment 2, there will be a yellow flag during which teams can pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Teams pitting will not retain their position on the track and will start segment 2 at the rear of the field in the order they leave pit road.

Saturday night’s pre-race festivities will begin at 7 p.m. (ET) live on SPEED.

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Re: All Star Challenge News and Notes

Edwards Wins Pole for NEXTEL Open

Carl Edwards won the Bud Pole for the NEXTEL Open with a lap of 28.802 seconds, at an average speed of 187.487 mph. Mike Bliss holds the qualifying record for The Open with a lap of 28.540 seconds, at 189.208 mph, set in 2005. Edwards' teammate David Ragan qualified second, completing a Roush Fenway Racing sweep of the front-row. Ragan’s time was almost two-tenths slower than that of Edwards at 28.988 seconds, 186.284 mph. Dave Blaney in a Toyota was the third-fastest qualifier followed by David Gilliland and Juan Pablo Montoya.

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Harvick wins All-Star Challenge
May 19, 2007

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -Kevin Harvick cashed in for the second time this season, holding off Jimmie Johnson to pick up a $1 million payday Saturday night in the Nextel All-Star Challenge.
Harvick, who opened the year with a Daytona 500 victory, has earned $2.5 million from his two wins this season.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the All-Star race, stayed in line behind Harvick for the final 18 laps of the race. Johnson made one attempt at a pass, looking briefly to the outside of Harvick's car.

But Harvick held him off, pulled firmly out front and motored to the finish line for his first All-Star victory in seven tries at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He was second to Johnson last season, and gave car owner Richard Childress his first win in the non-points event since Dale Earnhardt in 1993.

``You are the man,'' Childress radioed Harvick.

It capped a hugely successful weekend for Childress, who said Friday he had formed an engine alliance with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Then AT&T won an injunction to get its logos placed on RCR driver Jeff Burton's car.

The car has been sponsored by Cingular, but AT&T has been fighting to get on the hood since the two companies merged. NASCAR denied the request, citing its exclusivity agreement with series sponsor Nextel, but a U.S. district judge allowed RCR to put the AT&T logo on the car Saturday morning.

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