Lowe's Motor Speedway master Jimmie Johnson emerged victorious in Saturday's wreck-filled Nextel All Star Challenge; outlasting a star-studded line-up to claim a remarkable seventh Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval.
A mere ten cars from the starting field of 20 were still running at the conclusion of the three part 90 lap non points race that started late because of rain and suffered a further mid race delay due to precipitation.
Johnson had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty that nearly dropped him off the lead lap during the first 40-lap segment and a huge multi-car pileup near the start of the middle 30-lap segment en route to victory but once he had worked his way past middle sector winner Kevin Harvick he was unbeatable as he cruised to a second All Star win and a cheque for one million dollars.
With the resurfaced Lowe's oval certainly performing better than in 2005, drivers found that dreaded aero push problem, which made racing more spread out than has been the case in recent seasons and overtaking harder. Nonetheless Johnson was able to recover from his pit road penalty to move from eleventh to second in the middle segment and then drive away from the field once Harvick's spirited resistance was conquered.
Johnson's rise to the front during the middle 30-laps was eased considerably by a lap 48 accident that took out seven cars. Triggered when Kasey Kahne, who was leading at the time, got loose coming off turn two and bounced into second place driver Mark Martin before spinning in front of the tightly bunched field, by the time the dust had settled Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Jeremy Mayfield and segment one winner Kyle Busch were all out on the spot as well as both Kahne and Martin while Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were both nursing slightly damaged vehicles.
The remaining field of 12 (engine victim Kurt Busch and concrete wall victim Michael Waltrip had already been eliminated) was thinned even further just two laps into the final 20-lap sprint to the chequered flag when Stewart and Kenseth collided in turn one while battling for third place, each driver hitting the outside wall and each blaming the other afterwards.
The continuing carnage left Johnson with an easy path to victory over Harvick with Jeff Gordon an equally distant third and Carl Edwards fourth in the only Roush Racing entry not to be eliminated in a crash.
Ryan Newman, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, fan vote winner Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Nextel Open winner Scott Riggs completed the list of finishers with Riggs one lap down after a wild ride through the infield grass during segment one that left him with a flat tyre and off the lead lap.
With just one week before the Coca Cola 600 at LMS, Johnson's rivals seem to have little in reserve to prevent the #48 Hendrick Motorsports driver from claiming an eighth win at the track the majority of the NASCAR teams call 'home.'