Scott Riggs led Saturday's rain delayed Nextel Open from start to finish to qualify for his first Nextel All Star Challenge along with his resurgent #10 Evernham Motorsports team.
From the lows of failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 Riggs and his Valvoline backed team experienced the highs of a brief trip to the winners enclosure at the Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday night thanks to a faultless performance from the third year Cup Series driver.
After winning the pole on Friday night Riggs was able to keep his nose ahead of some truly fraught action behind him as all those drivers who haven't won a race in the last year and a half gave it their all to try and qualify for the million dollar main event. Although several of his rivals gave it their best shot, Riggs was able to outpace everybody through no less than four restarts during the two-part, 30-lap race to seal his first Nextel Cup victory of any kind.
Jeff Green and Brian Vickers were Riggs' biggest threats in the final ten lap green flag run with Green looking to make amends for last year's Nextel Open result for his #66 Haas CNC Racing team when Vickers' spun then-Haas driver Mike Bliss out of the lead within sight of the chequered flag.
Green was able to keep Vickers at bay on this occasion but was unable to keep pace with Riggs, who used the clean air around his #10 Dodge to pull away and take an untroubled win. Green and Vickers will be able to go back to their haulers knowing that they have potentially good race set-ups for next Sunday's Coca Cola 600 but other than that, their All Star weekend was over.
Joe Gibbs Racing rookie pairing Denny Hamlin and JJ Yeley rounded out the top five with another rookie, Ganassi Racing's David Stremme a solid sixth. Jeff Burton, Sterling Marlin, the always spectacular Robby Gordon and Ken Schrader rounded out the top ten.
With the entire 29 car field scrambling from the word go, incidents were always going to happen although two of the three accidents that punctuated the race occurred without car-to-car contact.
First to go was Casey Mears, who slapped the turn four wall and spun through the infield on lap five, then Clint Bowyer tapped Kenny Wallace into a spin in the tri-oval eight laps later before the luckless Scott Wimmer's puncture and subsequent brush with the turn one wall completed the list of casualties.
Although he started from the rear of the field after an accident in qualifying and finished well down the order, veteran Kyle Petty was voted into the All Star race as the Fans Choice to complete the 20 car field for Saturday's main event.