* Team Chevy has won 12 of 22 NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge races * Jeff Gordon leads active drivers with three previous wins in the Challenge * There are 10 Chevy drivers in the 18 competitors already qualified for Saturday night's ...
* Team Chevy has won 12 of 22 NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge races
* Jeff Gordon leads active drivers with three previous wins in the Challenge
* There are 10 Chevy drivers in the 18 competitors already qualified for Saturday night's race
Concord, NC - Team Chevy drivers are noted for saying that it is all fun and games, no pressure and just hard, fun racing when describing the Nextel All-Star Challenge (Challenge) at Lowe's Motor Speedway (LMS). That is until they snap the shields shut on their helmets and start to roll off pit road, then it all changes. While there are none of the valuable NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) points on the line, there is a cool $1 million dollar prize waiting in victory lane.
Last year's Challenge winner, his second victory in the event, and four-time 2007 race winner Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, says that is exactly what makes this a special race in its own right:
"Maybe the million bucks on the line. We all enter it and say it's not a points race and I certainly think that makes everybody a little bit more aggressive but when the purse is that large you also take on the mindset of a points race because you want win. I think it gets really intense. It's a place where we can try new setups and I think sometimes cars aren't driving like they typically would so guys more are on the ragged edge in some areas. It's just the combination of everything.
With five wins at LMS in NNCS points-paying races, Johnson is always a clear favorite when the series rolls out at "His House."
"We really had a really strong two-day test session," Johnson concluded. "I feel that we addressed some things that hurt us last year in those two races where we ran second. We've found some speed there so I'm really excited for the next couple races."
Team Chevy drivers have won 12 of the 22 previous Challenge races. Six of the dozen victories have been Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) drivers. HMS boasts 58 Challenge entries with 12 different drivers, all behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.
There are 10 Chevy drivers already qualified to start the four-segment, 80-lap Challenge.
Team Chevy's Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS (1995, 1997 and 2001) and the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. (1987, 1990 and 1993) are the only three-time winners of the Challenge. Johnson, (2003 and 2006) is one of two other active drivers to post multiple victories in the Challenge. Terry Labonte, now retired, posted two Challenge wins (1999 and 1988) behind the wheel of a Bowtie machine. Gordon (1995) is also the only active driver to sweep all segments (three) en route to an All-Star race victory.
In addition to Johnson and Gordon, Team Chevy drivers also qualified for the event are: Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Monte Carlo SS; Kyle Busch, No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Monte Carlo SS; Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS; Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Monte Carlo SS; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo SS; Mark Martin, No. 01 U.S. Army Monte Carlo SS; Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Monte Carlo SS and Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS.
The 2007 Challenge will be Martin's first Challenge behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS but he has also posted two wins (1998 and 2005) in the fan-favorite event. Earnhardt, Jr. grabbed the Challenge win in 2000 to bring the number of active Chevy driver Challenge wins to eight.
Gordon comes to the two-week LMS events with wins in three of the last four 2007 NNCS races and holds a 231 lead in the point standings. Adding Busch's win at Bristol Motor Speedway to the collection, Hendrick Motorsports has combined to win eight of the 10 Chevy victories in the 11 NNCS events run thus far.
Busch also counts LMS as one of his favorite tracks. He has two wins each in the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series but has yet to visit victory lane in NNCS at the 1.5-mile banked tri-oval.
"The two weeks in Charlotte are nice cause you are home," said the youngest of the HMS drivers. "I am running the truck race, then the All Star race and have another Sunday off. Just being at home is nice. You can just hang out at home the morning of the race and then come in early before the race to beat the traffic. We still bring our motorhome in case there is times we can go hang on in that or whatever.
"It is just fun to race at Charlotte. It is one of my favorite tracks but the tire (we run at Lowe's) isn't. It is just really hard, not a whole lot of grip and slides around a lot."
-credit: gm racing