Tiring Night At Lowes

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CONCORD, N.C. - It may have been remodeled, but Lowe's Motor Speedway is still Jimmie Johnson's house.

Johnson survived an accident-marred UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway to claim his fourth straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win at the track.

After starting from the rear of the field in the 41st position when a blown engine in practice forced Johnson's team to a back-up motor, Johnson was able to dodge the constant tire troubles that saw driver after driver crash.

Johnson also suffered an alternator problem as well as a cut tire before being in position to claim the win.

He held off Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle in a green-white-checkered finish that was set-up when Rusty Wallace spun on the backstretch on lap 330.

On the impending restart, Johnson's Lowe's Chevrolet was able to pull away from Busch and Biffle to take his fifth career Lowe's Motor Speedway NEXTEL Cup win.

"I can't believe that we always end up somehow toward the front at the end of a race," Johnson said. "This one in the closing laps after a long night of adversity."

Joe Nemechek and Mark Martin rounded out the top five.

Casey Mears, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Rudd and Carl Edwards completed the first ten finishers.

But while Johnson was celebrating in Victory Lane, the story of the race was the track's new surface, which because of its grip, took its toll on tires.

The list of drivers who experienced tire blow outs and trips into the wall read like a "Who's Who" of NASCAR - Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Sterling Marlin were just a few of the names who ended their nights on the back of a wrecker.

"This is the biggest joke in racing that I've ever seen," a disgruntled Harvick said to his crew via radio after slamming the wall.

Things became so bad, NASCAR displayed a yellow flag on lap 199 and told teams it would enforce a minimum tire pressure the rest of the race and deduct points from offenders.

"We've got a situation where everything is increased," said Phil Holmer, Goodyear's marketing manager. "The speeds are higher, the forces are greater...just about everything is increased.

"I'm not going to blame Humpy. He tried to do something that was right. There are so many variables involved, it will take some time for us to get a clear picture of the forces on the tire."

Because of the incidents, the point standings were shaken up. Johnson finished the night dead even in the standings with Stewart with Biffle now only 11 points back. Ryan Newman finished seventh Saturday night and is 17 behind.

"It was just one of those screwed-up nights that's probably going to dictate the way the Chase comes out," Stewart said. "It doesn't matter what happened. It's over with. We're stuck with it the way it is. It just sucks when you're the fastest car and something that's out your control happens like that that really shouldn't happen."

Newman came in 75 points behind Newman in second and despite a disappointing night, moved closer to the top.

"We salvaged what we could and got a pretty decent finish tonight," Newman said. "We overcame the cut tire, the gas can and the track position there at the end to get another Top 10 finish. It wasn't a great points night for us, but it was a good one. We'll definitely take it."

The NEXTEL Cup Series now travels to Martinsville Speedway for next Sunday afternoon's Subway 500.

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