North Carolina Governor Mike Easley walked away from a high-speed crash into a soft-wall foam barrier just before noon today at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

Gov. Easley was circling the 1.5-mile superspeedway in a No. 48 Lowe¿s Home Improvement Chevrolet NASCAR Winston Cup stock car at more than 160 mph at the time of the accident. He was practicing for his participation in pre-race festivities for The Winston, NASCAR¿s annual all-star event, on Saturday night, May 17.

Gov. Easley lost control in turn two and slammed into the soft-wall foam barrier lining the concrete retaining wall on the inside of the backstretch. The race car suffered heavy damage to both the front and rear ends, but the foam barriers absorbed a considerable amount of energy and the governor walked away without a scratch.

¿I¿m fine. They wouldn¿t have let me out there if it wasn¿t safe,¿ said Gov. Easley. ¿It was a lot of fun for 25 laps. The car was pushing a little bit in three and four, but it had been fine in one and two. I was getting ready to come into the pits when it got loose in turn two and spun. I guess I should have come in a lap earlier. It was quite a ride.

¿The guys from Hendrick Motorsports told me the shop hours are 8 to 5 and they expect me to show up to help get this car ready for the 17th,¿ Gov. Easley said with a big smile.

¿There has been a lot of talk recently about soft walls and we¿ve had our soft walls in place for three years,¿ said H.A. ¿Humpy¿ Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe¿s Motor Speedway. ¿Today, the soft wall and the other safety equipment including the HANS device kept our governor from being injured.¿

Not deterred by the accident, Gov. Easley returned to track in another Hendrick Motorsports entry, the No. 5 Kellogg¿s Chevrolet, and completed his high-speed preparations for The Winston.

Prior to NASCAR¿s all-star event on Saturday night, May 17, Gov. Easley will circle the speedway to show his support of keeping The Winston at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway. He will also being raising money for the Communities in Schools program as individuals and corporations have pledged money for each lap he runs over 160 mph.