Governor Easley Takes Hot Laps To Raise Money For National Guard Families: Prior to tonight's running of the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley drove the No.25 National Guard/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for five hot laps to raise money for the families of National Guard members who are currently deployed.

Easley had driven Lowe's Motor Speedway several years ago in another fundraising effort. The governor had to run laps above 160 mph to earn the money that has been pledged. "We get the laps run and raise money for the National Guard families," said Easley. "We hope everybody will kind of chip in by going to my website, www.mikeeasley.org, or www.speedwaycharities.org and contribute."

Easley arrived at the speedway, then he was introduced at tonight's drivers meeting for the all-star race. He met with car owner Rick Hendrick and several team members that prepared the car and strapped the governor in. They also talked racing and about how he should drive the track. "Jimmie Johnson told me a few minutes ago that I had better take it easy the first couple of laps because the track is pretty slick," said Easley.

The governor proceeded with hot laps much to the delight of the races fans in the grandstands. After the run Easley excited the fans with a burnout at the start-finish line. "I thought I would add that little burnout there" the governor said. "I was going to spin her out, but I talked to them on the radio and Humpy said if I got in his grass and messed up all the logos out there, he would shoot me before I got out of the car. So I stayed on the track."

Easley was familiar with the track conditions and commented: "The track is really smooth. It's much better than it used to be. They gave me a good car, really. It was fast. You could lift going into turns one and three, and carry your momentum and then get your speed back real quick. I didn't lose as much speed in the turns as before. At least that was the way it felt."

Easley also said it was easy to get back up to speed from his run several years ago. "Once you know where the spots are, you look for them. I got a little wide a couple times coming out of turn four. Jimmie Johnson had told me earlier I had better not hold it too tight unless I have warmer tires. I didn't try to cut the corner quite as close. The speed should be good. Laps three and four were good laps."

The governor was also happy to put on a show for the fans. "As long as you give them a little smoke, make a little noise - they know I'm running for a good cause. Bob Johnson of the Charlotte Bobcats promised $2,500 a lap for every lap over 160 miles per hour. So, that's $12,500 that Bob owes me. The Bobcats are great; they will all chip in. The NASCAR teams are chipping in. They will be contributing all next week. They are going to give us money for laps they run in the Coca-Cola 600. The banks are chipping in. Bank of America, Wachovia, BB&T, First Citizens and even the smaller banks."

The governor talked about what it meant to help these families. "This is all for the families of the National Guard," said Easley. "They are going through some hard times right now. A lot of them are having trouble making their house payments; they are having trouble paying for their kids' schools supplies, car repairs and things like that. And this will help them a lot. We expect that we will raise $100,000 tonight and then continue through next week. If everybody can give just a little bit, even a couple of dollars, it will make a big difference for these National Guard families."

Appearing in Victory Lane with Governor Easley was Major Matt Handley, State of North Carolina Public Affairs Officer, who explained what it meant to have the governor bring that kind of notoriety to the National Guard. "The National Guard is really made up of three parts," said Handley. "You have your soldiers and airmen, your family and your employer. And of course, close to the heart of your Guardsman is his family. And having the money to help those families, and to run the programs to support them during this time of high operational need of the Guard is just fantastic. A lot of attention is focused on the soldier and his needs. But the families are really the people who are carrying on and doing the hard work at home. I was pretty confident the governor would get done what he needed to get done."