Fultz Earns Fourth Career Kentucky Speedway Win
Cincinnati native Jeff Fultz overcame the mechanical troubles his No. 54 IEN/C&C Boilers Chevrolet encountered during qualifying and brought home his fourth career win at Kentucky Speedway tonight in "The Insight Communications 150" in front of 15,260 fans.
Fultz was forced to make engine repairs following qualifying and started at the rear of the field. He took his first lead on Lap 72 and led the closing 28 laps, but had to hold off a late challenge by J.R. Norris and his No. 5 Neil Bonnett Chevrolet. Fultz motored away from the second-place driver on a caution restart with five laps remaining and won by .300 of a second.
The performance gives Fultz the all-time lead in series wins with 24 and ties him with ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Frank Kimmel for the all-time lead in Kentucky Speedway wins. Fultz owns a total of six top-five finishes through nine career Kentucky starts.
"It's always a pleasure to come back to Kentucky Speedway," Fultz said. "I grew up right up the road from here, but moved away when they were building this place. It's fortunate that we have NASCAR to bring us here to put on a show before the Busch Series cars. It's pretty big for us. To win four of these things and always be a top contender in front of a lot of the people I grew up with is pretty special to me."
His day started well when he was fourth fastest during the series' morning practice session. His luck changed during qualifying when a cracked spark plug caused the engine of the No. 54 to lose a cylinder.
Fultz waved off his first of two qualifying attempts, made repairs on pit road and salvaged the 13th spot on the grid with his second attempt. He started 23rd after his post-qualifying repairs.
"We got the car all tuned up and changed plugs," Fultz said. "Something happened and we had a cracked spark plug, so we dropped a cylinder. We had to work on the motor, so we had to drop to the tail (of the field)."
Fultz steadily guided his No. 54 past competitors while pole sitter Stanley Smith (No. 49 Valvoline Chevrolet) and J.R. Norris (No. 5 Simply Wow Chevrolet) exchanged the lead during the first 38 laps.
When the race restarted following a caution on Lap 41, Fultz had his No. 54 in second place behind Smith. Despite running hot due to paper on the grill of the car, Fultz steadily stalked leader through the next segment of the race and took his first lead with 28 laps to go when he passed Smith coming out of Turn 2.
"We had a little part of the race where we got real hot and the gauges were buried. I thought we were going to be out of the race," Fultz said. "We finally caught a caution (on Lap 66), which was very fortunate. I got up behind him (Smith) and got the paper off the grill.
"I let the car cool back down and went after him off of Turn 2. We were fortunate to get a good run off the turn, pull a draft and get by him. It was our lucky night after what happened in qualifying."
He held the lead with 10 laps remaining and was holding off challenges from Norris when caution flew on Lap 92 as the No. 66 Wynn's Fluid Chevrolet of Eddie Stiver blew its engine in the frontstretch.
Fultz motored away from Norris on the Lap 96 restart and took the win. Erik Darnell was third in the No. 7 Simply Wow Chevrolet, Kevin Prince was fourth in the No. 1 Land O Frost / Uncle Yammy's Chevrolet and Allen Karnes completed the top five in the No. 29 Stock Building Supply / Quality Cabinets Chevrolet.
"They say don't slow down on the restart, but we had to slow down to almost a crawl," Norris said. "He (Fultz) probably started in first gear and I started in second, so he got me there and I couldn't catch up after that.
"It was good run for us, but I'm kind of upset because we had such a super car. It was the best car I've had here. Unfortunately, he (Fultz) had a better one. I was just running my tail off the whole night."
Fultz's performance also ruined the day for Smith, who led the morning practice session. His day ended on Lap 80 when he attempted to take the lead from Fultz in the high groove off Turn 4. Smith lost control of his car and it made contact the new SAFER Barrier System.
"I was loose the whole time when somebody was behind me," Smith said. "I got loose around the No. 5 and just lost it."
Racing continues tomorrow at Kentucky Speedway with the NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." Parking lots open at 7:00 a.m., and speedway gates open at 10:00 a.m.
The race features NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars Rusty Wallace, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and Sterling Marlin. Wallace, Biffle and Edwards rank in the top 10 in the series standings.
Fans can enjoy a full day of activity at the track. The NASCAR Busch Series will hold two practice sessions beginning Saturday at 10:00 a.m., country artist Travis Tritt will perform a two-hour concert beginning at 3:00 p.m., and Busch Series qualifying is set for 5:00 p.m. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and race Grand Marshal Ben Roethlisberger will give drivers the command to start engines and the green flag will drop for "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" at 8:00 p.m. More than 62,000 tickets have been sold for the race and the speedway expects a fifth-consecutive sellout crowd.
Choice seats still remain and can be reserved at the speedway main entrance at Gates 15 and 16.
~ Kentucky Speedway ~