Leicht Rides High Groove to First NASCAR Busch Series Win at Kentucky Speedway
Robert Yates Racing driver Stephen Leicht and his No. 90 citi financial Ford took their first NASCAR Busch Series and Kentucky Speedway win by a series track-record 2.011-second margin over Joe Gibbs Racing driver Brad Coleman and his No. 18 Carino's Italian Grill Chevrolet tonight in front of 70,419 'Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" fans.
Leicht becomes the third regular NASCAR Busch Series driver to score a victory in the past 52 series events and the second straight series regular to win at Kentucky Speedway. The 20-year-old earned his victory in his 38th career series start dating back to 2005. He finished 10th in the 2006 event at the track.
The Asheville, N.C., driver took the race lead for the first and only time on Lap 188 when he guided his car past Coleman's on the low line coming out of Turn 4 then moved his car to the high groove and opened up a comfortable 1.379-second lead by Lap 196 before sealing the win.
"We did it, finally. We waited too long for this," he said. "Those last 10 laps were the longest of my life. We picked up 0.300 of a second in open air. Last year, I finished 10th and I ran on the high side. So, later in this race I decided to run that high groove and the car came to life."
The victory gives Leicht a total one top-five and three top-10 finishes for the season. He vaults seven positions in the series standings to 12th entering the series next June 23 event in Milwaukee, Wis.
Richard Childress Racing driver Scott Wimmer finished third in his No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates product David Stremme placed fourth in his No. 41 Wrigley's Winterfresh Dodge and Jr. Motorsports driver Shane Huffman turned in a fifth-place performance in his No. 88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet.
Leicht's triumph came at the expense of 2005 Kentucky Speedway series winner and championship leader Carl Edwards. He led a race-high 91 laps and appeared on his way to his third consecutive series victory before being eliminated from contention on Lap 157 of 200 when his No. 60 Sharp Aquos/3M Ford made contact with the No. 66 HomeLife Communities Dodge of Steven Wallace while the cars were entering Turn 1 on a race restart. Edwards returned to competition later and posted a season-low 33rd-place finish while Wallace ground out a 22nd-place showing.
"I was nervous. I was right behind those guys and it was real nerve wracking," Leicht said. "I would've loved to been able to race door-to-door with Carl."
Coleman, who took a Kentucky Speedway ARCA RE/MAX Series win at the track last July, grabbed his first top-five and second top-10 finish of the season. He advanced two spots in the series standings to 38th.
"I really thought we had the win with 20 laps to go, but Scott (Wimmer) made me really nervous and I had to hold him off. Stephen Leicht was running the high side and there was nothing I could do about it."
Wimmer scored his Kentucky Speedway-best finish in his fourth start and delivered his third straight top-five and fourth straight top-10 series finish. He owns a total of three top-five and seven top-10 finishes this season after 10 starts.
"We really struggled at the beginning, we just didn't have a very good car," he said. "I don't think we even broke the Top 20 until the end of the race. Brad Smith and all the guys did a great job making the car better and better. We kept picking off spots and picking up a lot of spots on pit road. The two kids ran hard today. I tried as hard as I could, I just never could get the run I needed."
The Kentucky Speedway season continues July 13-14 when the ARCA RE/MAX Series visits for the "Channel 5-150" and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series stages its eighth all-time battle at the track in the "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers."
Kentucky Speedway "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" Notes -The 70,419 crowd was the fourth-largest through seven series events at the track. -Leicht's 2.011-second winning margin is the largest in track series history. -Leicht's is the seventh different series winner at the speedway through seven events. - Regan Smith was the seventh different pole sitter in series track history and posted the lowest finish of any speedway series pole winner with a 19th-place performance.