Pole Sitter Mercer Claims First NASCAR Hills Bros. All Pro Series Win Of 2002 At Kentucky
The NASCAR Hills Bros. All Pro Series "Kentucky 150" kicked off a full day of stock car action at Kentucky Speedway this afternoon. The race was the first of three scheduled for the day.
Pole sitter Eddie Mercer lived up to his advanced billing by guiding his No. 27 Everwood/Phoenix/Florida Auto Auction Chevrolet to his first win, first top-five and first-top 10 finish in five starts this season. His win ends a two-race winning streak by Cincinnati-native Jeff Fultz, who swept both All Pro Series events held at Kentucky in 2001.
Fultz finished second in the No. 54 C&C Boilers/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet and Stanley Smith was third in the No. 49 Express Oil Change/Smith Drywall Chevrolet.
"We freed the car up where we were almost wrecking loose in qualifying," Mercer said. "I think we tightened it up too much and we wore out the restrictor plates. We took a longer pit stop (early in the race) and my crew did a great job getting me freed up."
Mercer capitalized on a restart with 20 laps remaining in the race when he moved from third to the lead with a strong outside move at the start/finish line. "I saw those guys (the leaders) coming off there and they really didn't protect that outside lane real well. The rules say we can pass to the outside once the green flag falls, so I kept watching the flag. It flew, I gassed it and went to the outside."
Mercer stayed in command through lap 98 of the 102-lap affair and secured the win by fending off both Fultz and Smith on a caution restart. "I was a lot more nervous on that caution because I was the leader then. I really had to hold on and show them what I had," Mercer said.
While Fultz's Kentucky Speedway streak ends, he moves to second place in the points standings, just 42 points behind leader Charlie Bradberry (796). Bradberry entered "The Kentucky 150" with a one-point lead over David Reutimann, who falls to third in the standings (-88) after encountering engine trouble on lap 25. He was forced to leave the race.
"The Kentucky 150" also provided excitement on lap nine when the No. 48 Full Throttle RaceCars/Fram/Autolite Chevrolet of Cecil Chunn made contact with the No. 40 Dixie Excavating machine coming out of Turn 4, sending Chunn's car into a spin. The No. 71 Dupont/Kendall Oil Ford of Ray Skillman then collided with the rear end of Chunn's machine, sending the No. 71 airborne. It landed on its top and slid down the turn banking into the infield. Both drivers were treated and released at the speedway Infield Care Center.
Racing continues tonight at Kentucky Speedway with the NASCAR Busch Series "Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo" at 8:00 p.m., and the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series "700 WLW 100" at approximately 11:00 p.m.