David Stuns Goliath Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Busch Series Field
Eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regulars weren't enough to stop rookie David Gilliland from taking his first NASCAR Busch Series win in just his fifth start of the season tonight in front of a Kentucky Speedway track-record crowd of 72,886.
"When they ask me about racing against these cup guys I tell them 'I love it' because it makes me better," Gilliland said. "This is an awesome racecar. We came here having never seen this track before yesterday. Now we're here in victory lane—I can't believe it—it's a dream come true."
He becomes the sixth different series winner in Kentucky Speedway history and fourth claim a victory in his first series start at the track. He also is the first NASCAR Busch Series regular to win a race since Clint Bowyer took an Oct. 22, 2005 win at Memphis Motorsports Park. Gilliland charted his previous best Busch Series performance on April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway where he started 11th and finished 29th.
The former NASCAR Southwest Tour and Grand National West Series race winner started tonight's race fourth and dropped back to the 19th position before racing back to the front.
The Bakersfield, Calif., native then watched J.J. Yeley and his No. 18 Vigoro Chevrolet open up a nearly five-second lead on Mike Wallace and the No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Dodge before a caution closed the field on Lap 184 when the No. 43 machine driven by Chris Cook spun into the infield on the backstretch entering Turn 3.
Gilliland and his No. 84 Hype Manufacturing Chevrolet restarted second on Lap 188. He took his lone lead of the night two laps later with a low-line pass of Yeley in Turn 1.
"We were fast all night and I was just able to pick guys off," Gilliland said. "I followed him, found where I was better and was able to set him up and make the pass."
He survived one final caution restart with seven laps remaining and held his car to low line through the final laps before crossing the finish line 0.306 of a second ahead of Yeley. Denny Hamlin and his No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet placed third, Mike Wallace and the No.1. Miccosukee Resorts Dodge were fourth and Ashton Lewis Jr., and the No. 25 Marines Ford came home fifth. Lewis now owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes through six career Kentucky Speedway starts.
"I feel like we let one get away tonight, but you can't complain about finishing second," Yeley said. "If the race had stayed green at the end, we would've won. We had a four-and-a-half second lead and didn't want to risk anything. With seven to go, we tried to go outside but (Gilliland's) car was really good."
The "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" saw an average speed of 116.004 mph. The race tied a series track record with 10 caution periods that consumed 47 competitive laps. The event sold out for the sixth consecutive season and eclipsed the previous track record attendance of 72,312 set in 2004.
Kentucky Speedway's third of four race weekends will commence July 7-8 when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series joins the ARCA RE/MAX Series at the track. Visit the tickets and schedule pages of www.kentuckyspeedway.com for complete event information.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
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