SPARTA, Ky. (Sept. 18, 2004) The inaugural V-Taps Triple Header drew a sizeable crowd that enjoyed spectacular weather and a clear, moon-lit night Sept. 18 at the Kentucky Speedway in the tracks first fall racing event. But perhaps no one enjoyed it more than Stanley Smith, a 55-year-old veteran driver from Chelsea, Ala.
Smith steered his Valvoline Chevrolet through traffic and took advantage of other drivers misfortunes, taking the lead after a five-car crash on Lap 39 of 100 and holding on to win the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Series Kentucky 150.
I was lucky; I avoided that one wreck early and the rest of them happened behind me, said Smith, who also called on his years of experience to outfox his competition down the stretch. He pitted only once during the race on Lap 9 for fuel only.
Smith competes with impaired vision in his left eye, which he injured in a July 1993 crash at Talladega, Ala., during a Winston Cup race. He suffered multiple injuries in that crash, including a severed aorta in his neck, a fractured skull and some broken bones. The incident left him with very little peripheral vision in his left eye, said his wife, Delphia.
But on this night, Smith saw the way to the finish line ahead of his younger competitors, after watching three of four cars ahead of him taken out of the race on that pivotal crash. Exiting the race from wreck on the backstretch wall were Erik Darnell, Gary Helton, Wayne Bowen and Greg Pope. J.R. Norris was involved but returned to the field.
From that point on, Smith weathered several cautions then outran Norris to the finish with eight cars on the lead lap. It was Smiths first victory since joining the series in 2001. He competes on a limited schedule, having raced in only four of the series 10 previous events this year.
Photo by Don Ward
NASCAR Elite AutoZone Series
winner Stanley Smith.
I like these big tracks; theres more room to run, Smith said during his celebration in victory lane. I tried to quit racing three or four times, but every time I did I felt something was missing, and I kept coming back.
Norris, of Mulga, Ala., finished second and Bradley Reithmeyer of Hutto, Texas, was third, competing in his first NAES race. Kentucky Speedway three-time winner, series points leader and race polesitter Jeff Fultz of Cincinnati started strong but twice was forced to battle back from the back of the field after pitting. He was involved in one mishap on Lap 23 but his car spun free of the wall. On Lap 77, a piece of lead fell off Norris car and went through Fultzs car, damaging the engine. Fultz was running third when he exited the race for a blown engine.
The NASCAR regional touring race was the second of three that evening, beginning with the 67-lap I-Power Dash Series Kentucky 100 race and culminating with the American Speed Associations BF Goodrich Tires 225.
In the opener, Brandon Ward of Winston-Salem, N.C., won the I-Power Dash Series race. Starting in third place, he trailed leaders Danny Bagwell and Johnny Chapman in the early going of the 67-lap event, but took his first lead on Lap 19 and held it until the competition caution was ordered on Lap 38 when all cars pitted.
Photo by Don Ward
ASA's Mike Garity (center) poses in
victory lane with (from left)
Butch Miller, second place,
and Reed Sorenson, third.
On the race restart, points leader and polesitter Bagwell of Cordova, Ala., dove under the field to take the lead from third place, but he was unable to hold it for very long. Ward re-established his lead position, finishing ahead of Chapman of Asheboro, N.C., and Eric Wilson of Taylorsville, N.C.
In the nightcap ASA race, second-place qualifier Mike Garvey of Atlanta overcame a late pit stop that put him in 10th place with only 15 laps remaining to capture the BF Goodrich 225. Garvey did it by steering through traffic to second place behind leader Bryan Reffner on Lap 140 of 150.
While running in second place, Garveys team made a risky decision to pit for new tires and fuel late in the race to give him what he needed to win. Garvey made his move for the lead on Turn 2 of Lap 146, then held on for the victory, his fourth this season. No other ASA driver has won more than one race this year.
We debated that, and I didnt think I could get back around Bryan, Garvey said. But we came here to win, not take second place, so we went for it. Luckily, it was the right call.
After the pass, Reffner, of Stevens Point, Wisc., faded to seventh place. Butch Miller of Coopersville, Mich., placed second and Reed Sorenson of Forest Park, Ga., was third. Points leader and polesitter Kevin Cywinski was never a threat, finishing 10th. Second-place qualifier Tim Sauter finished xth.
The ASA National Tour, based in Pendleton, Ind., has only two races remaining on its 2004 schedule. Both races are in October at Lowes Motor Speedway on Oct. 14 and at Atlanta on Oct. 29.