REVISED, 11:15 AM 2-14-00 DAVID KEITH CONQUERS DAYTONA Don Radebaugh Daytona Beach, FL (February 14, 2000) David Keith, in the Sadler Brothers Ford Taurus, stretched his fuel mileage to the limit then survived a wild five-lap dash to the ...
REVISED, 11:15 AM 2-14-00
DAVID KEITH CONQUERS DAYTONA Don Radebaugh
Daytona Beach, FL (February 14, 2000) David Keith, in the Sadler Brothers Ford Taurus, stretched his fuel mileage to the limit then survived a wild five-lap dash to the checkers to win the ARCA Pro2Call 200 Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
Keith held off veterans Bobby Gerhart and Bob Strait at the stripe to earn his 2nd career ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victory in only his seventh attempt. Gerhart finished .129 seconds away in second with Strait, Mike Harmon and Kirk Shelmerdine lined up in a tight tow for third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Keith, who started 24th, wasn’t a factor for most of the race but got himself in a position to win when the Charlotte, North Carolina driver went more than 50 laps without a pit stop. Unable to stretch it any longer, the eventual winner charged onto pit road, took outside tires only and just enough fuel to go the distance. “We had a real good pit stop, and actually I about wrecked coming down pit road,” said the Keith after the race. “I slid out in the grass, and I ran in as far as I could and that gained us a lot. We only took two tires, and the guys pulled off a great stop. I’m real proud of them, and I guess we beat whoever was leading the race at the time. We beat him back out on the track, when the caution came out.“
That ‘whoever else’ was Gerhart who, according to the defending race winner, just didn’t have enough drafting help in the end to return to victory lane. “It really came down to how many friends you had out there,” said the veteran Lebanon, Pennsylvania driver after the race. “To win here, you have to have someone come up behind you and help out. I went to the outside, they followed David (Keith) which gave him the edge. I did everything I could to win, but I did hold on to second. Hats off to David. He put on a good performance and was in the right place at the right time.”
A spin on the backstretch by Rick Markle with seven laps remaining in the 200-mile race set the stage for the thrilling shootout when 12 lead-lap cars lined up behind Keith for the restart. When the green flag was unfurled, Gerhart positioned his Kewadin Casinos Chevy inches away from the leader’s back bumper before making his move to the high-side with three laps remaining. With Daytona on its feet, and a live ESPN audience on board, the two front-runners raced door-to-door but without the necessary drafting help up top, Gerhart did all he could do to just maneuver his way back into line in time to finish second.
There were some tense moments on the last lap when Dave Steele, Shawna Robinson and Lyndon Amick, all on the lead-lap, locked horns on the front stretch just before the start-finish line. The incident brought out the caution flag however Keith, Gerhart, Strait, Harmon and Shelmerdine had already received the white flag. That allowed the front-five to race back to the line for the win where the checkered and yellow flag was awaiting them signaling the end of the action-packed event.
Polesitter Shelmerdine, in Ken Appling’s Ameraparts Chevrolet, raced into the lead at the start and dominated most of the race leading the first 53 laps before giving it up to Gerhart when the former leader came down pit road for service. Gerhart showed the way for four rounds before the ensuing caution-flag pit stops shuffled Keith to the point for good. Daytona Beach native Dan Pardus finished seventh ahead of Andy Belmont, Robert Burroughs and Jerry Hill, in a Kewadin Casinos Gerhart team-car, to complete the top ten. Five caution periods slowed the event for 24 laps.
Keith not only picked up $27,120 in earnings but also won the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions. Shelmerdine combined an additional $1,000 to his second-place pay by winning the Auto Value Halfway Leader honors. Amick was the Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie.
Next race for the ARCA series will be at Salem Speedway on April 30th, one of two visits in 2000 to the well-known, legendary high-banked oval.
SERIES POINT LEADERS: Kirk Shelmerdine 250, Bob Strait 235, David Keith 235, Bobby Gerhart 230, Mike Harmon 210, Andy Hillenburg 200, Dan Pardus 195, Andy Belmont 190, Robert Burroughs 185, Jerry Hill 180.