Talladega, AL, 10-14-00 – By Don Radebaugh - David Keith, in the VisualBible.com – Sadler Brothers Ford, survived a late-race charge from Tim Steele, nine cautions and nine lead changes to win the eventful ARCA Winn-Dixie 300 Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
The Nashville, Tennessee titan also led the most laps in the 113-lap race en route to his career-third ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victory in only his 14th attempt.
With just four laps remaining, Keith was leading a tightly-grouped pack of lead-lap cars when the final caution flag came out for Ed Curtis, who had cut a right-front tire and slammed the wall exiting turn two. That prompted the mad-scramble back to the caution, as well as Steele’s final bid to overhaul the leader. Steele, running in second, jumped out of line off the fourth turn and peaked inside of Keith, but with no drafting help, fell less than a length short at, what would become, the final stripe. With 10 lead-lap cars trailing the leader, all they could do was just watch while Keith, completely in charge, paraded the frustrated followers to the checkered flag under caution.
“You hate to see a race end under caution, but it was really kind of a relief at the end,” said Keith. “Had we gone back to green, things might have gotten real hairy. But this was my first race at Talladega and it’s great to get a win here. Just like to thank the Sadler Brothers for the opportunity, all the guys that work so hard and believe in me, and our sponsors’ Visual Bible and Shoney’s Inn. It’s a great day for them.”
The ‘real hairy’ part was no doubt in reference to the nine cautions throughout the race, five for debris and four for accidents, one of which was a multi-car pile-up off turn four on lap 59. Receiving the worst of it were Mark Gibson, Cavin Councilor and Randal Ritter all of whom were transported, conscious and alert, to Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. All three, held overnight for further observation, were in stable condition Saturday night. Skip Smith brought out the first caution on lap five when his Shop-Vac Chevy slid backwards into the wall off turn two. Then Ryan Newman, who was in the lead draft all afternoon, cut a tire late in the race and made contact with the wall in turns three and four. Neither driver was injured. Curtis, however, was transported following his late-race wreck complaining of pain in his right side. The Brookpark, Ohio driver was reported in stable condition and held overnight for further evaluation.
Although the yellow flags for debris and accidents kept the ARCA warriors penned up for 56 laps of caution, it’s what happened under green that continually kept the estimated crowd of 60,000 plus on the edge of their seats. In typical Talladega fashion, the lead draft was never less than six cars deep and frequently more in the neighborhood of 15 as the ARCA machines raced two and three wide while the lead changed hands perpetually throughout the thrilling 300-miler.
Steele, in the HS Die-Softech Ford, wowed the crowd with his charge from the 26th starting position to second in the final running order earning the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger honors along the way for advancing the most positions. Kirk Shelmerdine, who won the Talladega Pole Award with a speed of 190.579 mph, led 29 laps and finished third in Ted Campbell’s CLR Ford. Matt Hutter was fast all day in James Finch’s Phoenix Construction Chevy and finished fourth while Bobby Gerhart, in the Greektown Casinos Chevy, finished fifth. Shawna Robinson, the unequivocal crowd favorite, ran as high as third in the race and appeared to have a car capable of winning, but with no drivers willing to draft with the Des Moines, Iowa driver, the mother of two was left to fend for herself around the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Regardless, Robinson still finished sixth in the Kmart-Pacific Garden Ford and won the Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie award. Lyndon Amick, in Ken Schrader’s Mitsubishi Wireless-Powertel Pontiac, finished seventh. Andy Belmont, in the America Online Ford, raced from the 22nd starting position to finish eighth while Norm Benning, in the SoBe Healthy Refreshments Chevy, charged from 33rd to ninth in the final running order. Ron Cox, in the John Dunn Trucking Chevy, came from 31st to finish 10th.
The ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series will conclude its 2000 season at Atlanta Motor Speedway on November 18 in the Georgia Boot 400 where ’98 series champ Frank Kimmel, upon making one lap in the event, can clinch the 2000 title.
CURRENT TOP-10 POINTS: Frank Kimmel 4620, Tim Steele 4325, Bob Strait 4240, Brian Ross 4030, Bobby Gerhart 3930, Shawna Robinson 3800, Mark Gibson 3670, Norm Benning 3630, Joe Cooksey 3545, Andy Belmont 3475.