Lady Luck smiled on Joe Nemechek as he took the checkered flag in the Sams Town 300 run at the Las Vegas motor Speedway.
Gambling on a late race pit stop, Nemechek and crew chief Brian Pattre opted not to take tires, putting the thirty nine year old Florida native in position to take his thirteenth win in the series.
"When we stopped we took gas only. We didn't take any tires and I didn't know what was going to happen. I knew Harvick was coming with tires, but my guys adjusted this car just perfect." Said the race winner, who competed in his first Busch event of the season. Nemechek sat on the pole for the season opener at Daytona, but was sidelined with illness, handing over driver responsibilities to Jeff Green.
Nemechek was hotly pursued by Todd Bodine, who in the closing laps got loose coming off turn four, spinning, but avoiding the wall. Ending what had been a dominant day, Bodine re-grouped to finish nineteenth.
Finishing Behind Nemechek were Kevin Harvick, Mike Bliss, Steve Park, and Jason Keller to round out the top five.
Park, competing in the Busch series for the first time since his nearly career ending crash at Darlington in the fall of 2001 raced for team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr in the S2 entry.
Park, who started thirty- sixth spun on lap one, bringing out the caution, and forcing the team to change rubber early.
NASCAR determined that the tires were not significantly flat-spotted enough to grant the team additional set tires. NASCAR rules limit the allocation of tires, (three sets can be used under caution periods). Without a favorable ruling on the lap one set, it forced the team to run the last half of the race on old rubber. An accomplishment that clearly impressed the team owner.
"I am really proud of this team. It is amazing they can be this young and so good." Said the co-owner and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Mother Nature became the forty forth driver in the field for another week as she played a major role in the event.
Qualifying was rained out, setting the field on owners point, positioning Stanton Barrett on the pole.
During the event, rain slowed the field early, and parked the cars with a red flag on lap 141.
The weather set up a mid race battle between Todd Bodine and Michael Waltrip who raced side by side for twenty one laps swapping the lead twelve times as they raced to the yellow for the rain.
Following the restart, key pit stops were made; decisions on tire management determined the outcome of the race.
Runner up, Kevin Harvick, took four Goodyear's, setting him back in the field, a move that kept him off the point.
"We made a decision to take four tires and I didn't think I would be that far buried in the field," he said. "I may have used up too much of the car, but I had to get back to the front", said the 2001 series champion.
Michael Waltrip, who took two on the final stop, lost grip, and drifted back in the field to finish seventh.
Leaving Las Vegas, the series points lead belongs Kevin Harvick, followed by David Green, Todd Bodine, Jamie McMurray, and Jason Keller.
The series if off next week before heading to Darlington Raceway on March fifteenth.