Compton comes "oh so close" at Phoenix.
PHOENIX AZ (November 11, 2002) - Everyone loves an underdog, and Stacy Compton came close to writing one of those Cinderella "Worst to First" scripts in the Phoenix Bashas' 200 Busch Series race this weekend. That's not to say the Compton would normally be considered a Busch Series underdog, but after a blown engine in practice forced him to forfeit his 13th place qualifying position and start last in the field at a track where it is notoriously tough to pass, the odds were certainly against the Kingsford/Johnsonville team. Or were they? The car was so good during the final practice session that Crew Chief Steve Plattenberger was just minutes from telling Compton to halt the practice session early. If he had, the engine would have blown during the early laps of the race, rather than during practice, and halted one of the most exciting comebacks in NASCAR this season.
An athlete always has a choice to see the glass as half empty or half full. Compton chose to see the glass as half full as he methodically passed one car at a time and as his pit crew picked off a total of seven cars during pit stops to help him into the top 10 before the race's halfway point. Pacing himself, and knowing that he needed to save his tires until the end, Compton stood in 5th when he got the call to "let it all hang out" for the final 30 laps of the race. With 7 laps remaining, there was only one car between the #59 car and victory. Compton was 3/10 of a second faster than the leader and only 1.2 seconds behind. But on lap 194, the caution flew for a large accident. The team was certain that NASCAR would throw the red flag, and halt the race until the accident could be removed, leaving them with a final 5-lap shootout for the win. Instead, NASCAR chose to let the race finish under caution.
Reflected Compton after the race, "I think that the fans pay to see a race and that NASCAR should have thrown the red flag to let us race to the finish. We were going to catch the leader before that last caution and I feel we would have been able to beat him on a restart. I'm frustrated that we didn't win, but I'm also really proud of this race team. We've been running great and the top finishes are starting to come. I think our day in victory lane could have been today, but I know it's just around the corner."
Scott Wimmer was the winner of the race, and Compton's second place finish (his third runner-up finish of the year) vaulted him to 8th place in a tight championship points race. The season finale comes next week at Homestead, Florida and will be televised on NBC.