Clermont, Indiana - Nineteen year old Brian Vickers won an old fashion Saturday night battle with fellow young-gun Shane Hmiel as they raced to the wire at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
"This is an unbelievable place", said Vickers. "I cannot say enough about this team, we drove a smart race, had good pit stops, and were there when we needed to be".
Vickers, who started third, ran in the top five all night, following dominant pole sitter Shane Hmiel. Vickers used the track apron and lapped traffic to get by Hmiel, as the two battled bumper to bumper, and side-by-side for the duration of the event.
The win seems long overdue for Vickers, who has been consistent, but has fallen short of that elusive first win.
"He has been close a few times, he sure deserves this", noted team owner Rick Hendrick
Concurring was former driver and team co-owner Ricky Hendrick.
"This kid is incredible, I never thought he would be this good" noted the younger Hendrick
Vickers, a North Carolina native, made his first start in the series in 2001, driving for his family owned team. His first win came in his forty -seventh start.
Since teaming with Hendrick Motorsports, Vickers has been impressive; scoring thirteen top ten finishes in twenty-two events.
Vickers appeared to be poised to win the spring race at Texas, but a controversial call on a late race re-start, eventually led to the driver falling out of the competition.
Certainly, redeemed by the IRP victory, Vickers remains in the hunt for the series championship.
Finishing behind Vickers, were Jason Keller, Stacy Compton, Hmiel, and Scott Riggs
"I was tight in the middle all night, but I could beat him off, and Brian was really good in the center. A lapped car held Brian and me up got by me. Were going to win one of these things someday", said Hmeil, who lost a position to Jason Keller, after contact was made with Scott Wimmer in the closing laps.
Kudos to Stacy Compton, who was involved in a lap nineteen incident with Joey Clanton. Compton's team kept the car on the lead lap, and the driver battled to bring home a top five finish.
"We got caught up in that wreck early, and then came back digging all night. Our motto is never give up", said Compton.
Scott Riggs, who maintains the series points lead by seven points over David Green in what is becoming one of the most hotly contested battles in NASCAR as the top five positions are separated by a mere ninety-nine points.
The Kroger 200 at IRP is what racing should be. It was a one-day show, in which the teams unloaded, practiced, qualified and raced all in the same day before a packed house.
Fans in attendance were treated to one of the best shows in all of racing.
Leaving Indianapolis the teams have a well-deserved week off before heading to Michigan for the Michigan 250.