Porter dominates Hills Bros. All Pro field in Ingles 200.
GREENVILLE, S. C. (April 27 2002) -- Toby Porter returned to his roots Saturday evening making a rare start with the Hills Bros. All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the $51,750 Ingles 200.
Many would agree Porter has not lost his edge in driving a racecar. This was his first series start since 1998 and ironically that start was at this same track and the last series win he recorded. With this win, he now has 10 career series victories.
Porter started fifth in the 32-car field and gradually worked his way through and around traffic but once he took the point from rookie driver Dusty Williams on lap 98, Porter dominated the remainder of the 200-lap event.
The key to Porter taking the win was his track position after all the top drivers made a mandatory pit stop during the fourth race caution. Porter's crew chief, Ricky Pearson, made the decision to go with a two-tire change and that put Porter back into the top five cars when the field went back racing on lap 82.
"Ricky has so much experience with pit stops and tires," said Porter. "He made the call for this Baird Transport/Universal Pool Service Chevrolet. This was a brand new car and we didn't finish getting ready until wee hours of the morning last night."
"I guess this win still shows people we can race," stated Porter. "The last couple of years has been pretty lean with our racing program and we hope to run more Hills Bros. All Pro Series races this year.. I think we can do well on the superspeedways."
Finishing behind Porter in the top five was David Reutimann, Benny Gordon, Jody Lavender, with his H & R Block/Lavender Carpets Chevrolet and Randy Gentry with his Carolina Title Lending/Carolina Payday Chevrolet.
Steven Howard from nearby Greer, S. C. earned his first Bud Pole Award since 1999 and his third NASCAR career Bud Pole Award when he established fast time at 20.087 secs (89.610 mph) with his Greer Flooring Center/Midway Auto Parts Chevrolet. Gordon in his Johnny's Haulmark Trailers Pontiac started outside front row.
Howard and Gordon when door-handle to door-handle for the first lap around the tight .500-mile oval before Howard edged in front at the start finish line on lap 1. The rest of the field was challenging for other positions because no one could get close to Howard's Chevrolet.
Series points leader Reutimann had his Pennzoil Chevrolet on the move early in this race. Reutimann, fresh off his first NASCAR Series victory last month, took the point from Howard when he went low in turn 3 on lap 65 with Billy Bigley Jr. close behind.
Bigley, one of the race favorites, in his Peerless Woodworking Chevrolet started tenth in the field and on lap 67 was running second until his car developed ignition problems relegating Bigley to a disappointing 27th place finish.
Howard lost a lap during the seventh race caution when his car along with Shane Sieg and Roger Parker's car tangled in turn one. From that point he tried numerous times to get around Porter's car to get his lap back but was not successful.
Another strong contender was Eddie Hoffman with his Lisa Thomas Salons/Appleton R & P Chevrolet. His crew had to change the engine in his machine before qualifying so the only laps he had on that motor was the qualifing laps. His car ran flawlessly and was in the runnerup position almost the entire second half of the race until the 13th and final race caution waved on lap 183.
Howard was again trying to get his lap back when his car drifted high in turn one and got into the side of Hoffman's Chevrolet. Also collected were the cars of Jeff Fultz, Bobby Fain and Chris Fontaine. But this incident took Hoffman and Fultz out of contention for the win. Reutimann took over the second spot and tried very hard to close on Porter's car but to little avail.
"One of the things that hurt us was track position after that mandatory pit stop," stated Reutimann. We took on four tires and Porter just took two. He had a good car and we might not have been able to catch him no matter what.
A very bizarre incident took place during the tenth race caution. Kevin Prince's car had the hood come up after he made contact with Bigley's car on the previous restart. He stopped on the track not able to see which brought out the caution. Prince continued around the track but missed the entrance to the pits. Going down the front straight he made contact with the Chevrolet Corvette pace car in the left rear doing extensive damage to both cars.
The winner's average speed of 54.168 mph was slowed with 13 race cautions for 77 laps.
Rounding out the top ten drivers were leading rookie of the year candidate Jason Hogan, Charlie Bradberry, Hoffman, and two more rookie contenders, Jarod Robie and Dusty William.
Porter won the Gatorade "Front Runner Award" by leading the most laps with Jason Hogan earning top finishing rookie honors for the second consecutive series event.
The next event for the series will be the "Uncle Bob" Harmon All Pro 200 at Birmingham Int'l Raceway on May 11.