Bigley Finally Secures First NASCAR Touring Series Championship
By James F. Noltimier
Naples, Fla.'s Billy Bigley, Jr. has probably logged more miles than any other Slim Jim All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring driver, both on the track and off, in his quest for a NASCAR Touring Series Championship. Good things DO come to those who wait. In 2000 the long and winding road led Bigley to his first NASCAR Touring Series championship as he was crowned the champion of the Slim Jim All Pro Series. Only one other driver has more series starts than Bigley, and Bigley has finished in the top six in the season-ending point standings in every season that he has raced full time. "Some people say championships are won at the track, while others say that they are won at the shop. I'm a firm believer that they are won at the shop," stated the 38-year-old driver. "Whenever we hit the race track this year I was totally confident in the car that was prepared for me by the crew," he added. When the season got underway at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. the Peerless Woodworking/Nevamar Decorative Surfaces Chevrolet team was strong right out of the box. On the heels of a sixth place finish at Homestead, Bigley won the next two races, and from the second race through the eighth race of the 2000 campaign he sat atop the series point standings. But it was not as if he was without challengers. Jeff Fultz, who finished as the series runnerup in 1997, overtook Bigley for the points lead after the ninth race of the season and appeared to be poised to improve upon his '97 points finish. Over the off-season Fultz hooked up with the C&C Boilers/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet team of Jimmy and Jon Craig, and the combination resulted in the team reaching victory lane twice in 2000. Formerly from Blue Ash, Oh., the Mooresville, N.C. transplant was forced to settle for a runnerup points finish again, but the combination of Fultz as driver and the Craig's as owners appears to be poised for greatness in 2001. Also winning races in 2000 were Scott Hansen, who won two, along with single race winner Eddie Hoffman. In addition to winning the overall points championship Bigley also grabbed the $4,000 Gatorade Front Runner Award, by a narrow one point margin over Wayne Anderson. On four separate occasions Bigley led the most laps to aid in his efforts to win the award. Each year a blend of wily veterans and upstart newcomers produce memorable moments and 2000 was no exception. In the newcomer category second-year driver Brian Smith generated some outstanding results enroute to a fourth place points finish, and the 2000 Most Improved Driver Award. The Mooresville, N.C. driver grabbed two Bud Pole Awards, seven top five and nine top 10 finishes. Wildwood, Fla.'s Wayne Anderson captured four Bud Pole Positions enroute to the annual $3,500 Bud Pole Award. The Jani-King Chevrolet driver doubled the Bud Pole total of his closest pursuer, Brian Smith. Also earning Bud Poles in 2000 were Scott Hansen, A.J. Frank, Bigley, Benny Gordon, Gary Terry, Jeff Fultz, Freddie Query, Scott Carlson and Travis Kvapil. For Frank, Gordon, Terry, Carlson and Kvapil, it was their first career Bud Poles. The Moroso Performance Products Rookie-of-the-Year battle was as spirited as ever. It came down to a five driver tiff between Casey Yunick, Ryan Crane, Greg Pope and Billy Mills, with Yunick outlasting Crane by a mere three points. Mishawaka, Ind.'s Ken Weaver earned the Sportsmanship Award in 2000 while Zephyrhills, Fla.'s David Reutimann was awarded the Most Popular Driver Award as is voted on by NASCAR members.