USAR: Lakeland race report

LAKELAND, FL (Sept. 2, 2000) – What a finish. That is what will be said for a while when everyone thinks about the finish of the Jackaroo Sauces 250 at USA International Speedway Saturday night. Derrick Kelley edged David Pletcher by .001 of a...

LAKELAND, FL (Sept. 2, 2000) – What a finish. That is what will be said for a while when everyone thinks about the finish of the Jackaroo Sauces 250 at USA International Speedway Saturday night. Derrick Kelley edged David Pletcher by .001 of a second to win his first USAR Hooters ProCup Series race since he won the Alan Kulwicki Memorial 300 last November at Lakeland.

Kelley and Pletcher raced side-by-side for the final three laps and the finish was the closest in the history of the Hooters ProCup Series. Hal Goodson, who won the previous USAR Hooters ProCup Series race at South Boston, won the Discount Auto Parts Pole and finished third while Stacy Puryear was fourth and series veteran Trent Owens collected his first top-five of the season.

Kelley, who had not competed since June in the Hooters ProCup Series, not only had to overcome a hard-charging Pletcher but also mechanical and physical problems.

"We had a battery going low and also found out after the race we had a front shock broken as well," said Kelley. "It was so hot and those red flags made it really tough on the drivers with the heat and humidity. I was feeling bad on the last red flag period and thankfully we made it to the end."

The best finish for Kelley in seven previous starts this season was a 12th-place finish at USA International in June.

"What a way for us to come back," said Kelley. "I was doubting myself a little because of the tough season and joining forces with George Mappin and Mardy Lindley really helped a lot. Our qualifying run was not as good as we had hoped for but I am not a good qualifier anyway. My former crew chief Dale Burns always said qualifying is just a ticket to the dance and thankfully we won the dance tonight."

The finish was so close that both drivers made their way to victory lane, however, Kelley did a victory spin and wound up in the infield grass and was stuck there during victory lane ceremonies. For Pletcher the finish was almost as good as a win for the team struggling to find solid backing to finish the season.

"That’s what racing is all about," said Pletcher. "Of course we would have liked to win but this team needed a boost right now and this is a great finish for us because we have been struggling a little. This team is really pumped right now to try and finish the season."

Pletcher had not finished inside the top 15 the past four races and also found out last week the team might have to fold soon. The team had opened the season with six top-10 finishes out of the first eight races before his four-race streak of bad luck.

"I tried to race Derrick clean and I think we did," added Pletcher. "I was being easy on the car and tried to wait until the end of the race."

The race was slowed 14 times for caution with two red flag periods. The most serious accident was on lap 1 when Keith Montgomery, Ronnie Davidson and B.J. Underdown were involved in turn one which brought out the first red flag. The second red flag was thrown when Mart Nesbitt made hard contact with the turn one wall on lap 219.

Goodson led the first 10 laps of the event until Brian Vickers took over the lead for the next seven circuits. Mario Gosselin took the lead on lap 17 and remained out front until lap 117 when Bill Plemons, Jr. took the lead. Plemons collected the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader bonus for leading on lap 125.

Vickers retook the lead after a series of pit stops and remained out front until Jon Wood took the lead on lap 166 and remained out front until Kelley took the lead for good on lap 196.

The night featured a career-best finish for Owens. Owens finished fifth for his first career top-five mark. Owens previous best finish in 2000 was a 15th-place showing at USA International in June.

"This was a really big boost for this team," said Owens. "We needed something positive to build on for the rest of the season and hopefully this is what we needed. We were fortunate to miss a lot of accidents out there tonight but I’ll take luck anyday."

Gosselin suffered mechanical problems and was forced to park his Chevrolet on lap 129 while current USAR Hooters ProCup Series points leader Bobby Gill battled mechanical problems to finish 14th. Gill had an alternator drain his battery and the veteran lost three laps in the pits and made up two before the end of the race.

Steven Christian finished sixth after working throughout the race to get his car hooked up and the top ten finish vaulted him into second place in the points standings 161 points behind Gill.

The series returns to action on September 16th at Montgomery Motor Speedway in the running of the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Food World.

· The race featured the largest starting field in the brief history of the Hooters ProCup Series with 43 cars.

· Thirteen cars finished on the lead lap and Derrick Kelley became the sixth different winner.

· Jon Kerley, driver of the Catawba Valley Community College entry, recorded his best career finish in the Hooters ProCup Series when he finished 11th after starting the race in 10th. The team is made up of students in the bobby Isaac Motorsports Technology program at the college located in Hickory, North Carolina.

· Stacy Puryear enjoyed his best finish since he finished third at USA International Speedway in February.

· The second-place finish by Pletcher moved him back into the top-10 in points to ninth place.

· Kertus Davis lost a motor during afternoon practice and was forced to use a back up car provided by Don Sprouse at the track. Davis finished 22nd.

· Bill Plemons, Steven Christian, Clay Rogers, Karen Schulz, and David Pletcher visited the Tampa Shriners Hospital on Friday afternoon and met over 20 children being treated at the hospital. The USAR Hooters ProCup Series plans to visit the Shriners Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina on September 22nd.

<pre> USAR Hooters ProCup Points Standings as of September 3, 2000

Pos.  Name  Points  WIns
1.  Bobby Gill  1,990  6
2.  Steven Christian 1,829  0
3.  Brian Vickers 1,795  2
4.  Mario Gosselin 1,778  0
5.  Mardy Lindley 1,713  2
6.  Jon Wood  1,708  0
7.  Clay Rogers  1,681  0
8.  Jeff Agnew  1,650  0
9.  David Pletcher 1,564  0
10.  Charlie Ford  1,538  0
11.  Andy Thurman 1,537  1
12.  Stacy Puryear 1,429  0
13.  Bill Plemons, Jr. 1,417  0
14.  Mart Nesbitt  1,376  0
15.  Regan Smith  1,300  0
16.  Don Satterfield 1,237  0
17.  Sean Studer  1,226  0
18.  Trent Owens  1,184  0
19.  Kertus Davis  1,062  0
20.  Marty Ward  1,061  0

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Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Jon Wood , Trent Owens , Brian Vickers , Regan Smith , Kertus Davis , Mario Gosselin , Jeff Agnew , Alan Kulwicki