SPARTA, Ky -- In an exciting battle following a late-race caution period, Bobby Hamilton Jr. chased down leader Jason Keller to win the NASCAR Busch Series Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway by a 0.488-second margin. With four laps remaining in the...
SPARTA, Ky -- In an exciting battle following a late-race caution period, Bobby Hamilton Jr. chased down leader Jason Keller to win the NASCAR Busch Series Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway by a 0.488-second margin. With four laps remaining in the race, Hamilton dove low at the start/finish line to pass Keller as the two leaders were passing the lapped car of Lance Norick.
Hamilton had the car to beat tonight, but a miscue in the pits on lap 86 (of 200) put him behind all the lead lap cars in 12th place. The Harold Holly-led crew sent Hamilton out with a missing lug nut during a tire change on the race's first caution period (for Randy LaJoie's blown engine), which required an extra stop to correct. From there, Hamilton went to work. By lap 100, he had progressed to 7th place, two laps later he was in 5th, and by lap 121 he had caught leader Scott Riggs.
That progress came at a price, though, as his Ford's tires were in bad shape by then from the hard run and Hamilton had to settle in behind Riggs for the rest of that stint. After three caution periods in quick succession that put the leaders out on fresh tires, the race for the win was on.
The race's second caution came on lap 145 as Riggs and Hamilton closed in on the lapped cars of Kerry Earnhardt and Mike Harmon. Earnhardt and Harmon made contact, with Earnhardt hitting the turn 1 wall and Harmon went spinning into the infield while the leaders squeezed through.
After just two laps at speed following the second restart, Brad Teague spun hard into the turn 3 wall, shortening the back of his car all the way to the back window and causing a dramatic fire. Like the two drivers in the earlier incident, though, Teague was unhurt.
The late caution was caused by a messy wreck, which came on the first lap back at speed from the cleanup of Teague's crash. Ron Hornaday had passed restart leader Scott Riggs exiting turn 2 and the two cars made slight contact in turn 4 as Riggs tried to stay inside of Hornaday. Riggs spun and several collisions happened as the rest of the field tried to avoid Riggs' spinning car. Riggs and Todd Bodine had damage to their cars but continued to run a few laps, while Mike Bliss and Regan Smith had severely damaged cars in the melee.
Hornaday held the point for the lap 171 restart, but couldn't hold back the charging Keller and Hamilton and was forced to settle for a 3rd place finish. Polesitter Stacy Compton finished fourth after a steady drive. In the race's final segment, Scott Wimmer, Brian Vickers, Ashton Lewis, Jr., David Green, Casey Atwood, and David Stremme had a ferocious battle over the remaining positions in the top ten, and finished in that order.
Several drivers had good runs that were spoiled by the late-race incidents. Most disappointed had to be Mike Bliss. Bliss qualified 11th, but had to drop to the back of the field at the start of the race after changing engines late yesterday. He had driven a strong race up through the field, and held sixth place on the restart at lap 164. He even made it past Riggs' spinning car on the final accident of the day, but was hit hard by the lapped car of Bodine after Bodine bounced off the turn 4 wall farther around the corner. Bodine too had come through the field after an engine change and was in 11th place before that crash. Bodine was credited with 29th place and Bliss was scored in 31st.
Green moved past Riggs to take the NASCAR Busch Series points lead, while Bodine, Hornaday, Keller and Vickers remain in positions 3 through 6. Hamilton gained one position to seventh at the expense of Bliss. Johnny Sauter (17th tonight) and Wimmer fill out the top ten.
Hamilton won a prize of $95,270 for his second career Busch series victory, his first of the season. The race took 2 hours and 12 minutes to complete, for an average speed of 136.213 mph. 69,366 fans were in attendance. The Busch Series races next at the Milwaukee Mile on June 29th.