BUSCH: Nemechek wins lucky 13 in Las Vegas

BUSCH: Nemechek wins lucky 13 in Las Vegas
Mar 4, 2003, 12:40 AM

After a red flag for rain, Joe Nemechek placed the No. 87 Chevy in victory lane for the 13th time in his career and the first since Daytona last July. Nemechek managed to hold off the hard charging No. 21 RCR Chevy of Kevin Harvick to secure the ...

After a red flag for rain, Joe Nemechek placed the No. 87 Chevy in victory lane for the 13th time in his career and the first since Daytona last July. Nemechek managed to hold off the hard charging No. 21 RCR Chevy of Kevin Harvick to secure the victory by four-tenths of a second.

"I had a great restart," said Nemechek. "The Cellular One Chevy was awesome all day long, great pit stops. These guys were working really hard in the pits. They've been working specifically for good pit stops."

Joe Nemechek.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

"I think the key was the restart. I was able to get through the lapped traffic and get to the front. The car was really awesome. We came in and we didn't get any tires, we just got gas and the thing was perfect. Perfect."

Harvick salvaged second place and inherits the Busch series championship points lead, fifty-five points over the second-placed David Green.

"I just got really tight man," said Harvick. "A great day, as you know we're running for the owners' championship, so a great day for points. But, we want to win man!"

"Joe took two tires and we took four, I don't know if I just used too much up coming from twelfth, and getting back up there. I just didn't have anything once I got there."

The Busch series has been plagued by rain since the start of the season in Daytona, and this weekend would prove no different. Pre-race festivities were pushed forward ten minutes to move the start time due to impending weather.

Stanton Barrett brought the field to the pole under threatening skies for the first time in his career, after Busch qualifying was rained out and 2002 owner points set the line-up. Barrett driving the former champion No. 60 Ford of Greg Biffle has never even led a lap in his 57th series start.

And he would not lead one this weekend. Kevin Harvick in the No. 21 RCR Chevy shot past Barrett in lap 1 to take the lead. Harvick led Steve Park, making his first NBS start since a near fatal crash at the 2001 Darlington fall race, in the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No. 8 Chance2 Motorsports Chevy brought out the first caution of the day at lap 3. Park spun out after being bumped from behind by the No. 99 Chevy of Michael Waltrip.

Waltrip, who was starting at the rear of the field after a fiery practice crash with the No. 1 of Jamie McMurray, was anxiously trying to move past slower traffic in a race to the front. The contact with Park caused minimal damage on Waltrip's Chevy and he continued to make his march to the front.

Many of the fastest cars in the pack were stuck in the back due to the lack of qualifying. The No. 9 Ford of Jeff Burton, which started in the 24th position, only needed 30 laps to work his way past the second place car of Stanton Barrett and begin to chase down Harvick's four-second lead.

Lap 64 saw the yellow flag fly as rain drops began to pepper the track. The field was able to stay out as the shower quickly passed over the track, and they went green again at lap 67.

After the restart, Burton continued his attempt to hunt down Harvick for the lead, and finally on lap 95, Burton maneuvered around Harvick and claimed the top spot. Harvick remained on the back bumper of Burton's Ford until lap 114, Harvick stuck his nose under Burton, who was reporting a 'tight' condition on the Ford and motored past to regain the lead.

Just after Harvick made his way past Burton, Chris Bingham brought out the race's 5th caution after contact with Bobby Hamilton, Jr. As the field came around to make yellow flag pit stops, the No. 9 Ford of Jeff Burton burst into flames on the backstretch.

"Sometimes all you can do is laugh," said Burton. "The Citgo car was really fast. The last 10 laps something happened, and it really picked up a bad push. I don't know if we had an oil line come loose or something, and it was putting oil on the tires, cause it just quit turning. The car was great and then one lap later it just quit turning.

"I didn't even know it was on fire. I looked in the mirror to see who was behind me, so I knew what to do coming on pit road and I saw the flames coming up."

Michael Waltrip took two tires on the ensuing pit stops placing him first followed by Todd Bodine and Kevin Harvick. The restart on lap 122 saw Waltrip leading followed closely by Bodine. Harvick stuck his bumper down to the bottom of the track several times in an attempt to motor past the duo to no avail.

Waltrip and Bodine continued to switch positions and trade paint for twenty laps, when at lap 136 a caution flag for rain was unfurled as Waltrip led. Bodine raced Waltrip to the line and won the race to the start/finish line.

The cars were red-flagged by NASCAR and covered on pit road in an attempt to wait out the weather and restart the event. After about and hour and half delay to dry the track, the field was restarted and the leaders pitted. Ron Hornaday, Jamie McMurray and Stanton Barrett stayed out and assume positions one through three. Steve Park, who got gas only, restarted fourth, Joe Nemechek fifth.

Previous leaders restarted the event with Waltrip in 6th (he elected to take two tires on his stop), Bodine in 11th and Harvick in 12th.

McMurray did not get up to speed on the restart in the No. 1 Yellow Chevy, and continued to drop backwards through the field; he would take his car to the garage on lap 154 with a dead battery.

"I think the battery went dead," said McMurray. "I don't know, we sat on pit road and didn't leave any of the blowers on, and the 'tac' didn't work when we started it back up. It felt like it had a short, we got in here [garage] and it won't start. Too bad for everybody."

That opened the door for Joe Nemechek and Steve Park to make their way to the head of the pack. Nemechek became the seventh different driver to take the lead on lap 155 in the No. 87 Chevy.

With thirty-six laps left the top-5 ran Joe Nemechek, Todd Bodine, Stanton Barrett, Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip. Waltrip and Harvick traded positions down the backstretch as Steve Park attempted to take advantage of the situation and get around both cars.

Park found a way around Harvick two laps later and get the fifth position, just as leader Todd Bodine spins the No. 92 on Chevy losing half a lap to the other top five competitors. The race would remain green as Joe Nemechek pulled away to a 2.8 second lead over the now second place Ford of Stanton Barrett.

Lap 180 brought out the races sixth caution, when the No. 43 of Johnny Sauter made contact with the wall. Leaders did not pit under the caution, and the top five cars were Joe Nemechek, Stanton Barrett, Kevin Harvick, Steve Park and Michael Waltrip. Barrett got hung up on the restart behind the lapped vehicle of Hermie Sadler, which allowed Steve Park to make contact with the back of Barrett's No. 60.

That contact caused Barrett to loose his momentum and permitted Harvick and Park to move ahead positioning Harvick to compete for the lead with Park in third. Battles for third and fifth positions heated up, as Mike Bliss hunted Park for third and Waltrip feverishly tried to fend off David Green and Jason Keller as they make their bid for fifth position.

Harvick continued to try and catch Nemechek to no avail. Mike Bliss managed to edge out Steve Park for third (his best career finish ever); Park finishes fourth, followed by Jason Keller in fifth. Michael Waltrip winds up seventh.

"These Busch guys are tough," commented Steve Park post race. "Just really happy that this Maxwell House Chevrolet was able to pull out a top five finish today. We spun early and lost a set of tires two laps into the race so when all the guys pitted to put on tires and get fuel at the end we couldn't put tires on, we didn't have none. So kind of hurt us.

"Dale Jr. was on the radio all day long so that was great, just want to thank Teresa Earnhardt too."

Pole-sitter Stanton Barrett garners his best ever career finish in eighth.

BUSCH: Las Vegas official results

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