Steven Howard captures inaugural event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. GREENVILLE, S. C. (April 26 2003) - To say that Steven Howard was excited about winning his first NASCAR Touring event at his home track would be an understatement. Howard,...
Steven Howard captures inaugural event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
GREENVILLE, S. C. (April 26 2003) - To say that Steven Howard was excited about winning his first NASCAR Touring event at his home track would be an understatement.
Howard, the 1996 Late Model track champion at Greeenville-Pickens Speedway, found himself in the right place at the right time Saturday evening to win the NASCAR Elite Division, Kodak Southeast Series Golden Bear Golf 150, the season opener for this series.
Howard lined up second on the final restart already past the original 150-lap event. On the final lap he took his Chevrolet to the inside of Lavender's Pontiac in turn one to take the win, the fourth of his NASCAR touring series career.
"Unbelieveable, I finally won a touring race at Greenville," said the very emotional Greer, S. C. driver as he exited his race car jestering to his many fans with his arms raised. "This is awesome and I am dedicating this race to my dad. He has helped me through all the struggles we have had through the years. I have to thank this crew who have worked so hard on this new race car."
"And I won the Golden Bear Golf Clubs, can you believe that," said Howard with tears steaming down his face as he hoisted the Golden Bear Golf Bag over his head. "I have won before," Howard said, " but none have meant as much as this win tonight."
"We didn't really have a winning car but we were sure in the hunt all night. When the big accident happened in turns one and two with Mercer and Fultz getting together with just three laps to go, I was hoping I did not cut down a tire. When we restarted behind Lavender, I just knew we were going to be in victory lane."
The accident Howard referred to happened with only three laps to go when 2002 Series Champion Jeff Fultz tried to put his car on the inside of race leader Eddie Mercer's Chevrolet. The two cars touched sending the two front runners spinning. Many cars stacked up behind them ending a good run for Roger Parker, Jason Hogan and A. J. Frank. Howard was running third and slowed with Lavender in fourth slipping around Howard and taking the point.
The race was already heading for a green-white-checked finish when 2000 Series Champion Billy Bigley Jr's car spun in turn one. On the ensuing restart on lap 150 is when the crash occurred between Fultz and Mercer. Finishing behind Howard's Greer Floor Covering Chevrolet and Lavender's Discount Carpets Pontiac was Johnny Brazier in his Frogg Toggs/Moody Monday's Ford, Kevin Prince in his Land O Frost Meats/Uncle Yammy's Grillin Sauces Chevrolet and Brian Smith's Chevrolet in his new ride with Brock Excavating Inc..
Benny Gordon, who finished fifth in the 2002 points standings started his year off on the right foot winning the first Bud Pole of the season with a time of 19.998 Secs (90.009 mph). This was Gordon's fourth career pole start. However Gordon did not start on the front row. A new series procedure of inverting starts for 2003 has the Bud Pole winner pick either a six, eight or ten. Gordon drew an eight which put long time veteran Eddie Mercer's Phoenix Construction/Everwood Wood Treatment Chevrolet at the point with Jason Robie's Iron Horse Safety/Miller Fall Protection Chevrolet starting outside front row.
The opening race of the 10-race season certainly had the open season jitters as 12 cautions waved for 65 laps during the event. Robie got a good start when the green flag waved leading the first 14 circuits before Mercer took the point.
A mandatory pit stop after lap 25 saw the entire field except for Prince, Parker and Stanley Smith, who pitted later, make the stop putting Prince's Chevrolet at the point. Mercer quickly regained the top spot with Fultz, taking second and Howard third which is the way the three cars ran until the big crash in turns one and two. Mercer led 125 of the 160 laps run in the race.
"That was a tough one," commented Mercer after the race. "I am not happy about the outcome because I thought our car was on a rope tonight. The car had been so strong all night and we were able to work traffic very well. Jeff (Fultz) seemed to get off the corners well but he was going for the win just like I was. Neither of us had ever won at Greenville and it would have been nice to start off the season leading the points." Rounding out the top ten finishing positions was Fultz, Dusty Williams, Terry Mason Jr., the top finishing Victory Circle Chassis Rookie Candidate, Mercer and Cecil Chunn, also a Victory Circle Chassis Rookie Candidate.
Johnny Brazier won the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award of $750 by advancing the most positions in the race. He started 17th and finished third.
The next event for the Kodak Southeast Series will be the Time-Warner 150 on May 16th at Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway.