The "Five in Five" tour is now complete! Five races in five weeks...next event on May 22 at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. as a support event with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Gilchrist Leads The Lap that Counts at Southern ...
The "Five in Five" tour is now complete! Five races in five weeks...next event on May 22 at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. as a support event with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Gilchrist Leads The Lap that Counts at Southern National
Kenly, N.C. - May 2, 1998 - Raleigh, N.C.'s Derrick Gilchrist picked up his third career Slim Jim All Pro Series win, and first of 1998, with a strong late race run to capture top honors in the Southern National 200 at Southern National Speedway on Saturday night. The NASCAR Touring Division event was dominated for many laps by points leader Freddie Query who elected to not pit during the 200 lap race. The decision proved to be costly as Gilchrist, who pitted during the third caution on lap 91, was able to run down the Mooresville, N.C. resident and overtake the leader on the final lap.
"We had a chance to win this race last year but not pitting proved to be our undoing," Gilchrist stated in victory lane. The driver of the Hamke Race Cars & Parts Chevrolet went on to say, "This year we planned before the race started that we were going to pit and it certainly helped us in the latter stages of the race."
Query notched his third career Bud Pole Award during time trials after turning a lap of 14.909 seconds at an average speed of 96.586 mph. His lap bested 32 other drivers who were vying for one of 30 starting positions. It was the W.J. Plemons Insurance Chevrolet driver's second pole of the year and moves him into a tie with Billy Bigley, Jr. for the season long battle for most Bud Poles.
Query outgunned outside polesitter Hal Goodson at the start of the race and moved out into the lead with many of the frontrunners quickly falling into single file line on the quick 0.400 mile oval. Goodson, Bigley and Steve Mendenhall maintained their single file formation as a battle arose behind them with rookie David Moyer leading a pack of cars early on. On lap seven Bigley drove his Bilstein Shocks/Team ASE Chevrolet underneath Goodson's Nortel/Northern Telecom Chevrolet and took over the runner-up spot from the 1997 Slim Jim All Pro Series Champion. Bigley then quickly tracked down Query and the race was taking on the appearance of the South Boston Speedway event held earlier this year with Bigley glued to Query's bumper. Gilchrist meanwhile was passing cars after starting eighth and quickly cracked the top five. Also moving up quickly was David Reutimann and Steven Christian. When Gilchrist pitted just prior to the halfway point he restarted the race in the 11th position. By the completion of the race's fourth caution period on lap 128 Gilchrist had moved into sixth through the benefit of new tires and several other front runners pitting during the caution period.
With 50 laps to go Gilchrist was back into the top five and on lap 164 he powered by rookie David Jude to assume the fourth position. On lap 172 Bigley was trying to hold off Christian who in turn had a mirror full of Gilchrist. Gilchrist elected to pass both drivers with a bold outside pass and he made it stick. With 28 laps to go he then set his sights on leader Query.
The seventh and final caution flag waved on lap 178 when Higginsville, Mo.'s Keith White spun his Bayer Agricultural Chevrolet in turn four. This bunched the field up one more time and gave Gilchrist the shot he needed to close on Query's bumper. In the final laps the lead duo raced each other hard, with Query attempting to defend his lead and Gilchrist fighting to wrest it away. As the two came down the front straightaway on the white flag lap Gilchrist dove low and charged hard into turn one. The two cars made contact and Query executed a smoke-filled slide between turns one and two. Gilchrist managed to keep his car going in the right direction and drove on unchallenged to the checkered flag. Christian, who managed to get by Bigley late in the race, also with an outside pass, finished second for the second week in a row while Bigley held on for third. Reutimann continued his string of lead lap finishes with a fourth while Kermit, W.V.'s Jude notched a career best fifth place finish. Goodson finished sixth while Query regrouped to take seventh over Sean Studer who wound up eighth and the last car on the lead lap. Ron Young and Scott Kilby rounded out the top 10.
Gilchrist's margin of victory over Christian was 0.75 seconds and although the race was punctuated by seven cautions consuming 40 laps a new race record was established. The race was run in one hour, seven minutes and 49 seconds with Gilchrist's winning average speed equating to 70.777 mph.
Points leader Freddie Query saw his points lead shrink for the second week in a row to 49 points. Christian now has sole command of second place but Gilchrist moves to third just eight points behind Christian. Rounding out the top five are Bigley and Reutimann. The second through fifth positions are separated by just 16 points. Goodson, Ronnie Burkett, Kilby, Mardy Lindley and Randy Gentry round out the top 10.
Jude's career best fifth place finish earned him rookie of the race honors while Burkett continues to lead the rookie chase over Kilby, now by just four points.
Gilchrist's car owner and crew chief Robert Hamke picked up $300 from Jasper Engines & Transmissions to earn the Crew Chief Challenge award. Hamke is now tied with Bill Bigley, Sr. with 24 points in the season long crew chief chase. The duo trails Alex Query by eight points. For the third time this season Query picked up the $300 from Gatorade for leading at the race's halfway point and leads Bigley by seven points in the season long battle for year end Gatorade dollars.
The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Friday night, May 22 at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. The Price Chopper 250 will be the seventh event on the 19-race Slim Jim All Pro Series schedule and is a companion event with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams who will compete at the same 0.500 mile high banked oval on May 23. -30-