SES: Kentucky II: Race notes

SPARTA, Ky. (Sept. 18, 2004) - It was one of the most popular victories in recent memory for NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver Stanley Smith. In dominant fashion, Smith scored his first NASCAR victory in 11 years on Saturday...

SPARTA, Ky. (Sept. 18, 2004) - It was one of the most popular victories in recent memory for NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series driver Stanley Smith. In dominant fashion, Smith scored his first NASCAR victory in 11 years on Saturday night in the V-Taps 100 at Kentucky Speedway.

"I just kept thinking what might happen to the car," Smith said. "I knew I had to race hard or something was going to happen. This means a lot to both me and this crew because we've been trying so hard. I'm glad my first trip back to victory lane came at Kentucky. This means a lot and I'm so proud of everybody. It's nice to be running back up in the front. I've felt like something was missing but now it's over."

Smith led 68 of the race's 100 laps to score the victory by a .620 second margin of victory over runner-up J.R. Norris who survived and rallied from a spin early in the event.

"I'm kind of upset, but I guess it was still a good night for us," Norris said. "I spun out early and that really hurt us as far as track position. I finished third here last time and this time we ended up second. We keep getting better every time, so maybe next time we come here we can win. This helped us in the points so I guess we'll look forward to Nashville next weekend."

Rounding out the top-five were Bradley Reithmeyer in third, Joey Miller fourth and Kevin Clark in fifth. It was quite a Southeast Series debut for the 20 year-old Reithmeyer driving a car out of the Richardson Racing stables.

"This is awesome," Reithmeyer said. "We stayed out of trouble and ended up with a good finish that will hopefully catch some eyes heading into the future. I had a good night."

It was indeed a night that drivers had to stay on their toes as five caution flags were thrown for 30 laps. As a result of those incidents, the Southeast Series point standings was shuffled a bit. Jeff Fultz maintained his lead in the standings by 103 points over J.R. Norris moved from third to second in the standings past Erik Darnell. Kevin Prince also grabbed the fourth position from Jason Hogan who now stands fifth in the standings.

The opening laps of the V-Taps 150 were fast and furious to put it mildly. On the first lap, the pole winner of Fultz got two-wide with Darnell in the third and fourth turn at the 1.5-mile track and allowed Ray Skillman to lead the first circuit. Darnell battled back to lead the second lap with the entire field just behind.

That close racing action got a little too close for comfort on the fifth lap when there was a three-car wreck coming off the fourth turn. The incident collected Hogan, Daniel Mientka and Chris Davidson to end their race.

The second caution of the race came out on Lap 22 when Norris, who was running third behind Darnell and Skillman, went for a harmless spin coming off the fourth turn. Trying to avoid the spinning car of Norris, Fultz and Robert Richardson made slight contact though both were able to continue on without major damage.

That caution set the stage for the first round of pit stops while Greg Pope stayed out on the track to take the lead with Cecil Chunn running second for the Lap 30 restart. As the field thundered off the second turn on Lap 39 with Smith in the lead, three cars were sent spinning including Darnell, Wayne Bowen and Gary Helton. Prince and Fultz were able to escape running second and third behind Smith.

At the halfway point on Lap 50, it was Smith leading Fultz while the top-five was rounded out by Reithmeyer, Miller and Richardson. When all was said and done, there was no denying Smith his first trip to victory lane in a NASCAR-sanctioned event since 1993.

The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series returns to action Sept. 25 in the AutoZone 150 at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Fultz , Joey Miller , Robert Richardson Jr. , Erik Darnell , J.R. Norris , Kevin Clark