Anderson Has a Knack for Winning Slim Jim All Pro Series Season Openers Lakeland, Fla. - April 10, 1999 - For the second year in a row Wayne Anderson picked up a victory in the season-opening race for the Slim Jim All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring.
Anderson Has a Knack for Winning Slim Jim All Pro Series Season Openers
Lakeland, Fla. - April 10, 1999 - For the second year in a row Wayne Anderson picked up a victory in the season-opening race for the Slim Jim All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring. The 30-year-old Wildwood, Fla. speedster held off Pensacola, Fla.'s Eddie Mercer in a green-white-checkered finish to win the $55,850 Florida 200 presented by Manheim's Florida Auto Auction of Orlando at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla. It was the Jani King Chevrolet driver's sixth career win and he earned $7,900 for the hard-earned victory. "It feels awfully good to come back (to the Slim Jim All Pro Series after racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) and start the season off with a win. These Jani King people had enough faith in me to put me behind the wheel. I had such a tough time with the Truck Series last year, to rebound with a good team and come out and win, I can't tell you how big this is," stated an elated Anderson in victory lane. Pinellas Park, Fla.'s Mike Cope, racing with a heavy heart after the recent untimely passing of his father James Cope, Sr., established the inaugural track record in Bud Pole qualifying for Slim Jim All Pro Series cars. He toured the 0.750 mile oval in a time of 21.305 seconds at an average speed of 126.731 mph. The Florida Auto Auction of Orlando Chevrolet driver extended his lead in the career Bud Poles category by garnering his 13th such starting position. The pole award was even more satisfying to the 36-year-old driver as he had never even raced at this track before, having only tested here once. Cope took command when the race started, with third starter Mercer dropping outside front row starter Sean Studer to the third spot in the early going. Mercer and Studer made contact on lap 11, resulting in Mercer spinning in turn four, and bringing out the first caution of the race. Mercer stayed on the lead lap and restarted at the rear of the field. The second caution waved on lap 44 after Derrick Kelley spun on the backstretch, and during the resultant caution laps rookie-of-the-year candidate Coy Gibbs and Mercer pitted, with Gibbs changing right side tires and Mercer getting four sticker Hoosier tires after his early race spin. On the lap 51 restart Cope's car did not come up to speed due to a broken rear end and Naples, Fla.'s Billy Bigley, Jr. took over the top spot. Bigley paced the field until the sixth caution period occurred on lap 93, which resulted from a grinding crash in turn one that collected Conrad Burr, Kevin Prince and Larry Raines. The race was ultimately red flagged for 18 minutes and 56 seconds to allow safety crews to remove their mangled race cars. Bigley, Steven Howard, Studer, Jeff Fultz and rookies Brian Smith and Benny Gordon all pitted just before the red flag was displayed and all took on four new tires. This handed the lead to Mercer who had effectively short pitted his Phoenix Construction-sponsored machine on lap 45. Gibbs, Patrick Lawler, Lance Goodson, Randy Gentry, Ron Young, Hal Goodson, Anderson, Scott Kilby and Rodney Childers made up the balance of the top 10 as the race entered into the final 100 laps. Mercer grabbed the $400 Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading at the race's halfway point but Anderson was embarking on his march to the front, cracking the top five on lap 123, moving into third on lap 143, then overtaking Gibbs' MBNA Chevrolet on the 144th circuit. As Mercer and Anderson headed down the frontstretch on lap 156 the lead duo edged high to get by a lapped car and this opened the door to dive low on Mercer entering turn one and take the lead. >From this point forward Anderson stretched his advantage to as much as 10 car lengths. His lead was erased as a result of two late race cautions but on the subsequent restarts he was able to hold off Mercer for the win. Reutimann, Bigley and Studer finished in the third through fifth positions while Ronnie Burkett, Goodson, Jeff Fultz, Howard and Mike Franklin, Jr. completed the top 10. The 150 mile race was completed in two hours, 2 minutes and two seconds at a winning average speed of 73.000 mph. Ten caution periods ate up 61 laps and there were three lead changes among four drivers. Twelve cars of the 36-car starting field finished on the lead lap and there were 18 cars running at the end of the race. Being the first race of the Slim Jim All Pro Series season the final rundown also represents the current point standings with Anderson 10 points ahead of Mercer. Franklin's 10th place finish, his first career series top 10 in seven starts, earned him the Rookie of the Race award and he leads a stellar field of rookies heading into next week's race. Anderson's Crew Chief Augie Grill picked up the $300 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Crew-Chief-of-the-Race Award. The Florida 200 presented by Manheim's Florida Auto Auction of Orlando will air on Fox Sports Net at a date and time still to be determined. The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Saturday, April 17 at St. Augustine Speedway in St. Augustine, Fla. Bud Pole qualifying will get underway at 6:00 p.m. with the Winn-Dixie 200 presented by FastWax getting the green flag at 8:00 p.m.