Eddie Mercer won the Kentucky 150 race for the NASCAR All-Pro Touring series today at the Kentucky Speedway. After the field was scrambled following a series of early caution periods and differing pit strategies, Mercer, the pole-sitter, took the...
Eddie Mercer won the Kentucky 150 race for the NASCAR All-Pro Touring series today at the Kentucky Speedway. After the field was scrambled following a series of early caution periods and differing pit strategies, Mercer, the pole-sitter, took the lead on lap 84, passing early leaders Scott Carlson and Jeff Fultz on a disputed restart, then led the rest of the race. Fultz finished second and Carlson was eventually 5th. Third place went to Stanley Smith after he made a strong charge in the race's final fifteen laps.
Mercer and Fultz, who started third, led the pack away from the start as second-starting Smith battled with Carlson for the third position. On lap 3, Fultz showed some muscle, passing Mercer and pulling out a lead of several car lengths. Series points leader Charlie Bradberry joined in the early third place battle from his 7th starting position, while the two leaders sped off ahead by several seconds.
On lap eight, a scary crash occurred when Cecil Chunn spun exiting turn 4 and headed toward the outside wall. Ray Skillman couldn't avoid Chunn's car and hit it hard. Skillman's car was launched into the air and rolled over after hitting the wall. Both cars wound up in Kentucky Speedway's infield, Skillman's car landing upside-down. Fortunately, both drivers emerged unhurt.
After a red-flag period to clean up that mess, several drivers used the following yellow-flag laps to make their pit stop (only one would be required), including second place Fultz. The field restarted with Mercer leading, followed by Carlson, Smith, Bradberry, and Benny Gordon who had been having a good race from his 12-place start.
Just one lap was completed before a spin by Randy Gentry brought out the yellow again. The remaining leaders took this opportunity to make their stops. On the next restart, on lap 23, Gordon led from Terry Mason, Jr., Dusty Williams, Roger Parker, and Chad Bland as none of them had made their pit stops. Fultz restarted in seventh place, and quickly regained the lead, passing Williams just three laps later.
After one more yellow period for a stalled car, the race restarted on lap 34 for an extended period of green flag running. In this segment, Carlson showed his strength, catching Fultz and passing for the lead on lap 36, and pulling ahead by several seconds. Fultz also looked good, building a 5-plus-second lead on the third-place battle being fought by Shane Sieg (who started in 21st place and had not yet pitted), Bradberry and Smith. Mercer, who had restarted back in the pack after his stop, caught that battle and had passed all of them by lap 60.
From that point in the race, Fultz' car began to go loose, allowing Carlson to pull away to a lead of nearly eight seconds by three-quarters distance, and letting Mercer close to within one second. Carlson had lapped all but twelve cars (of the 35-strong field) by this point.
On lap 78, the caution flew again when Erik Darnell's engine quit and he coasted to a stop on Kentucky's back straight. Darnell had been having an excellent race and was fighting with Bradberry and Joe Aramendia for fourth place when his car stopped.
This yellow period set up the controversial restart. Carlson was leading from Fultz and Mercer as the field approached the starter. Mercer got a great jump and had the lead by turn one. Fultz said later: "Eddie went by me and chopped down on Scott before the green, but I guess the officials didn't see it that way - we got screwed."
Mercer saw it differently, of course, saying: "Those guys didn't protect the outside, and I had a 'Ron Hornaday-type transmission' and got a great restart."
When asked about Fultz' description of the restart, Mercer replied: "I went when I saw the green - I wasn't listening to the spotter."
The three leaders held those positions until the final yellow flag waved on lap 98 for a stalled car in the pit access road, but Smith was a man on a mission, coming from 8th place on the lap 84 restart to challenge Bradberry for fourth place at the last yellow.
That last caution caused the race to stretch two laps beyond the scheduled 100-lap distance, as All-Pro series rules require the race to finish under a green flag. On that final restart, Carlson was shuffled back to fifth, while Smith continued his charge, passing both Carlson and Bradberry in the last two laps to make the podium.