By Bill Desmond MONTGOMERY, AL. (June 2 2001) -- When Eddie Mercer last visited Montgomery Motor Speedway in 1995 he left the track in an ambulance with a broken leg after being involved in a racing incident with another ...
By Bill Desmond
MONTGOMERY, AL. (June 2 2001) -- When Eddie Mercer last visited Montgomery Motor Speedway in 1995 he left the track in an ambulance with a broken leg after being involved in a racing incident with another racing organization.
When he left Montgomery Motor Speedway Saturday night he was in a much better mood and much happier after winning the Gatorade All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring $49,950 Express Oil Change 200. This was Mercer's first series victory in 45 career starts.
"Man this feels great," said the man known throughtout the south as "Fast Eddie". "When Everwood came onboard as our sponsor I told them we would bring them a win. Tonight we delivered. I am so thankful for all the folks at Everwood for their support this year but I have to also give a great big thank you to James Finch with Phoenix Construction. James has helped this team so long. And what about my guys, they have been with me for years."
"I knew my tires were fresher than Billy's (Bigley) and towards the end he got real loose in turn four. I tried a number of times to get the air off his spoiler but he is a touch competitor. We touched but every time we did I backed off."
"That was good Saturday night short-track racing," said Bigley after the event.. "We rubbed and touched a few times but I knew I was loose so I just tried to keep my line on the track. When he got under me in turn one, I just let him go so we both didn't wreck."
Bigley turned in an outstanding race after taking a provisional to start his Peerless Woodworking Chevrolet. He had competed in a delayed NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Dover Downs in the morning and didn't arrive at the track until after practice. He took his qualifying with no practice laps ending up with a 28th starting position.
When asked about his double-duty stint after the race, Bigley's only comment was his back was a little sore.
Jeff Fultz captured his first Bud Pole start of the 2001 campaign putting his C & C Boiler/Cleaver Brooks Chevrolet on the point with a fast lap of 19.964 Secs (90.162 mph). Fultz also started first on the grid in the 2000 event at Montgomery. Outside front row was Mercer's Everwood/Phoenix Construction Chevrolet.
Defending race winner and series points leader Wayne Anderson wasted little time establishing his strength when he put his Jani-King Chevrolet in second at the green flag.
He chased Fultz's car for the next seven laps before taking the lead in turn three. But his night ended just as fast when his car had mechanical problems and hit the outside retaining wall coming off turn four on lap 11. He spent many laps in the garage with his team making repairs before he returned on lap 67.
Fultz regained the point with Mercer chasing, but race fans had their eyes on Bigley who was moving as fast at the jet that brought him from Dover Downs. By lap 28 he was running fifth, on lap 43 he took over second and just three laps later he took his Chevrolet low in turn three on Mercer and into the lead.
"Our car was strong," said Bigley. "I probably pitted too early and just had too many laps on the tires because over the last 30 or 40 laps the stagger went away and the car got real loose. Eddie had fresher tires and he was determined to get his first win. My hat is off to him because he is truly one of the finest short-track competitors anywhere."
Over the the last 125 laps Mercer and Bigley played cat and mouse with each other with Mercer leading 28 laps then Bigley leading with Mercer trying numerous times to get under Bigley's machine in turn four before just settling into second position.
The race had to be red flagged on lap 136 when the car of Randy Gentry clipped the left rear of Charlie Bradberry's machine in turn one sending Bradberry's car to the outside retaining wall. The car had to be taken from the track on a rollback truck.
Bradberry was running fourth with Gentry in fifth. Gentry went low in the turn and the two cars touched.
The field went back to green on lap 178 after the 10th race caution with Bigley's car getting a good start. But Mercer was not about to let this win get away staying on the back bumper of Bigley car finally making his strong move to the front on lap 186.
The race produced 10 caution flags for 55 laps with four different drivers changing the lead eight times.
Rounding out the top ten finishers was Crane, Wireway/Husky Corporation Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Jody Lavender, Benny Gordon, Jimmy Foster and John Wilkinson III.
With Bigley leading the most laps, 111, he won the Gatorade "FrontRunner" Award picking up an additional $500 while Mercer's Crew Chief, Jimmy Wainwright, won $300 as the Jasper Engines & Transmission Crew Chief of the Race. Mercer was the recipient of the Gatorade Championship Performance Award winner. Lavender was the top finishing Wireway/Husky Rookie contender.
The next event for the Gatorade All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring will be the $95,550 Kentucky 150 presented by The Lexington Herald-Ledger on June 15 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.
<pre> OFFICIAL FINISH AND LAPS COMPLETED: 1. Eddie Mercer, 200; 2. Billy Bigley Jr., 200; 3. Randy Gentry, 200; 4. Shane Sieg, 200; 5. Jeff Fultz, 200; 6. Ryan Crane, 200; 7. Jody Lavender, 199; 8. Benny Gordon, 199; 9. Jimmy Foster, 199; 10. John Wilkinson III, 199; 11. Johnny Brazier, 199; 12. Steven Howard, 199; 13. Ken Weaver, 198; 14. Roger Parker, 198; 15. Greg Pope, 198; 16. Casey Yunick, 198; 17. Donald Long, 196; 18. Stanley Smith, 195; 19. Richie Beasley, 194; 20. Allen Karnes, 189; 21. Darrell Brown, 188, Fuel; 22. Billy Mills, 174; 23. Cecil Chunn, 161, Accident; 24. Brian Smith, 143, Engine; 25. Wayne Anderson, 143; 26. Charlie Bradberry, 133, Accident; 27. Chad Bland, 100, Transmission; 28. Wayne Bowen, 92, Engine; 29. Kevin Prince, 73, Wheel Bearing; 30. David Reutimann, 1, Engine; 31. A. J. Frank, 1, Transmission; 32. Chris Fontaine, 0, Timing Chain. TIME OF RACE: 1 Hr. 41 Mins. 01 Secs. AVERAGE SPEED: 59.377 mph MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.467 Secs. CAUTION PERIODS: 10 For 55 Laps LAP LEADERS: Jeff Fultz, Pole - 8; Wayne Anderson, 9-10; Fultz, 11-40; Eddie Mercer, 41-46; Billy Bigley Jr., 47-75; Fultz, 76; Mercer, 77-104; Bigley, 105-186; Mercer, 187 - 200.
GATORADE ALL PRO SERIES, NASCAR TOURING TOP TEN IN POINTS: (Unofficial) 1. Randy Gentry, 912; 2. Wayne Anderson, 874; 3. Billy Bigley Jr., 814; 4. Shane Sieg, 797; 5. David Reutimann, 781; 6. Eddie Mercer, 779; 7. Jeff Fultz, 772; 8. Steven Howard, 750; 9. Ryan Crane, 720; 10. Stanley Smith, 680.