SES: Season wrap up

Veteran is Champ, Class of '96 Shines in NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series By James F. Noltimier Peachtree City, GA - In a season dominated by the achievements of a stellar sophomore class, a veteran managed to stave off the pack of young...

Veteran is Champ, Class of '96 Shines in NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series By James F. Noltimier

Peachtree City, GA - In a season dominated by the achievements of a stellar sophomore class, a veteran managed to stave off the pack of young lions to earn the 1997 NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series Championship. Darlington, S.C.'s Hal Goodson edged Milford, Oh.'s Jeff Fultz by a scant two points, less than one finishing position, to capture his second series trophy in three years. In the final event of the season, Goodson finished in 17th position, just one position behind Fultz, after battling back from a cut tire on the eighth lap of the Greased Lightning Cleaner 150 at the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex in Homestead, Fla. The championship capped off a roller coaster three-year period for the Citadel graduate as he earned his first series title at the conclusion of 1995, then pursued non NASCAR opportunities in `96, which produced modest results. The driver of the Greased Lightning Cleaner Degreaser Chevrolet came full circle this year by returning to the series and ultimately wrestled the points title away from Fultz. Conyers, Ga.'s Ron Young notched a career best third place points finish. Ironically, when Goodson won the championship in 1995 he also cut down a tire during the last race and had to battle back in a similar fashion during that event. "In '95 we cut a tire down, lost two laps but had a bigger (points) lead then, then and now I managed to hold on for the championship," Goodson stated. Goodson also noted, "At the first of the year I had a local car dealer, Burdette Chevrolet, helping me out some. Along about July Greased Lightning came along to help us out.I'm glad we stuck with it, it was a lot of fun all year, racin' with Jeff (Fultz) for the championship." Fourteen different winners visited victory lane in 1997, eclipsing the previous record of 12 different winners in a season, which occurred in 1991 and 1994. And in those 20 races 11 were won by sophomore drivers with Wildwood, Fla.'s Wayne Anderson leading the series with three trips to the winner's circle. Anderson will be graduating to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1998 as his sponsor Porter Cable Power Tools is upping their support to allow Anderson to hop into a Ford F150 next year. Other sophomore winners included Steven Christian, Derrick Gilchrist and Hank Parker, Jr., each with two wins, along with Nipper Alsup and Fultz who each earned one win. Gilchrist, Alsup, Dick Anderson, Terry Brooks and Carl Long became first time series winners during the 20 race campaign. The Busch Pole competition was equally competitive as there were 14 different drivers who led the starting field to the green flag over the course of 19 events, with one race being started by points when qualifying was washed out due to rain. Raleigh, N.C.'s Derrick Gilchrist captured the award for most Busch Poles as he topped the starting lineup three times in '97. Sophomores Alsup, Christian and Parker each snagged two pole positions while Fultz also paced the field once. Alsup, Christian, Fultz, Gilchrist, John Crow, Jimmy Garmon, Bobby Hamilton, Sr., Freddie Query and Sean Studer earned their first career poles during the season, with Alsup, Christian and Gilchrist going on to earn additional pole starts as well. Zephyrhills, Fla.'s David Reutimann dominated the Port City Racing Rookie of the Year competition, earning rookie of the race honors seven times in 20 races. The driver of the Raymond Cheshire owned Sunstate Recycling Chevrolet finished second at Volusia County and Louisville Motor Speedways to secure his top career finishes during his initial foray into NASCAR Touring Series competition. While Reutimann amassed an insurmountable point total to win the rookie championship, the battle for the runner-up rookie spot was undecided until the checkered flag waved on the final event of the season. Concord, N.C.'s Studer persevered over Steven Howard and Carl Long to capture the runner-up spot. Studer's stretch run was solidified after he placed his Old El Paso Mexican Style Foods Chevrolet on the pole for the season ending event at Homestead, Fla. Larry Rapp, who leads the team efforts for driver Ron Young, captured the annual award for the Jasper Engines and Transmissions Crew Chief Challenge. On the strength of 11 top five finishes, best in the series in '97, Rapp outdistanced Goodson's top wrench Delbert Ray by eight points. The team's achievements are all the more impressive as they build each of their cars from the ground up, and also operate with less sponsorship funding than more well heeled teams. All in all, the 1997 season will be remembered as one of the most competitive in the seven year history of the series. But more importantly a new crop of stars has emerged and the class of 1996 will continue to be a force to be reckoned with when the green flag drops on the '98 season. The NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series is a true training ground for the NASCAR stars of tomorrow and the class of '96 is definitely looking forward to tomorrow. -30-

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Drivers Bobby Hamilton , David Reutimann , Ron Young , Carl Long , Wayne Anderson