Sunday, June 15, 2003

Sellout crowd sees victory by Hamilton


But Ky. hopes for Winston Cup dim

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Bobby Hamilton Jr. #25, driving a Ford, leads Shane Hall #49 in the Meijer 300.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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SPARTA, Ky. - For three weeks, Bobby Hamilton Jr. has praised the professional qualities of his new crew chief, Harold Holly.

Hamilton fired former chief Fred Wanke and hired Holly in mid-season because he said Holly possessed the industry knowledge needed to take his No. 25 Marines Ford into the top five of the Busch Series standings. Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, Hamilton and Team Rensi demonstrated exactly why they made that move by dominating the Meijer 300 in front of 69,366.

Hamilton won his second career Busch Series race and first this season by leading most of the race, including the final three laps, and holding off second-place finisher Jason Keller.

Hamilton spent some 20 laps stalking Keller from second place, looking for every opportunity to duck below Keller's No. 57 Ford. He finally mustered enough horsepower to get by Keller on lap 198, going on to finish first in a race he dominated from the start.

In a race that saw the first 70 laps go by caution free, Hamilton built a six-second lead over the field through 60 laps, when only 18 of 43 cars remained on the lead lap. Hamilton had fallen to 12th place after a mistake on a pit stop forced him to pit twice halfway through the race, but he was within a half-second of the lead by lap 127.

"On the radio my guys were saying, 'It don't matter, we'll get them,' "

Keller took over first after leader Scott Riggs was spun out by Ron Hornaday on lap 166.

Hamilton quickly moved from fifth to second, setting up the shootout finish.

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Pole-sitter Stacy Compton #59 was in second place after 60 of the 200 laps in the race.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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For Holly, the win meant a little more than usual because he is a former crew chief for Riggs, who is a PPC Racing teammate of Keller. Since Holly has joined Team Rensi, Hamilton has finished sixth, fifth and now first.

The weekend was bittersweet for Kentucky Speedway, which sold out its third straight Busch Race but found out it is not part of Winston Cup's realignment plan for 2004. Although the race was a sellout, this was the first time in three races the Busch Series event did not attract at least 70,000 fans.

NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. and president Mike Helton announced on Friday from Michigan International Speedway that races involving tracks in California, North Carolina and South Carolina would be shuffled next year. Those same NASCAR officials failed to show for Saturday's Meijer 300, which Kentucky Speedway owner Jerry Carroll attributed to poor flying weather in Northern Kentucky.

"We're just disappointed in the timing," Carroll said. "It always seems like announcements are made the Friday before our race."

Carroll certainly would not have minded so much if the announcement had included a word about Kentucky Speedway, but the developer has yet to hear from NASCAR regarding the track's Winston Cup chances for next season. Carroll still holds out hope that the speedway could land The Winston, NASCAR's All-Star event scheduled in mid-May, at least on a rotating basis. Carroll has made his case in the sports pages, written a letter to NASCAR and put on the top stand-alone Busch race the last three seasons. NASCAR has responded with non-committal remarks, saying Kentucky Speedway is Winston Cup-ready but nothing more. Carroll would have liked Helton to attend Saturday's race.

"It's important for us for him to see this atmosphere," Carroll said. "Seeing this Busch race, he's got to think, what a location for Winston Cup."

Now, with the Busch race completed, it's time to be heard a little louder Carroll said.

"We respect NASCAR's judgment," Carroll said. "We have to. But we're promoting this place like all get out."

Carroll has yet to pester NASCAR again about a Cup date, but he said he'll have some questions at the end of the season if Kentucky Speedway is not part of the 2004 schedule, as it is beginning to appear will be the situation.

"We want to know why," Carroll said. "What happened - we want to know."

Results (Car number in parentheses)

1. (2) Bobby Hamilton Jr., Ford, 200 laps, $95,270.

2. (15) Jason Keller, Ford, 200, $69,725.

3. (4) Ron Hornaday Jr., Chevrolet, 200, $51,860.

4. (1) Stacy Compton, Chevrolet, 200, $38,375.

5. (10) Scott Wimmer, Chevrolet, 200, $36,675.

6. (19) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 200, $34,875.

7. (13) Ashton Lewis Jr., Chevrolet, 200, $27,905.

8. (3) David Green, Pontiac, 200, $32,175.

9. (16) Casey Atwood, Chevrolet, 200, $20,450.

10. (8) David Stremme, Dodge, 200, $27,325.

11. (7) Kasey Kahne, Ford, 199, $24,600.

12. (22) Wally Dallenbach Jr, Ford, 199, $18,875.

13. (25) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 199, $22,700.

14. (17) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 198, $17,850.

15. (35) Coy Gibbs, Chevrolet, 197, $21,895.

16. (37) Joey Clanton, Pontiac, 197, $19,650.

17. (12) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 197, $26,795.

18. (31) Lance Norick, Dodge, 196, $19,150.

19. (6) Shane Hmiel, Chevrolet, 196, $21,045.

20. (43) Ron Young, Chevrolet, 195, $19,720.

21. (21) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 194, $16,775.

22. (23) Gus Wasson, Chevrolet, 192, $16,650.

23. (40) Larry Gunselman, Chevrolet, 192, $20,850.

24. (30) Steadman Marlin, Dodge, 191, $16,375.

25. (41) Jason White, Chevrolet, 191, $16,350.

26. (33) Dwayne Leik, Chevrolet, 191, $16,125.

27. (36) Kenny Hendrick, Chevrolet, 189, $16,000.

28. (34) Shane Hall, Ford, 184, $17,875.

29. (14) Todd Bodine, Chevrolet, 179, $15,770.

30. (5) Scott Riggs, Ford, 174, $25,280.

31. (11) Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 164, accident, $19,570.

32. (38) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 160, accident, $19,360.

33. (39) Brad Teague, Ford, 149, accident, $19,680.

34. (27) Kerry Earnhardt, Chevy, 139, accident, $17,220.

35. (20) Mike Harmon, Chevy, 139, accident, $15,110.

36. (42) Jason Schuler, Ford, 124, accident, $15,075.

37. (9) David Reutimann, Chevy, 87, engine, $17,040.

38. (18) Randy LaJoie, Chevrolet, 79, engine, $17,005.

39. (32) Tim Sauter, Chevrolet, 63, engine failure, $14,970.

40. (24) Jay Sauter, Chevrolet, 41, vibration, $14,935.

41. (28) Jeff Streeter, Chevrolet, 28, engine, $14,905.

42. (26) Morgan Shepherd, Chevy, 9, vibration, $14,870.

43. (29) Jimmy Kitchens, Pontiac, 3, overheating, $14,831.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.108 mph.

Margin of Victory: 0.488 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 25 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers.

Top 5 in Points: D. Green, 2,180; S.Riggs, 2,134; T.Bodine, 2,108; R.Hornaday Jr., 2,082; J.Keller, 2,055; B.Vickers, 2,031; B.Hamilton Jr., 2,018; M. Bliss, 1,938; J. Sauter, 1,926; S. Wimmer, 1,887.




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