NASCAR-SJAPS: Bigley is Best at St. Augustine
20 April 1998St. Augustine, FL - Last week Billy Bigley, Jr. chased Freddie Query for 200 laps, ultimately coming up 0.04 seconds short in his victory bid at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Va. Last night, at St. Augustine Speedway in St. Augustine, Fla., he was not to be denied as he battled back after losing the lead on lap 145 to win the $47,950 Winn Dixie 200 for the Slim Jim All Pro Series, part of NASCAR's Touring Division.
"Sometimes people think that when you lead a lot of laps it was easy but I spent most of the night looking in my mirror to see who I needed to hold off," an elated Bigley noted. "Someone once told me that wins don't come very often so savor every moment when it happens. I could stay here in victory lane all night after this one," stated the Naples, Fla. driver. Bigley enhanced his chances of a win by setting a new track record during Bud Pole qualifying. He drove his Bilstein Shocks/Team ASE Chevrolet to the top of the speed charts with a lap of 16.863 seconds at a top speed of 106.743 mph, and was the only one of the 31 starters to best last year's time of 16.983 seconds established by Steven Christian.
At the start Bigley got a good start and quickly assumed the lead over Conyers, Ga.'s Ron Young who moved under outside polesitter Sean Studer to grab the second position. Only eight laps were run under green when the first caution was displayed for a spinning Bobby Coyle. Collected in the incident was Derrick Gilchrist who sustained right front sheet metal damage on his Hamke Race Cars & Parts Chevrolet.
Green flag conditions resumed on lap 13 with Bigley leading Young, Studer, Pete Orr and Bobby Gill. The next caution did not occur until lap 99 when Mardy Lindley and rookie points leader Ronnie Burkett got together in turn two. The lengthy green flag period that preceded the second caution saw many positions changing within the top 10 as 1997 Slim Jim All Pro Series Champion Hal Goodson worked his way into the second spot after starting ninth in his Nortel/Northern Telecom Chevrolet. Gill was positioned in third, Jimmy Cope had maneuvered from 13th to fourth and Gilchrist had recovered to return to the top five in fifth.
During the resultant caution period the leaders pitted and most took on four fresh Hoosier tires. To start the second half of the 200 lap grind Bigley picked up where he had left off by again setting the pace under green. Goodson was applying heavy pressure when Conrad Burr spun in turn four on lap 145. Bigley had nowhere to go and was forced to break hard to avoid Burr. Goodson and Gilchrist seized the opportunity, ducked low on the track, and moved into the first and second positions respectively. Just two laps later the final caution waved as Studer executed a lazy spin in turn two. Goodson took the green flag on lap 150 with Gilchrist and Bigley nose-to-tail behind the leader. On lap 151 Bigley moved by Gilchrist into second and on the 158th tour of the 0.500 mile d-shaped oval he regained the top spot for good.
Bigley held off Gilchrist by a narrow margin of 0.05 seconds to record his first Slim Jim All Pro Series win of 1998, and the third of his career. Bigley accomplished the fete in a record time of one hour, 19 minutes and 11 seconds at an average speed of 75.77 mph. He earned $9,600 in his first ever visit to the track. Gilchrist posted his best finish of 1998 with a second, Goodson wound up third while point leader Freddie Query held off Gill for fourth. Rounding out the top 10 were David Reutimann, Cope, Top finishing rookie Nevin Jenkins, Ronnie Burkett and Randy Gentry.
Query maintains his points lead while Burkett returns to the second position after a one race absence. Reutimann now occupies the third spot while Bigley moves from seventh to fourth after his win. Rounding out the top five is Christian who dropped from the second spot, largely as a result of a motor problem that hindered the BellSouth Chevrolet driver from the start of the race. The sixth through 10th positions are now held by Goodson, Gilchrist, Gentry, Lindley and Scott Kilby.
Jenkins earned rookie of the race honors by edging rookie points leader Burkett by one finishing position. The Futronix Chevrolet driver now holds sole possession of the second spot in the rookie standings, eight points behind leader Burkett.
Bigley's father Bill Sr. earned the Jasper Engines & Transmissions Crew Chief Challenge for leading the team's effort to victory lane. Bigley, Sr. is now positioned in the second position in the season-long chase for the Crew Chief Challenge behind Alex Query. Query currently holds a 14 point lead in this category.
The Winn Dixie 200 is scheduled to air on Home Team Sports on Friday, May 8 at 2:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, May 20 at 10:00 p.m. on The Sunshine Network. As of this writing the scheduled air time on Fox Sports South is not available. All times listed are Eastern Time. The Lowes Foods/Greased Lightning 200 will be broadcast tape delayed on April 25 at 4:00 p.m. on Home Team Sports, Fox Sports South and The Sunshine Network.
The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Saturday night, April 25 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.. The Bi-Lo BonusCard 200 is the fifth event of the 19-race 1998 Slim Jim All Pro Series Schedule and represents the first of two events to be held in '98 at the venerable 0.500 mile oval.