NASCAR SJAPS: Query Chops Down the Competition at I-70
23 May 1998Odessa, Mo. - Freddie Query, on the strength of an outstanding pit stop, earned his third win of the season in the $57,920 Price Chopper 250 at I-70 Speedway on Friday night. The victory was worth $10,900 to the driver of the Greased Lightning Cleaner Degreaser Chevrolet and moved him into third on the career wins list for the Slim Jim All Pro Series, part of NASCAR's Touring Division.
In victory lane Query was surrounded by Jack Sprague's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Crew who executed pit duties for the Slim Jim All Pro Series points leader. "A lot of credit goes to Jack's crew for helping us out tonight. When we go to the races it's usually Alex (son and crew chief), Elaine (wife) and myself. They told me that they could do a four tire change in 18 seconds. They've been practicing against Jeff Gordon's crew and they did a whale of a job to get me out first," Query stated. In a reciprocating gesture, all of Sprague's excited crew obtained Query's autograph on a Price Chopper hat.
Billy Bigley, Jr. picked up his third Bud Pole Award of 1998 as he streaked around the 0.543-mile high banked oval in a time of 16.647 seconds at an average speed of 117.427 mph. The Bilstein Shocks/Team ASE Chevrolet driver now leads the annual chase for most Bud Pole Awards, with Query trailing with two.
Bigley took full advantage of his top starting position to lead the 32 car field into turn one and quickly took control of the 250 lap race. Outside pole sitter Mike Harmon maneuvered his Horizon Motorsports Chevrolet into single file order behind the leader with David Reutimann, Query and Derrick Gilchrist in hot pursuit.
The aforementioned top five held their positions throughout the first half of the race, with Bigley picking up the $300 Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading at the halfway point. Shortly thereafter Reutimann spun coming out of turn four bringing out the caution flag and setting up wholesale pit stops by the 15 lead lap cars in the process. Coupling the last pit position with the skilled Sprague crew Query exited pit road first. On lap 169 the race was red flagged to clean up an accident involving Fairfield, Ca.'s Jim Inglebright and Fenton, Mo.'s Joe Walsh. The duo was battling for the ninth and 10th positions when they got together on the front stretch. Walsh was shaken up but otherwise uninjured, although the same could not be said for his Posi-Lock
Connectors Chevrolet. When green flag racing resumed second place points man Steven Christian was unable to refire his BellSouth Chevrolet and was done for the evening. Query, Gilchrist, Ron Young, Bigley, Harmon and Conrad Burr kept the fans on the edge of their seats for the remainder of the event as they battled amongst each other for position, all the while picking their way through lapped cars.
When the checkered flag flew Query held off Gilchrist by 1.004 seconds. Young secured his top finish of 1998 with his third place finish. Bigley settled for fourth after having to make a late pit stop for a bent rim and Harmon also notched his best finish of the season with a fifth place run. Burr wound up sixth and was the last car on the lead lap. Rounding out the top 10 were top finishing rookie Scott Kilby, Scott Riggs, 1997 Slim Jim All Pro Series Champion Hal Goodson and local hotshoe Chad Nolting. Goodson was fortunate to just start the race. He and Gilchrist were involved in a practice crash with Gilchrist being forced to turn to a backup car. Goodson, having no backup with him, borrowed Ronnie Burkett's Big Daddy's BBQ Sauces & Spices Chevrolet and drove to a conservative ninth place run.
Sixty four laps were eaten up by 11 cautions and the race was run in one hour, 53 minutes and 39 seconds. Query's winning average speed was 65.992 mph. In recent weeks Query's points lead had shrunk to 49 points but coming out of this event he now holds a 67 point advantage over Gilchrist who moves into the runnerup position. Bigley jumps up to the third spot and trails Gilchrist by 18 markers. Christian's engine failure drops him from second to fourth and Reutimann rounds out the top five, one point behind Christian. Goodson, Kilby, young, Mardy Lindley and Burkett complete the top 10. With his seventh place finish Statesville, Ga.'s Kilby has overtaken Burkett in the Rookie of the Year standings.
The driver of the Electric Lite/Southern Insurance Chevrolet now enjoys a slim two point margin over Sorrento, Fla.'s Burkett with Nevin Jenkins trailing Burkett by four points. Alex Query picked up $300 from Jasper Engines & Transmissions to earn the Crew Chief Challenge award for the third time this season. He now leads Robert Hamke by 10 points in the season long crew chief chase. The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Saturday night, June 13 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Harris Teeter 250 will be the eighth event on the 19-race Slim Jim All Pro Series schedule.