NASCAR SJAPS: Christian Holds on for First Win of '98
29 August 1998Louisville, Ky. - - Ending a one year victory drought, Sugar Hill, Ga.'s Steven Christian held off Hal Goodson to win the $54,200 BellSouth 300 for the Slim Jim All Pro Series, part of NASCAR's Touring Division, on Friday night at Louisville Motor Speedway. Christian earned $10,200 for the win and moved into third place in the series point standings. The BellSouth Chevrolet driver had to weather a late race caution to earn his sixth career victory.
"At first when the caution waved I didn't want to see it happen but once under caution I wanted it to last so my tires would cool down. I knew Hal (Goodson) was on the charge but Sammy Shumate (crew chief) and my entire BellSouth crew kept me calm throughout the final green flag laps," stated the 28-year-old driver.
To the surprise of many, Concord, N.C.'s Conrad Burr earned the Bud Pole Award, his first of 1998 and second of his career, touring the 7/16th's mile oval in a time of 14.803 seconds, at an average speed of 106.519 mph. Burr and outside polesitter Ron Young were the only two drivers to break the track record of 14.864 seconds, previously held by Louisville, Ky.'s Scot Walters.
A brief rain shower delayed the start of the race by just 10 minutes and the race began under a green-yellow flag condition. Polesitter Burr led the first four laps and when the race went to green flag conditions Conyers, Ga.'s Young shot off into sole possession of the top spot.
Young continued to set the pace until lap 61 when his Enforcer Pest Killer/Cofer Bros. Building Materials Chevrolet slowed dramatically. Young continued to lose positions until he pulled into the pits for repairs. Goodson assumed the point at the wheel of his Nortel/Northern Telecom Chevrolet and maintained the top spot until the yellow flag was displayed for a mandatory caution at lap 100.
Hank Parker, Jr., electing to not pit, then assumed the lead and set the pace until lap 138 when Christian moved into the lead for the first time. The BellSouth Chevrolet driver led until lap 195, picking up the $300 Gatorade Front Runner Award on lap 155 in the process. He then pitted during the race's eighth caution period, brought about after local driver Joe Williamson's SKR Cleaning Service Chevrolet laid down liquid in turn one.
At this point Milford, Oh.'s Jeff Fultz assumed the top spot with David Reutimann, Christian, Billy Bigley, Jr. and Derrick Gilchrist making up the top five for the lap 202 restart. Christian moved by Reutimann on the restart then set his sights on Fultz. The lead duo then raced away from the rest of the lead lap cars. When they approached lapped traffic Christian's attempts to overtake Fultz were repeatedly thwarted as the two had to maneuver around slower cars.
On lap 261 Fultz bobbled coming out of turn one and his slip opened the door for Christian to take over the top spot. Fultz then chased Christian closely, with Goodson slowly reeling in the top two, ultimately pulling up on the leaders on lap 279. On lap 280 the ninth and final caution waved to remove debris spotted in turn one.
Green flag racing resumed on lap 286 with both Christian and Fultz sliding considerably as their tires were all but used up. On lap 293 Fultz got loose coming out of turn one, narrowly escaped a brush with the wall, but his recovery resulted in giving up the runner-up spot to Goodson.
When the checkered flag waved Christian had held off Goodson by a mere 0.241 seconds. Fultz held on for the third position over Bigley and Gilchrist. Rounding out the top 10 were Reutimann, the last car on the lead lap, along with Randy Gentry, Burr, Parker and Young.
Seventeen of the 24 starters were running at the end of the 300-lap race. The race was run in a race record time of one hour, 45 minutes and 36 seconds. Christian's winning average speed was 74.489 mph. Nine caution flags consumed 70 laps and there were six lead changes among six drivers. For the first time in 12 races a new points leader emerged. Goodson now leads Greased Lightning Cleaner Degreaser Chevrolet driver Freddie Query by 26 points, after the Mooresville, N.C. driver was involved in an early race accident that left him 94 laps down with a 17th place finish. Christian moved into third place, 90 points behind Query. Gilchrist and Bigley round out the top five.
For the second week in a row Burkett drove his Big Daddy's BBQ Sauces & Spices Chevrolet to Rookie-of-the Race honors and narrowed the margin between Scott Kilby and himself to just three points. Shumate earned $300 from Jasper Engines & Transmissions for Crew-Chief-of-the-Race honors. Goodson's Crew Chief David Honney continues to close the gap on Alex Query in the chase for Crew-Chief-of-the-Year honors. Honney now trails Query by just 12 points in pursuit of the $3,000 annual award.
The BellSouth 300 will be televised on September 22 at 10:00 p.m. eastern time on The Sunshine Network. Viewers will also find the race on Fox Sports South on September 18 at 8:00 p.m. and on Fox SportsChannel Ohio on October 1 at 8:00 p.m.. Check local listings for air dates and times for Home Team Sports' broadcast.
The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Saturday night, September 5 at Lanier National Speedway in Gainesville, Ga. The Oral B 200 will be the 14th event on the 19-race 1998 Slim Jim All Pro Series schedule.