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NASCAR SJAPS: Gilchrist Gallops to Winchester 400 Win

29 September 1998

Winchester, Ind. - Raleigh, N.C.'s Derrick Gilchrist earned the biggest payday of his career when he held off Freddie Query to win the 29th Annual Snap-On Tools/Roger Holdeman Memorial Winchester 400 at Winchester Speedway. The driver of the Hamke Race Cars & Parts Chevrolet pocketed $14,900 of the $86,925 purse for his second win of the year, and fourth of his career, in the Slim Jim All Pro Series, part of NASCAR's Touring Division.

"I'd like to thank Robert Hamke, if it weren't for him I wouldn't be here right now. It was a tough one and we didn't think we were going to run that good at the beginning. We had an evaporation problem with the fuel and we ended up having to buy different fuel about halfway through and empty out all of our other fuel cans and put different fuel in so we were runnin' around until lap 200 and finally got all that other fuel out. Then it started running again and we were able to come back up through the field," stated the Raleigh, N.C. native.

On Friday afternoon, Milford, Oh.'s Fultz earned his first Bud Pole Award of the year as he outran 27 other drivers during first round qualifying. He drove his Jani-King Chevrolet around the 0.500 mile oval in a time of 15.990 seconds at an average speed of 112.570 mph. Fultz's pole run was the second of his career.

Polesitter Fultz elected to start from the outside of the front row in his Jani-King Chevrolet sending second starter Hal Goodson to the inside of the front row. Goodson took charge at the drop of the green flag, winning the battle into turn one and proceeded to lead until lap 55 when defending race champion Hank Parker, Jr., already off the lead lap, served as a pick allowing Fultz to take command.

Fultz maintained the lead until lap 87, giving up the point to pit during the race's second caution brought about after a spin by Josh Clemons. When green flag racing resumed on lap 94 Plymouth, Ind.'s Brian Ross, who chose not to pit with the rest of the leaders, set the pace at the wheel of his R&R Fabrication Pontiac Grand Prix. Ross maintained the lead for 68 laps until Fultz ran him down when Ross's tires were all but used up. Ross was finally able to pit for tires during the fourth caution period on lap 181 but his day ended on lap 212 when he hit the outside retaining wall coming out of turn two.

The seventh caution period may have been one of the most significant of 1998 when series points leader Hal Goodson smacked the wall between turns one and two on a lap 227 restart. Goodson's Nortel/Northern Telecom Chevrolet was sidelined for the balance of the event, and his tenuous 21-point lead was placed in serious jeopardy.

Greer, S.C.'s Steven Howard led the field back to green on lap 236, leading for a season-high 82 laps, and appeared to have things well in hand.

On lap 298 Fultz joined a growing list of drivers who got up close and personal with the outside wall and his day was over shortly thereafter with brake failure. During this, the eighth caution, Howard pitted and his crew went under the hood of the Greer Flooring Center/Trucks & More Chevrolet. When the green flag was again displayed Gilchrist became the fifth different driver, and last driver to lead the race.

Howard's woes escalated and by the end of the event he was running at less than full song. The only challenge left for Gilchrist was one final restart on lap 400, with Greased Lightning Cleaner Degreaser Chevrolet driver Freddie Query being afforded one last shot at the leader. Query's mount was not up to the task and he finished 1.074 seconds behind Gilchrist. Howard secured a career-best third place finish, and was the last car on the lead lap. Ron Young and Scott Riggs completed the top five, each running 400 laps. Rounding out the top 10 were Ken Weaver, David Reutimann, Sean Studer, Keith Gardner and Randy Gentry.

Gilchrist covered the 401 laps in two hours, 33 minutes and 49 seconds at a winning average speed of 78.20 mph. There were a total of 11 caution periods totaling 74 laps and there were eight lead changes amongst five drivers. Seventeen of 29 starters were running at the end of the race. After Query battled back from being one lap down to a runner-up finish he darted into the point lead and now leads Goodson by 49 points with three races left to run. Gilchrist, Steven Christian and Billy Bigley, Jr. continue to round out the top five.

Richard Petty Driving Experience Pontiac Grand Prix driver Trent Owens earned Rookie-of-the-Race honors, finishing in the 11th position. Rookie points leader Scott Kilby mustered only a 28th place finish, tightening the rookie chase between Ronnie Burkett and himself. With three races left to go Kilby leads Burkett by a scant four points.

Robert Hamke picked up the Jasper Engines & Transmissions Crew-Chief-of-the-Race honors, making many Indiana family members in attendance very happy as well.

The next event for the Slim Jim All Pro Series is Saturday, October 3 at Concord Motorsport Park in Concord, N.C. The Food Lion/Greased Lightning 200 will be the 17th event on the 19-race 1998 Slim Jim All Pro Series schedule and will mark the second year in a row that the series will race at the lightning-fast half-mile trioval.