CARLSON GOES WIRE-TO-WIRE IN KENTUCKY By Jeremy Troiano
Darnell Plays Fuel Mileage Game To Finish Second
After running 80 consecutive green laps, John "Boy" Wilkinson reported to his pit crew that he was planning to run the entire 100 laps at Kentucky Speedway without pitting. If he could, he would win his first NASCAR Southeast Series race of his career and likely move into the series points lead as a rookie.
On lap 92, Wilkinson pitted his #59 for a splash of fuel, giving the lead back to Scott Carlson, who cruised to the end to pick up his second-straight Kentucky Speedway Southeast Series race win.
Carlson, who had the dominating car all night long, led from the drop of the green until lap 69, when he came in for a splash of fuel. Carlson got back out in third, passed then-second place Erik Darnell and waited for the fuel mileage question to wear out. When Wilkinson pitted, it was all Carlson to the end.
"The car was great obviously," said Carlson, who started from the pole. "Of course, we had a little problem in practice where we had a collision with the cones on the track, but we managed to get it fixed and sit on the pole. After a slow start, we were able to build a three- to four-second lead for most of the race.
"We knew that we would have to come in a pit sometime. We were beginning to wonder if John 'Boy' was going to or not. We just ran our race and it all worked out for us. I never imagined that it would go green all of the way, but fortunately, we had a great green flag pit stop."
Come to find out, Wilkinson might have made it to the finish on gas, but had already committed to pit road before he could get back out on the track.
"I didn't think we would have to come in," said John "Boy." "It started missing a bit and we thought it was gas. When it was missing, my tachometer was going haywire and my volt meter was going crazy. We then realized that it wasn't probably fuel, but we had already committed on coming in and were on pit road."
With Wilkinson in the pits, Carlson cruised to the lead and pulled away from Darnell by seven seconds to take his first Southeast Series win in 2003.
John "Boy" Wilkinson (#59) tried to play the fuel mileage game, while Joey Miller (#15) pitted early and finished third.
Darnell was the only driver able to make it the entire 100 laps without pitting, but wasn't able to keep up with Carlson in the early stages of the race, allowing Carlson to get by him at even though the #57 of Carlson had pitted.
"Early in the race we were following the #0 car (Brian Smith) and I was just letting out of the gas a little early on the straights just to conserve. That was the plan from the beginning. Since we are not running for points, we decided that we were going to go for it if it went green.
"We didn't calculate fuel mileage or anything. We just knew what we had to do and tried to get it done. It was as simple as that."
There was little other action in the caution free race. Series point leader Jeff Fultz had a spirited battle with rookie Joey Miller for second, but Fultz fell out just over halfway with rear end problems.
Fultz's problems allowed fourth-place finisher Charlie Bradberry, last week's Nashville Superspeedway winner, to jump into the points lead with Wilkinson taking over second.
Erik Darnell was the only driver to go all 100 laps on fuel.