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MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

Nemechek Wins at Las Vegas

March 02, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — Joe Nemechek won the pole for the NASCAR Busch Series race during SpeedWeeks at Daytona Beach, Fla., last month, but he missed the race because of flu. He also missed last week's race at Rockingham, N.C.

This week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway he was back in his wife Andrea's No. 87 Chevrolet and he made the most of it by winning the Sam's Town 300 Saturday before an estimated 90,000 after an hour rain delay in mid-race.

Nemechek, 49, a veteran of 12 years running both Busch and Winston Cup cars, took the lead for keeps on Lap 168 when Todd Bodine spun into the infield trying to hold off Nemechek.

"Todd just got awful loose down there and it got away from him," said Nemechek. "He was racing me awful tough and must have caught some air off my car."

It was a Chevrolet day as Kevin Harvick, Mike Bliss and Steve Park followed Nemechek across the finish line.

"I hated to miss Daytona," said Nemechek. "It was the sickest I ever remember being, so it felt good to get in the winner's circle today."

Harvick led 93 laps and Nemechek 46, all of them late in the race as he had to work his way up from the 29th starting position. The first time he took the lead came after a caution flag period following the rain delay.

"We decided to gamble on taking on fuel only while the other guys were taking on tires and fuel and it paid off with track position when we came out [of the pits] ahead."

The win was the 13th of Nemechek's career, but his first in seven starts at Las Vegas. His best previous finish was second in 1999.

*

Michael Andretti's debut as a car owner Saturday was successful. Tony Kanaan gave the new Andretti-Green Racing team the pole and a front-row sweep for today's Toyota-Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the opening event of the Indy Racing League season.

Former CART champion Andretti, the first driver to take a qualifying lap, went 203.014 mph. His speed seemed like a good bet to hold up for the pole, but Kanaan went 203.560 mph.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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