“I can be fast at Winchester, but I haven’t had any luck there. I lost the championship last year by seven points in the last race of the season at Winchester,” said Atkinson. “You can’t win with a flat tire on the pace lap. But I like the track, it’s probably one of my favorites because it just a big wide open track. Is the championship still in my reach? We’ll see after we get through the crashes of Anderson tonight.”
Spillers echoed Atkinson’s comments
“The championship is certainly shaping up between the three of us and I hate to say it but it will come down to the guy that doesn’t have bad luck. Jason’s is a tough competitor and I’d like to keep him back there,” said Spillers. “Mark’s a great driver and I think it’ll probably come down to the two of us. We are getting ready to head into the stretch that has my best track. I’ve got a win there, and a worst finish of 3rd – plus a lot of seconds, which I seem to be stuck in. This season we’ve had three races that we should have won. But I guess the chase is on.”
Of the three drivers, Lambert has had the least amount of experience at Winchester. His crew chief is his Dad, Alan. They have great volunteer help including the crew of injured driver Greg Van Alst for the past two races.
“Like Jason and K.C. stated – it will come down to Winchester. They both run really well there and I haven’t had the opportunity to really turn laps there. So we don’t have hardly any data relative to a set-up,” Lambert said. “So we can’t take a single point for granted and are happy to have any help we can find. We’ve had some tough luck this season and I’m frustrated that we haven’t had a win yet this season. But I appreciate the support we’ve had and the opportunity to compete, so I’m looking forward to the last half of the season.”
Qualifying for the last Anderson race of the season posted Lambert in second, Spillers in fourth and Atkinson in eighth. With the invert, Lambert would be chasing Spillers and Atkinson. With a full field, the racing was nothing less than spectacular. Several wall-banging crashes would collect drivers in the back and provide moving chicanes for the leaders.
Atkinson, while in the lead, was doing all he could to hold on to the lead and ultimately retired with transmission issues, posting a finish of 13th. Lambert, who moved into second by lap 27, was in pursuit of the leader who made a poor decision in lap traffic, stacking the field up. Whether by skill or by luck, both Lambert and Spillers avoided the carnage and found themselves up front, with Lambert in the lead. With only a handful of laps remaining, one more yellow slowed the field. The green flag would wave with Lambert leading and Spillers in fourth. Once on the throttle, Lambert got some help from a car behind him and pushed him up the track, just enough that the field went three wide through the turn. When it was all said and done. Lambert would take second and Spillers would finish third.
“It’s gotten a little physical out there – but that’s the nature of this type of racing,” Spillers said post-race.
Atkinson, after retiring with transmission issues, is now 43 points back. Spillers is down 10 and Lambert still retains the championship points lead with 578 points. There are five points races remaining, with the season finale set for Winchester (Ind.) Speedway on Oct. 12.