LONG POND, Pa. -- Kyle Petty led 148 of the 200 laps, but his victory yesterday in the Champion Spark Plug 500 at Pocono International Raceway was anything but simple.
Petty had to maneuver his way through a late caution flag, then surge past Sterling Martin with 16 laps remaining -- this after TC narrowly steering past a fan who had wandered onto the track halfway through the race -- before he could claim his first victory of the 1993 NASCAR season.
Petty beat pole-sitter Ken Schrader by 4.9 seconds and earned $44,960. Harry Gant finished third and Jimmy Spencer placed fourth. Petty moved from seventh to fourth in the Winston Cup point standings. Dale Earnhardt still leads in points after finishing 11th.
This race was still up for grabs as the four front-runners -- Petty, Gant, Davey Allison and Morgan Shepherd -- entered pit row at lap 176 and rejoined the field at almost the same moment. Martin took over the lead and soon after the sixth caution was signaled when Geoff Bodine sputtered on the track. At the time, Petty wasn't sure what was happening.
"The only thing I was worried about under the caution was exactly what happened," he said. "On the restart, you go down into the first corner and everybody crashes. Your car can get caught up in a crash not of your making. Somebody ran into the back of me when Rick [Mast] spun. You do worry about things like that.
"As far as passing those guys in front of me, I really wasn't worried about passing them because I knew they didn't have on new tires. I knew if I could get around them quick, while my tires were good, then I wasn't going to have any problem."
Petty passed Martin with 16 laps to go and immediately extended his lead. And when he reached victory lane, Petty jumped on top of his car and videotaped the cheerful atmosphere, the final scene in his week-long travel documentary.
Petty had arrived at Pocono Thursday evening after an eight-day, 1,700-mile motorcycle trip that took him from Charlotte, N.C., through Dover, Del. -- where he failed to complete last weekend's Budweiser 500 -- and then on to New England before he swung back into Pennsylvania.
The scariest problem came earlier, on lap 106, when a spectator ran onto the track. Police said Chad Blaine Kohl, 25, of Ephrata, Pa., narrowly avoided being killed. Petty and Allison were one-two coming around the first corner, a 14-degree turn which leads onto a 3,055-foot straightaway, where Kohl was standing.
"I thought he had stopped in the middle of the race track," Petty said. "I let off as I came off the corner, checked up a little bit and gave a wave to Davey and he checked up. I turned left and motioned in my rear view mirror for him to go left to give the guy room to go on across the wall.
"When we got there his feet were sticking out over the wall. Half of him was on the race track and half of him was off. Davey was shaking his head. I don't think he could believe it either.
"I wouldn't have wanted to be that close to him in a road car running 55 [mph], much less in a race car running 150 or 160. We were bearing down on him so quick that I don't know how close we were. We were a whole lot faster than just crossing the street in New York City."
Police apprehended Kohl in the swampy area just outside the track. He was charged with seven offenses -- including two felonies and public drunkenness -- and placed in the Monroe County Jail pending a court hearing today.
Seventeen drivers failed to finish the 500-mile race. Rusty Wallace, who came to the Champion Spark Plug second in Winston Cup standings, had engine trouble and couldn't get through the fourth lap, dropping to fifth in the points race.
"I blew an engine," Wallace said. "It just locked up and shut down and that was it. I don't know why it locked up on me. Maybe we'll have some more answers when we get back to the shop. This was really, really devastating for us in the points. We've just got to take what's given to us and try to make the best of it."