Winder's Mark Gibson Wins ARCA 400 At Atlanta Motor Speedway
Saturday, March 8, 2003
After 33 starts and almost three decades of racing around Atlanta Motor Speedway, Georgia¿s own Mark Gibson finally found his way to Victory Lane, winning Saturday¿s ARCA 400.
¿This was sweet,¿ Gibson said. ¿This place owed us. We¿ve been so close so many times, and we finally did it. This is unbelievable.¿
Gibson, a longtime resident of Winder, Ga., said he didn¿t realize how good his car was until the race started on Saturday. He was using a new setup from younger brother Tony Gibson, who is the crew chief for Steve Park¿s NASCAR Winston Cup car.
¿Tony called me on the phone and told us to change these three springs, this bite in the car and the gear,¿ Gibson said. ¿We did it. We¿d never done anything like that before. We¿d never raced something we didn¿t try. I didn¿t know if we had a chance until we started the race; and that thing took off.¿
Gibson outran 17-year-old Shelby Howard, who ended up second, and Jason Jarrett, who finished third.
¿Mark Gibson has been around a long time, and you can¿t be a good race car driver without as much experience as he¿s gained through the years,¿ Jarrett said. ¿I¿m real happy for him.¿
So are all of the hometown race fans that have watched this true independent struggle against better-funded teams throughout the years. Gibson¿s entire crew is made up of volunteers, many of whom work all day and then come to the shop to work on the car several nights a week.
¿These guys have been with me forever, and a lot of them are my best friends in the world,¿ Gibson said. ¿This is great for them, because they¿ve never been paid a penny. Maybe a little travel money or a free hotel room or a dinner now and then, but that¿s it.¿
Gibson led just the final 13 laps, but those laps turned out to be lucky for him.
¿I don¿t ever want to leave this place tonight,¿ Gibson said. ¿This feels so good.¿
Gibson might want to stick around for Sunday¿s Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, which is set to begin at 1 p.m. Great seats are still available, and tickets start at $25. For more information, call the ticket office at (770) 946-4211.