EL CAJON, CA (07/21/01). For the most part this season, things have been relatively calm both on and off the track in the late model sportsman class at Cajon Speedway. An accident here, and argument there - that was about it. But all that changed...
EL CAJON, CA (07/21/01). For the most part this season, things have been relatively calm both on and off the track in the late model sportsman class at Cajon Speedway. An accident here, and argument there - that was about it. But all that changed Saturday night as the division was thrown in turmoil following the twin NASCAR Weekly Racing Series main events on the 3/8 mile paved oval.
Protests and then disqualifications determined the outcomes of the two contests. John Tyczki and Mike Mendenhall stand (for now at least) as the victors. But the whole division stands as the vanquished. Tyczki actually crossed the finish line third behind John Manke and Ron Overman in the opener while Mendenhall fell just a half a car short of overtaking Todd McLauchlan in the finale.
The ugliness started following the first race when Rob Mendenhall (Mike's brother) put up the $500 to protest the ride height on the cars of Manke, Overman, Tyczki, fourth place finisher Don Kerr and McLauchlan. After much checking, rechecking, pushing cars on the slab and then back off, checking another car, and then asking cars to return for recheking, Overman and Manke were disqualified. It was everything at its worst - and then some. Tyczki, Kerr, and McLauchlan checked out OK though there were reports that Tyczki failed but was released from the tech area by an official. So long did the checking and all the arguing take that the lineup of the second 30-lap feature was delayed even though there was at least an hour between races. Following the second race, Rob Mendenhall protested McLauchlan again. This time he failed and was disqualified. Someone also posted the $200 to protest Mendenhall and asked for a check on his cylinder heads.
The rule book states that ground clearance on the car must be at least four inches and this is what Rob Mendenhall wanted checked. McLauchlan contends that the disparity between the check on his car resulted from contact on the track when he and Jerry Gay got together while battling for the lead. And of course since McLauchlan had been involved in a similar racing incident with Mendenhall during the first race, his crew was already working on repairing the front end of his Monte Carlo when he was protested. The officials let his team continue their repairs so it took some 30 minutes to get him to the inspection area in the middle of the pits with the whole world watching.
On the track, Manke led the first contest wire-to-wire after starting on the pole. Overman came from eighth to second in ten rounds, but was unable to make a strong challenge for the lead. The contest was only slowed twice. On lap 17, Jeff Seifert checked up a bit in turn three just behind the top five. Mendenhall, right behind, did likewise and was rear-ended by McLauchlan. Mendenhall ended up spinning.
The second contest saw some fireworks on the track as well. McLauchlan and Jerry Gay battled for the top spot through one false start and then a slowdown on lap 2. McLauchlan finally got past on lap 3 and went unheaded until Mendenhall posed his strong challenge in the closing laps. But on lap 10, Danny Gay nailed Don Kerr as that third and fourth place driver went into turn three. Kerr ended up spinning backwards into the wall. He was able to return for the restart where he sat right behind Gay. On the very first lap of green, Kerr retaliated and send Gay for a ride in turn two. He actually got underneath the rear end of Gay's car so far that he lifted the rear wheels off the ground. Following the race, Kerr was fined and suspended for a week. It may have been very costly for Gay, who went up in smoke on the next lap; possibly he overrevved his motor when the rear wheels were off the ground.
Fortunately all was much happier in the other divisions. Rob Freeman and Todd Phelps overcame their season of frustration when they ran one-two in the street stock 25-lapper. Scott Holmberg was third ahead of point leader Rich Green and Neil Rodvold. Freeman led from the second circuit after starting fourth. Ivan Harrison, a third hard luck driver in the division, actually took the checkered flag for one of the few times this season. He was eighth. But Dave Arce, the fourth guy to have nothing but ill racing luck in 2001, ended up on the wrecker after he was kicked around like a ping pong ball on lap 5; as usual it was not an incident of his own doing.
Freeman however had nearly got caught up in a melee in his heat race when Randy Buell collected the wall and rebounded right in front of Freeman. But Freeman took the infield and avoided all contact.
"Finally a good night," Freeman sighed as his Monte Carlo was pushed off the scales. "I got lucky, I just missed it," he added when asked about the near disaster in the heat race. "The car was working good, really good. We had some engine problems prior to the main event. But we fixed it. We were having problems getting the timing set right. We got it all fixed and the thing was fast."
In the pony stocks, it was Andy Papp who outdistanced the field for the second time this year. Ed Hale was four lengths back in third. Marty Schmidt led for the first 15 of the 20 rounds, but ended up third and still looking for his initial career victory. Fast qualifier Douglas Wright Jr. ran fourth and Jimmy Kyte took fifth.
Cajon launched its factory stock class Saturday night. Eighteen cars showed up. Vernon Gilmore, a former street stock racer who now works on Freeman's street stock, led the field home for their 20-lapper. Jim Smith won in the legends.