NWS: Yakima: Race report

Hamlin extends Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series points lead with fourth victory in five 2002 starts. YAKIMA, Wash. (June 1, 2002)-- Kevin Hamlin, the defending Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring champion, collected his fourth win...

Hamlin extends Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series points lead with fourth victory in five 2002 starts.

YAKIMA, Wash. (June 1, 2002)-- Kevin Hamlin, the defending Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring champion, collected his fourth win in five 2002 starts with his second straight wire-to-wire victory. Hamlin's win in the Frank's Chevrolet 125 was the Snohomish, Wash. natives first win at the .500-mile Yakima Speedway.

Ron Eaton was second followed by Gary Lewis. Troy Conrad and Garrett Evans rounded out the top-5. Pete Harding collected his first Bud Pole Award of the season with a lap of 18.982 seconds at 94.827 mph. The race was run in 53 minutes and 40 seconds for an average speed of 70.225 mph.

The victory did not appear to be in Hamlin's grasp as the green flag flew to begin the race. Ralph Hubbert led the 27-car field to the green flag and took a brief lead exiting turn No. 1. Hamlin got turned sideways in turn No. 2 and the field began to check up behind him, sending several cars to the outer retaining wall including Steven Howard and Shane Biles. Both Howard and Biles would be helped off the track and not return to action.

With the field unable to run one full lap, a complete restart would set the field back up for another green flag start. Hamlin beat Hubbert off of turn No. 2, proving that his American Dream/Berryman's Chevrolet was unscathed in the incident the circuit before.

The action picked up behind Hamlin as Gary Lewis moved from his 14th place starting position to sixth by lap 3. By lap eight, Lewis and The Sign Factory Pontiac had climbed to fifth place and set his sights on the top-4 drivers.

Veteran Ron Eaton was also on the move early in the event. Eaton grabbed third place on lap nine after starting in fourth. On lap 10, Eaton had fallen back a notch to fourth but moved up to second on lap 19.

Racing action settled down by lap 43 after a quick pace that saw Hamlin begin to lap traffic by lap 32. Lewis moved to fourth place off turn No. 1 on lap 47 bringing Conrad with him past Evans.

Lap 95 saw the top-4 cars streak out to a 10-car lead as Evans began to battle Joe Benedetti for fifth. Benedetti made several attempts to get by the cagey veteran but was unable to make the pass and just missed a top-5 finish.

A caution on lap 117 bunched the field up and allowed Eaton and Lewis one last chance to catch Hamlin. Eaton would reel Hamlin in exiting turn No. 1 but was unable to gain ground off turn No. 2. Hamlin moved out to a three-car length lead by lap 123 and captured his fourth win of the season by .67 seconds over Eaton.

"There was a little contact and I was worried that the tow-in might have gotten knocked out," Hamlin said of the initial green flag start."When you got Ron Eaton and Gary Lewis running behind you, you're running for your life. We burnt the right rear tire off but these guys are class drivers and it was a lot of fun and I'm glad to be here."

Eaton tried with all his might to catch the 22-year old Northwest sensation but"We just lost some stagger, it just pushed coming off the corners."

After some early season bad luck, Eaton is hoping that a top-3 run has gotten his chances for a fourth series title back on track he said."We're going to have to try and get this old car of ours to quick breaking. The first few races it was just breaking down on us."

Lewis battled through the field after a poor qualifying effort and said his season is starting to take shape after a solid third place effort."This year we have been following a trend of starting in the middle of the pack every race. We had a decent car, not a winning car but I had to just get up on top of the wheel and drive my brains out."

"We started off the first race of the year with a second place finish and then a few bad runs. Hopefully we got the gremlins behind us and we can look forward to the rest of the year."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis