Sheared bolt foils dominant effort by sophomore driver at Mesa Marin BAKERSFIELD, California (June 30, 2003) - The Firecracker 150 at Bakersfield's Mesa Marin Raceway almost became the biggest night of Brandon Whitt's young NASCAR Featherlite ...
Sheared bolt foils dominant effort by sophomore driver at Mesa Marin
BAKERSFIELD, California (June 30, 2003) - The Firecracker 150 at Bakersfield's Mesa Marin Raceway almost became the biggest night of Brandon Whitt's young NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series career. Frustratingly, a freak part failure after a late restart robbed the sophomore driver of what looked like a runaway victory.
After posting the second-fastest time in qualifying, Whitt served notice that his strong performance in the March race at the tough half-mile facility was no fluke. He backed that up convincingly when, on lap 55, Brandon pushed his No. 28 McMillin Homes/Simpson GS3 Pontiac Grand Prix into first place after a tense door-to-door battle with eventual race winner David Gilliland. From there, the No. 28 began checking out on the field - at one point building a comfortable ten-car-length margin over the second-place car and lapping up to tenth place. It seemed as though only a bizarre twist of fate could keep Brandon from victory lane.
Fortunately for his competitors, and frustratingly for the team, Fate decided to oblige. Following a restart from caution on lap 117, Brandon, having led 64 laps and in clear control of the race, limped to pit road under the green flag when the 3/8-inch bolt that held on the trailing arm bracket sheared off. The part failure ended his chances for victory and resulted in a frustrating 22nd place finish for the No. 28.
"It was very disappointing, especially when you're running as good as we were," Brandon conceded after the race. "We were fast right off the truck, even though it was pretty hot. We barely missed the pole and the car was the same on lap 2 as it was on lap 115. When your car is that hooked up all night long, it's the best feeling in the world for a race car driver."
Although pure chance frustrated Brandon's strong bid to win his first career Southwest Series race, his dominant performance turned heads.
"Running up front and winning in this series is hard," says Brandon. "For us to run that strong and dominate like we did gave the whole team a real boost. We didn't inherit the lead through wrecks, yellows, or pit strategy - we drove up there and took it. When you can do that against these Southwest Series guys - especially the local guys who know this track so well and run so good here - you've really accomplished something."
The Clean Line Motorsports team is already in preparations for its next event, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on July 5th, 2003, the first of two Truck Series events in the Midwest on consecutive weekends for Brandon.