For Southwest Series Drivers, Title Hopes Rest on Mesa Marin Triumph DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 12, 2004) - For 27 years, Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., has been the cornerstone of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest ...
For Southwest Series Drivers, Title Hopes Rest on Mesa Marin Triumph
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 12, 2004) - For 27 years, Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., has been the cornerstone of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and a place where several of NASCAR's superstars cut their teeth. Mesa Marin Raceway is known for action and has become the most prolific track on the West coast. This Saturday, October 16 the Southwest Series returns for the 59th time in the running of the Ford Motorcraft Parts "150".
For many drivers, a return to Mesa Marin conjures up special meaning as many of the past series' standouts have claimed victory on one the country's prized ovals. Names like Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Matt Crafton, Ron Hornaday Jr., and Rick Carelli have all won at Mesa Marin Raceway.
For 2001 series champion Craig Raudman, who resides in Bakersfield, to win at Mesa Marin holds special meaning. "This is my hometown, but more importantly, this is where all the great drivers on the West coast have run," Raudman said. "
More than 35 drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for one of 30 starting positions in Saturday's 150-lap race and vie for their share of $47,644 in posted awards in race twelve of the 14-race championship series. The event at Mesa Marin Raceway will also be broadcast live in High Definition on HDNet with Mike Hogewood, Jim Tretow, and Kandace Krueger calling the action.
Raudman has been a mainstay on the Southwest Series since the early 90's but has only claimed one win at his home track. "We have always been competitive here, but things have not always gone our way," Raudman said. "This race is critical in our bid to win the championship. It seems every year the championship comes down to who does the best at Mesa Marin."
Current series point leader Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. knows that a strong finish at Mesa Marin will go a long way towards his first series championship. "Some say you have to lose one to win one," Pettit said. "We have been close in the championship hunt the last two years, but leading the points this late in the season is important. More important is winning this weekend at Mesa Marin. We tested last week and our car is as close to perfect as I have had, but Craig (Raudman) Mike (M.K. Kanke) and Dan (Holtz) are going to be tough to beat."
2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. will make only his seventh start this but has two wins on the high-banks of Mesa Marin. "Mesa is tough," Vidovich said. Vidovich has teamed with Rich Fountain for the rest of the season and his sole purpose is to win races. "Since we are not running for a championship this season, we just want to win, and there is nothing like winning at Mesa Marin."
Fresh off a dominating victory last weekend at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Eric Holmes from Escalon, Calif. continues to boost his point total and close the gap on third place Burney Lamar. Holmes won the October Classic at Mesa Marin Raceway in 2002 and has his eyes clearly focused on career win number five.
"You have to save tires," Holmes said of the Mesa Marin track surface. "The driver that saves his right rear is going to have a big advantage late in the race."
Other notable drivers that are looking for a solid finish at Mesa Marin include: Dan Holtz of Pacific Palisades, Calif. who won at Mesa Marin last spring. Holtz has also won the 2001 Late Model championship and the 2002 and 2003 Super Late Model champion at Mesa Marin Raceway. M.K. Kanke is back and will debut a new Victory Circle Chassis. Kanke has four wins and 17 top five performances at Mesa Marin. Doug McCoun from Escalon, Calif. last visited victory lane in 2002 with that win coming at MMR. McCoun is searching for career win number ten and first for car owner Clarence Broussard.
The Ford Motorcraft Parts "150" is set to take the green flag at 8:00 pm PDT this Saturday live on HDNet. The popular saying, "Old age and experience will win out over youth and enthusiasm" will be tested when the stars of the Southwest Series come to Mesa Marin Raceway.
THE INSIDE LINE
* The race within the race . Rip Michels (2003 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Sunbelt Region champion) tops the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year leader board over Nick Lynch.
* How many cars? More than 35 cars have pre-entered the Ford Motorcraft "150".
* Seven current drivers have victories at Mesa Marin Raceway. Drivers include: Doug McCoun, Eric Holmes, Darrell LaMoure, M.K. Kanke, Auggie Vidovich, Craig Raudman, and Bob Lyon. Mike Chase leads all drivers with nine trips to victory lane.
* Only ten drivers have started all events thus far this season with Craig Raudman completing 1345 of 1346 laps contested.
* Driver to keep your eye on: Eric Holmes dominated the race at Phoenix one week ago to score his fourth series win and strengthen his top five championship standing.
* Jim Pettit II leads the AutoZone Southwest Series standings for the fifth week this season. Pettit finished 5th at Phoenix and has three victories this season.
* Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division in 2004 and will award 32 tires to eligible car owners at each series event. Hoosier will also award two tires to the highest eligible Rookie-of-the-Year candidate's car owner.
* AutoZone Southwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Competition Cams, CV Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, G-Force, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JE Pistons, Mac Tools, Mechanix Wear, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, Powerade, Quarter Master, Raybestos Brakes, and Timken.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THIS DRIVER
* Danny Burson of Albuquerque, NM. had his career best finish of second last year at Mesa Marin Raceway and is coming off a ninth place performance at Phoenix last weekend. Burson sits outside the top ten by just 52 points. The third year driver is squarely focused on making it into the top ten in the standings with strong finishes in the final three races.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
* "Prepare, work hard, drive hard, and the rest will take care of itself." - Dan Holtz (No. 23 Rialto Concrete Products Ford).
PAGE FROM THE PAST Mike Chase took the victory at Mesa Marin Raceway September 19, 1987 to record his fourth win of the season in his familiar blue and silver Freymiller sponsored Chevrolet. Rick Carelli, Jon Paques, Ron Esau, and Randy Olson rounded out the top five in the 100-lap event. The race took just 30 minutes and 44 seconds to complete at an average speed of 81.670 mph. Chase also took fast time honors in qualifying over the twenty four starters. Carelli was the top finishing rookie-of-the-year candidate. The race was slowed three times for nine laps with Mike Hood, Carelli, and Chases all taking time at the front of the field.
What: Ford Motorcraft Parts "150". Race 12 of 14 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.
Where: Mesa Marin Raceway, Bakersfield, CA.
When: 8:00 p.m. PDT, Saturday, October 16, 2004.
Track layout: Half-mile paved oval.
Race length: 150 laps, 75 miles.
Posted awards: $47,644
Television: HDNet (Live)
2003 winner: Kevin Vernon
2003 Bud Pole winner: Craig Raudman
Qualifying Record: Frank Adamo, Chevrolet, 17.839 seconds, 100.903 mph, Oct 16, 1998.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday 10/16 3:00 - 8:00 am Haulers enter and Registration opens, 9:00 am Inspections begins, 11:15 am Mandatory Rookie Driver's meeting, 11:30 am Mandatory Driver's/Crew Chief's Meeting, 11:45 am Qualifying Draw, 12:00-12:45 pm and 1:30-2:15 pm Practice, 2:30 pm Mandatory Scorer's Meeting, 4:30 pm Time Trials (2 Laps), 6:00 pm Qualifying Race, 8:00 pm Ford Motorcraft "150".