SWS: Phoenix race report, Raudman is Champion

Zaretske wins, Raudman is King. Phoenix, Ariz. John Zaretske won in classic fashion by coming from the rear of a stellar 42-car field to win the Alberstons/OSCO Drug "125" at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR ...

Zaretske wins, Raudman is King.

Phoenix, Ariz. John Zaretske won in classic fashion by coming from the rear of a stellar 42-car field to win the Alberstons/OSCO Drug "125" at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competition. The win was Zaretske's first on the series as he led several Reybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring regulars to the finish. Zaretske won more than $11,000 for the victory and was followed to the line by FSWS Rookie-of-the-Year contender Eddy McKean who edged NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader at the line for second. Schrader finished third with Ken Kaltschmidt in fourth and Jeff Jefferson rounding out the top five.

Matt Crafton returned to the FSWS and the track where he clinched his 2001 championship and stole the Bud Pole from Ken Schrader. Schrader has had tremendous success on the "Desert Mile" but Crafton laid down a lap of 27.702/129.955 mph to bump Schrader from the top starting position by .005 seconds. Following Crafton and Schrader in qualifying were Jeff Jefferson in third with 2001 FSWS ROTY Todd Souza, and Thomas Martin in fourth and fifth respectively. The rest of the top ten in qualifying were Dan Holt, Rookie Burney Lamar, David Pook, Rookie Eddy McKean, and series point leader Craig Raudman. Raudman was going for his ninth Bud Pole of the year in his Yerf-Dog/Advantage Memory Chevrolet, but a rear differential problem only allowed him to clock in with the tenth best time.

At the drop of the green flag Crafton jumped to a five car length lead by the time the pack exited turn 2. The action slowed as quickly as it began as a caution was displayed for a single car spin involving Coloradoan Ed Belec. Belec lost the handle out of turn four on the opening lap. The spin saw Belec make contact with the inside front-stretch wall and the rollback had to be used to remove the car from the track. On the lap 9 restart, Crafton again jumped to the early advantage over Schrader, Jeff Jefferson, Todd Souza, David Pook, and Dan Holtz.

Lap 15 saw ROTY contender Mike Ledbetter of Ceres, Calif. slam the turn 1 wall. The contact caused the fuel cell to rupture and resulted in a huge fire. Ledbetter was able to climb from his car under his own power, but was transported to Maricopa Medical Center for precautionary reasons for minor first degree burns on his left hand and face. Ledbetter was treated and released late Thursday evening. "I just want everyone to know when it comes to safety, you can't take any chances," Ledbetter said. "Everything NASCAR does and tells us worked perfectly, I am very thankful for the safety devices we are required to run. I plan on running my backup car at Tucson, I do not want to end the year with a crash, it would make for a long winter."

Crafton continued his dominance of the early laps by extending his lead on the restart over Schrader to 10-car lengths with Jeff Jefferson working on the bumper of Schrader for second. On lap 25 ROTY points leader Scott Brandt of Tucson, Ariz. was forced to the pits for leaking fluid. Brandt's crew would make repairs to the Patricks Carpet Chevrolet, but the day would ultimately end with engine problems and a 37th place finish.

Craig Raudman made his way to seventh by lap 30 and continued to climb towards the top. Raudman needing only to finish 41st or better in order clinch the championship drove his Yerf-Dog Chevrolet to the front where he would lead 6 laps before being sidelined with a broken fuel pump and a 30th place finish.

On lap 39 the first set of leaders pitted for fuel and tires when the caution was brought out for the stalled car of Ed Hoffman. Crafton, Pook, Souza, and Raudman all pitted which handed the lead over to Schrader driving the Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet who would lead until lap 54 when Crafton took the point back. Auggie Vidovich Jr. in his PG Series Chevrolet then assumed the lead on lap 55 and would go on to lead until lap 72. Raudman led laps 73-78 before his fuel pump failed. Vidovich again led until lap 88. Schrader made his way back to the front after his early pit stop and took the lead on lap 89 and led until lap 100.

John Zaretske in his J&R Truck Rentals Ford had used the cautions to his advantage and worked his way into the top 10 by lap 80 and was in position to take the lead when the caution came out for a spin by Scott Busby. Zaretske was able to lead the final 25 circuits in route to the biggest when of his career. Zaretske was followed to the stripe by ROTY contender Eddy McKean who edged Ken Schrader at the line for second. Schrader finished third, with Ken Kaltschmidt in fourth and Jeff Jefferson in fifth.

"This is by far the biggest win of my career," Zaretske said. "I had trouble getting here when my transporter broke down outside of Vegas. I showed up on Wednesday morning and was behind. I had to start at the back because I missed the drivers meeting, and I am glad the race was not any longer, because McKean and Schrader seemed to be faster. This is unbelievable to win this race against the tough competitors in this series. I know some had trouble but my ccar was really hooked up"

McKean finished second for the second time this season and led all Rookies in the race. "It was a fun race, and really great to pass Schrader on the last lap," McKean said. "I'm a bit tired and just thankful to run so well here. I am sure it was a great race for the fans. My car really worked well after we had some long green flag runs, maybe one or two more laps it might have been different."

Rounding out the top ten finishers were Gary Lewis in sixth, followed by Scott Hansen, Burney Lamar, Kevin Hamlin, and Auggie Vidovich Jr. in tenth. By virtue of his 30th place finish, Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. was able to clinch his first FSWS title as Vidovich will be unable to accumulate enough points at the final event at Tucson Raceway Park next week to take the championship. Raudman has lead the series standings since early point leader M.K. Kanke was sidelined with a broken leg suffered in a qualifying incident at Sears Point Raceway in June. Raudman has 4 wins, 11 top 5's, 12 top 10's 1,811 laps completed out of 1979 this season in 15 starts.

"The whole Yerf-Dog/Advantage Memory team has worked hard all season," Raudman said. "This is a big day for me and my team, I just wish we were able to be there at the end today. But we did lead laps and ran strong while we were out there."

The race took 1 hour, 37 minutes, 25 seconds to complete and was slowed eight times for 46 caution laps. The average speed was 76.988 mph and the margin of victory was .107 seconds. Matt Crafton driving the Sealmaster/DPI Ford won the Bud Pole with a time of 27.702/129.955 mph as well as the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (39) in the 125-lap race. Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho was the FSWS Rookie-of-the-Race with his second place finish.

The FSWS will travel next to Tucson, Ariz. for the running of the Ray Judy "150" at Tucson Raceway Park Saturday, November 3, 2001. The event will close out the 2001 16-race schedule for the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring. The championship banquet for the FSWS will be held Saturday, December 8, 2001 at the Eldorado Hotel in Reno, Nevada,

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses.

NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks.

Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Goody's Headache Powders, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-nascar/fsws-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Matt Crafton , Jeff Jefferson , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Mike Ledbetter , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Todd Souza , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis , Scott Hansen