Auggie Awesome Again at Shasta DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (May 16, 2006) Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. had a lot on his mind this past Saturday night but quickly cleared his head and the field as he cruised to his 11th career NASCAR AutoZone...
Auggie Awesome Again at Shasta
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (May 16, 2006) Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. had a lot on his mind this past Saturday night but quickly cleared his head and the field as he cruised to his 11th career NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series victory and second in a row at Shasta Raceway Park located outside Anderson, Calif. Vidovich took the lead on lap 71 of the 125-lap NARI Records sponsored event edging Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho by a mere .019 seconds. Teammates Jason Fensler and Eric Holmes finished third and fourth respectively while Thomas Martin rounded out the top five.
Vidovich's near perfect night started with a quick qualifying lap of 15.611 seconds/86.477 mph to best the field of 27 of the regions finest Late Model Touring drivers. Fensler, Holmes, Martin and David Mayhew completed the top five fastest qualifiers, but Vidovich drew an 8-car invert which put third year series driver Rip Michels on the point for the feature race.
Vidovich started outside row number four but did not seem worried about the starting position on the tricky 3/8-mile paved oval. Michels led the field to green with Kevin Vernon alongside. The pack quickly started to jockey for position throughout the field over the first ten laps.
The first of three cautions came out on lap 11 when series veteran Bob Lyon and Stephan Sadler got together in turn two. Also involved were Sunoco rookie Cody Pruitt. Pruitt headed straight to the pits with heavy front end damage while Lyon and Sadler were able to continue. Pruitt would finish 24th.
Meanwhile, Michels set a torrid pace on the lap 20 restart followed closely by M.K. Kanke who was searching for his 21st career series win to tie Rick Carelli for number one on the all-time list. Vernon held the third position with Fensler and Vidovich rounding out the top five in the running order.
As quickly as Kanke closed on Michels his evening ended with a flat left rear tire. Kanke rode around the track until traffic cleared allowing him to exit the track and head to the pits for repairs. Kanke called it an evening after suspension damage was discovered.
Michels extended his lead over second place Fensler by lap 30 with Vidovich closing fast in third. Vernon and Eddy McKean were fourth and fifth. The second caution flew when Vernon spun in turn four and Darrell LaMoure and Don Campbell made contact trying to avoid the spinning car of Vernon. All three drivers were able to continue but LaMoure sustained heavy right front body damage.
Michels continued his stronghold at the point but began to face serious pressure from Fensler. By lap 42 Fensler was able to push his nose under the Stock Building Supply Chevrolet and take the lead. Vidovich followed Fensler by Michels on the next lap while McKean closed and completed his pas the next lap.
By lap 50, Fensler Vidovich, and McKean put some distance on fourth place Thomas Martin and dispatched with lapped traffic if as the three were on a rail. Eric Holmes moved into the mix by lap 67 assuming the fourth position.
Vidovich eyed Fensler as a hawk eyes his prey and pounced on lap 71 rocketing by the 63 machine. Vidovich would never look back over the final 54 circuits but would have to negotiate heavy traffic throughout the event.
McKean made his move on Fensler on lap 90 and by lap 92 drove underneath Fensler in Turn and set his sights on Vidovich. Over the next six laps Fensler and Holmes would exchange the third position several times with Fensler ultimately winning out over his teammate.
The final caution of the event came out on lap 100 when LaMoure looped his Chevrolet in turn. With the lead lap cars lined up on the outside and the down cars on the inside, Vidovich hoped for a good start in order to put some distance between himself and McKean. Vidovich got a great restart but the advantage did not last long. McKean got by the lapped cars and locked on to Vidovich. Fensler, Holmes, and Martin followed with Michels, Mayhew, Greg Voigt, Jeff Barkshire, and two-time series champion Jim Pettit II rounding out the top ten with only twenty laps left in the event.
Vidovich maintained his advantage over McKean edging the Jerome, Idaho driver at the line. Fensler finished with teammate Holmes in fourth. Martin held on for fifth while Michels hung on to finish sixth. Barkshire, Pettit, Mayhew, and Voigt rounded out the top ten finishers at the conclusion of 125 laps. Stan Silva Jr. was the only other driver on the lead lap finishing eleventh.
Vidovich showed a lot of emotion in victory lane. "This was a great win for the team," Vidovich said. "Mike Harvick and the crew set up a real fast racecar and all I had to do was drive. I would also like to thank Rich Fountain for all of his support." Vidovich finished his celebration giving a big hug and a kiss to his mother who has attended all of his Southwest Series races since his rookie year back in 2000.
Finishing second and backing up his top five finish from a year ago was championship hopeful Eddy McKean. "This was a great finish for us," McKean said. "We were a little tight at the end but what a fun race. George Wade and his staff know how to treat racers and race fans and we had a lot of fun this weekend."
Scoring his first top five of the season and looking to run a full Southwest Series schedule this season was second generation driver Jason Fensler from Wilton, Calif. "This is a tough series with some of the best drivers in the country. I am thrilled to finish third," Fensler said. "My car was great during the first half of the race but I was simply hanging on over the final fifty laps."
"I was hoping for the win, but a top five is a big accomplishment," said fifth place finisher Thomas Martin. "We have made big improvements in our program and I am confident we are going to have more finishes like this over the course of the season."
Bobby Latham III collected the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the race (11) while Thomas Martin earned the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous event (32). David Mayhew was the top finishing Sunoco rookie competitor with his ninth place performance.
Eric Holmes (325) from Escalon, Calif. leaves Shasta with a slim five point advantage over former series champion Eddy McKean (320). Vidovich sits third with 318 points with Fensler and Michels rounding out the top five in the standings after two races this season. The Southwest Series travels next to Colorado National Speedway outside Denver June 3 for a 150-lap showdown with the Midwest Series.
* Auggie Vidovich has been signed to drive for a NASCAR Busch Series team thus dropping him from the championship chase. Vidovich will return to the Southwest Series at Phoenix later this year.
* Two-time and defending Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II jumped 18 positions in the standings to 13th after finishing eighth at Shasta.
* Bob Lyon started his 288th race this past Saturday in Southwest Series competition dating back to 1988. Lyon finished 20th.
* Northwest Series Championship contender Jeff Barkshire made the long tow to Shasta for his first Southwest Series start. Barkshire finished 7th in his first ever visit to the track. Fellow Northwest championship driver Brandon Riehl did not compete in the race as a broken motor sidelined the Northwest Series point leader.
* Multi-time national and regional go-karting champion Terry Lawrence finished 13th in his third series start. Lawrence who hails from Boise, Idaho has recently relocated to North Carolina and will use seat time in the Southwest Series as he prepares for future Busch Series and ARCA opportunities. Lawrence will travel to France this next week and test for a factory go-karting team.
* Dan Holtz has signed multi-time Late Model champion Freddie Query as crew chief for the 2006 season. Query will continue to compete behind the wheel in non-conflicting weekends.
* Rising country music star and NARI recording artist BECCA treated competitors and race fans to two free concerts this past weekend. BECCA also was the Grand Marshall for the weekend and described her exeprience as "Amazing".