WWS: Mike Duncan - NASCAR spotlight

Duncan confident of title shot as circuit visits Mesa Marin Raceway. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2003) - Three drivers have pulled away from the field in the chase for the championship in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West ...

Duncan confident of title shot as circuit visits Mesa Marin Raceway.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2003) - Three drivers have pulled away from the field in the chase for the championship in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series.

While the top two drivers - Scott Lynch and Steve Portenga - have garnered a lot of attention in their battle this year, Mike Duncan lurks close behind in third place. Just 39 points out of the lead with two races remaining, Duncan remains confident of still having a chance at the title.

"We've got a good shot at it," he said. "I think it all comes down to who catches the breaks and who doesn't. Obviously, you've got to drive smart and your car's got to work and you've got to finish the race. I think it's anybody's race between Portenga, Lynch and myself."

The next event on the schedule is on Duncan's home track as the Winston West Series heads to Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., for the Lucas Oil 150 on Sunday, Oct. 19. The $102,714 event, which is to be televised on a tape-delay basis to a national audience on the SPEED Channel cable network, is part of the 26th Annual October Classic at Mesa Marin Raceway.

Just because the race is on the track where Duncan won a late model division championship in 2000, don't assume he will have an advantage. "We haven't really had a chance to work on our Winston West car there, simply because we have one racecar that we're running at every track," said Duncan, who lives just south of Bakersfield in the small agricultural community of Lamont. "We 've been banged up a little bit at some of the other facilities. So, we haven't had a chance to practice there. We're always working on the car, to get it ready for the next race."

Although he has had just one car to use at all the events, Duncan has managed to score 10 consecutive top-10 finishes. "Luckily, we haven't torn it up too bad," he said of his No. 9 Lucas Oil Chevrolet. "And we've caught some breaks as far as mechanical woes."

The season-opener is the only race in which the 41-year-old competitor finished out of the top 10. Mechanical problems there left him in 20th. "We had a rough start at the beginning of the year, but we never quit," Duncan stressed. "We kept digging and we got back in the race."

He quickly rebounded with back-to-back top-10 finishes in the next two events. In the fourth race, Duncan scored his first career victory and also won his first Bud Pole Award. His subsequent climb in the standings put him in position early to contend for the championship.

While Duncan has remained in the hunt for the title throughout the season - he has not captured as much attention as Portenga, who led the standings for much of the season, or Lynch, who has won three of the last five races.

"It's not a problem for me," Duncan said. "I know the focus has to stay on the person that is leading pack and I don't have a problem with that. I just want our guys to know that we're still in the hunt. They all know that and everybody realizes it."

"It might be far fetched to think that we are going to win it, but I think we have a shot at this thing," he said of the championship. "I definitely won't give up until it's all over."

Duncan, a former minor league baseball player who cut short his career on the diamond to return home and help run his family's farm, turned his focus to racing in 1996. He grabbed the spotlight in his first full year in the Winston West Series by winning the rookie title in 2000. His best finish in the championship standings prior to this season was fifth place a year ago.

Winning championships is nothing new, however, to his crew chief Bill Sedgwick - who took home back-to-back series titles in 1991 and 1992. Sedgwick's six victories at Mesa Marin Raceway, meanwhile, rank him first in terms of series wins on the high-banked, half-mile track.

"He's got a lot of experience, but I think sometimes he might get more nervous than I do - just because he's not behind the wheel," Duncan said of his crew chief. "I feel like my athletic experience gives me more of an advantage in the pressure situations. I've been in pressure situations all my life and it doesn't bother me. In fact, I feel like I'm prepared when I show up at the track and there's nothing going to take me away from that."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Steve Portenga , Scott Lynch