Grays Harbor NW Modified Nationals race report 2002-06-14

McDaniel takes opening night of NW Modified Nationals. California's Randy McDaniel took advantage of leader Kellen Chadwick's bad fortune to claim the opening night of the third annual Northwest Modified Nationals at Grays Harbor Raceway ...

McDaniel takes opening night of NW Modified Nationals.

California's Randy McDaniel took advantage of leader Kellen Chadwick's bad fortune to claim the opening night of the third annual Northwest Modified Nationals at Grays Harbor Raceway Park.

Richard Happenhausen was on the pole for Friday night's 25-lap main after winning the trophy dash, which featured a first-turn crash. Dennis Silva took the lead early in the main event, with Chadwick pushing hard for the lead.

After a couple of early cautions and a near pileup in turn 3, the yellow came out again on lap 10 as contact between Dennis Sturgill and Richard Whiteman sent Whiteman nosing into the turn 1 wall.

Under yellow, Silva entered the pits with a flat tire, giving the lead to Chadwick. Other drivers throughout the night suffered tire and chassis problems on the rough track, which for the second week in a row had a large rut in turn 1.

A lap after the restart, Tom Glover lost his right front tire--literally, as the tire flew over the turn 2 wall. Once racing resumed, Chadwick had a small lead over John Debenedetti, who battled with McDaniel.

After another caution period, McDaniel got by Debenedetti for second, and Debenedetti soon pulled off with a broken rear end.

With three laps to go, Chadwick spun out after a problem with a shock, handing the lead to McDaniel. McDaniel held on to claim the $1,000 prize by beating Chad Chadwick, Jesse Williamson, Mark Wauge, Aaron Sheelar, Silva, Mike Linder, Markey James, Ray Elwess, and Kellen Chadwick.

McDaniel, competing in Elma for the first time, noted he had been catching Chadwick slightly on the backstretch but lost ground on the frontstretch. "I don't think I would beat him," the winner said, noting Chadwick had problems with a lapped car.

"I was kind of overdriving it trying to catch him. The car needs more bar angle and cross weight, since the track will be drier (Saturday)."

Kellen Chadwick believes the rough track caused a suspension problem. "I think we broke a shock," he said. "When I was hitting the ruts, it bottomed out the shock. The car was awesome in the first part of the race, and then the rear end started hopping. I think we broke a left rear shock.

"I think we could have won, no doubt," Chadwick added. "That's alright though--we've got tomorrow. We'll just check everything out, and we'll probably just have to replace the shock."

Debenedetti also believes the rough track cost him. "The rear end broke," he lamented. "The track was rough tonight. I felt something going on, so I eased up.

"There were ruts in turn 1 and 2. They were just terrible. If they can make 3 and 4 good, they can make 1 and 2 good. It's not rocket science."

The scariest incident of the night took place on the last lap of the B-Main. The top-four finishers advanced to the A-Main, and there was a fierce battle between Jon Swiglo, Chris Murphy, and Leroy Lawhead for third.

On the backstretch, slight contact between Swiglo and Murphy led to a wreck that also involved Lawhead. By the time the dust settled, Murphy was on top of Swiglo, while Lawhead's heavily damaged car was leaking fuel. Upon climbing out of his car, Lawhead through his helmet at the ground. He and Murphy walked off the track together and gave each other a brief hug before Lawhead embraced his wife.

Swiglo, riding on the back of the wrecker to the pits, shrugged the incident off as just a racing deal. "We were just racing for position," he said calmly. "I don't know who's at fault. But it was a good race until then."

In the pits afterwards, Murphy and Lawhead shared a similar assessment. "I don't know if I came up on Jon or if he came down on me," Murphy said. "It was just a racing deal."

Noted Lawhead, "It was just hard racing. It was the white flag lap. We were all going for the final transfer spot."

Friday's racing was contested among a record 67 drivers. Racing concludes Saturday evening, with a $5,000 top prize going to the winner of the weekend. Points are collected during the weekend towards the top prize, which led to heat races and inverted heat races on Friday.

There will be no inverted heat races on Saturday, nor will there be qualifying. Saturday's trophy dash winner will collect $500. Gates open at 5 p.m., with racing at 7.

-dirtsprint-

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Chris Murphy
Teams Williams