(Delaware, Ontario) -- Rob Graham and his OKI Data / Doering and Brown / Hawk Performance / Jones Auto Body Chevrolet Monte Carlo were prepared to make their CASCAR Super Series debut at Graham's home track, Delaware Speedway. The London area ...
(Delaware, Ontario) -- Rob Graham and his OKI Data / Doering and Brown / Hawk Performance / Jones Auto Body Chevrolet Monte Carlo were prepared to make their CASCAR Super Series debut at Graham's home track, Delaware Speedway. The London area ½-mile track played host to the MOPAR 300 race weekend to kick off the 2003 Super Series season Victoria Day weekend.
The schedule for the weekend was supposed to begin on Friday night, with practice, time trials, and a pair of 100-lap qualifying races, but the weather didn't cooperate, and the program was washed out. CASCAR rescheduled qualifying for Saturday, and Graham was ready. Throughout the practice session, Rob improved, before it finally came time to qualify. The pressure was immense for Rob, but he held up, turning the 17th quickest lap of the session against the best stock car drivers in Canada, in his first qualifying attempt in Super Series trim. "I messed up a bit on my lap, but I only had about 40 minutes of track time and this car is so much different than a Sportsman car. We'll be ready for tomorrow."
The most important test of the weekend would come Sunday, as the temperature rose, and Graham ran more than 150 laps for the first time ever. Rob rolled away from the inside of row eight, and stayed out of trouble through the early going, until a lap-80 yellow allowed Rob to head to pit road. As the # 55 Chevy came to a halt in his pit stall, the Welfred Racing Team sprang into action, whipping off a two-tire stop and getting Graham back into the action.
Graham would end up on pit road three more times throughout the afternoon, as he ran inside the top-20 all day, and kept creeping forward one position at a time. "The guys did a great job on the stops. We kept adjusting on the chassis with the panhard bar, and the wedge bolt, and tried to make the car better every time. It seemed to work, and our car was good all afternoon."
When the checkered flag fell, Rob was 11th, just two laps off the pace, but for the team, it was a victory. "We finished 11th in our first Series race, and that's great. The car is in one piece and we were competitive all day. The driver was a little tired after 300 laps, but the car is ready to run some more."
Don Thomson Jr., and Steve Robblee sat on the front row for the MOPAR 300, and both led early. The field cycled through a number of pit stops, as Brad Graham, Kerry Micks, Pete Vanderwyst, and Jim Lapcevich all took turns at the head of the pack. Thomson took the lead away from Lapcevich on lap 205, but David Whitlock and Brad Graham were charging with fresher tires. They both passed Thomson with 12 to go, with Whitlock going the distance for the win. Graham had a problem with five to go, giving second back to Thomson, while Neil Fair filled out the podium.
1. Whitlock, 2. Thomson, 3. Fair, 4. Micks, 5. Vanderwyst, 11. Rob Graham.
The next race for the Welfred Racing Team will be Wednesday, May 28th at Ottodrome International Speedway (formally Capital City Speedway) in Ottawa for the first CARQUEST Sportsman Series race of the season. The team will be staying in the East end of the province until Saturday, May 31st at Autodrome Ste. Eustache in Montreal for the second Sportsman event of the season.