Mendenhall family Main at Cajon. EL CAJON, CA (04/26/03). It's one of the many stories that make Cajon Speedway one huge racing family. So it was appropriate Saturday that Mike Mendenhall won the late model sportsman main event on the night when...
Mendenhall family Main at Cajon.
EL CAJON, CA (04/26/03). It's one of the many stories that make Cajon Speedway one huge racing family. So it was appropriate Saturday that Mike Mendenhall won the late model sportsman main event on the night when the track honored and remembered the life of track promoter Steve Brucker, who was murdered in his home on April 14.
It was back in 1987 that Mendenhall and his brother Rob joined the family at the track. He won four trophy dashes that year. "Rob and I bought a street stock car from the Carvers (Mike and Tom)," Mendenhall recounted after the main event Saturday night. "So they were our baby sitters. We did anything and everything they told us to do."
"I don't remember if it was the first (trophy dash) win or the second on. Judy (Thomas) was the trophy queen that night. Probably a couple of months later we got to talking. We got married in 1990. Now we have three boys. If it wasn't for Steve, if it wasn't for this track, if it weren't for all these things, I wouldn't have the family I have. At times I've had problems and disagreements with this place. But I have family because of it."
Mendenhall took the checkered flag ten lengths in front of Jerry Gay Saturday night at the conclusion of the 40-lap main event. Had Gay prevailed, that too would have been fitting. Of all the sportsman drivers at the track, Gay has been at it the longest. He has been a regular at the track for thirty years. One of the newest members of the clan, sophomore Stephen Peace led early and then pressured Gay late in the going to come home third. Veterans Bob Wickey and Claude Bell, both regulars at the track for well over a decade, ran fourth and fifth.
The night began with an on-track tribute to Brucker, who shared the track management duties with his younger brother Kevin. All 85 cars in the pits lined the track sitting three abreast. They took a pair of memorial laps with Mike Salm bringing up the rear and carrying a checkered flag. Then they peeled off into the pits one column at a time. Track announcer Tom McGrath, who has been the voice of Cajon Speedway for over 25 years, gave a moving tribute to "our leader". The Brucker family has owned and operated Cajon Speedway since its inception in 1961. Earle Brucker Jr. was the track's promoter for about 25 years before passing the torch to his two sons in the mid-1980's.
Sharing victory lane on the very emotional evening with Mendenhall were two first time winners. Well, Ron Nava won for the first time in the street stocks. He previously was victorious at the track in a West Coast Pro Truck back in 1998. But third year driver Scott Denton, who has been knocking at the door time and again and just falling short, finally earned that first main event trophy in a tough battle in the bomber stocks. Hector Leon proved for the second straight outing that he is going to be very hard to beat in the pony stocks this year by having fast time and then storming through the field in their feature.
The sportsman main event ran very cleanly. There was only one caution flag. That came on lap 18 when defending champion Danny Gay slowed exiting turn four. David Beat spun out of fourth place in turn two on lap 26, but there was no yellow.
Mendenhall took over the lead on lap 27 after a stirring half dozen lap duel with the elder Gay. Gay had paced the field from the fifth round. Peace had the advantage for the opening five rounds. Mendenhall started fourth in the 16-car field. The first two rows, consisting of Peace, Wickey, Gay, and Mendenhall, broke away from the rest of the pack when the green flag was unfurled and ran two by two early on.
The street stock contest was a marathon grind that took over forty minutes to complete. There were no serious incidents though Rob Overman did require some brief medical attention when his rode up over Josh Green's Monte Carlo on the front stretch and got airborne. Green had bounced off the wall and was fighting to regain control when Overman rode over his front end. Nava, who started on the pole, went unchallenged most of the way and was ten lengths in front of Ivan Harrison at the checkered. Rounding out the top five were Jason Pontsler, Richard Hinze, and Mark Holland.
In the pony stocks, George Behlman, who used to race chariots in ancient Rome (yes, he has been racing forever) and explored the blackberry bushes in a Winston West car at the now shuttered Portland Speedway in Oregon about 30 years ago, looked like he would hold off the thundering herd. But Leon, who started tenth, had other thoughts. Behlman started on the pole, but Leon was on the move quickly when the race got underway. He was up to fifth after just two laps, in fourth on the third round, took over third on lap 5, and was in second on the leader's tail on circuit number 7. Two rounds later he was out front to stay. The race ran non-stop after one complete restart was required. Leon was 12 lengths in front of Marty Schmidt at the stripe. Behlman was third ahead of sophomore Thomas Winter with Cajon's winningest driver Ed Hale, who is older and has been racing longer than even Behlman, in for fifth in his new Mustang.
To be polite, the bomber stock race was just one incident after another. Denton came from 13th starting position in the 20-car field and steadily worked his way out front by the 13th go-round. But once in front, there were a series of slowdowns that wouldn't let him open up any lead. Rookie Randy Hart, who won a garbage truck driving contest about 12 years ago in Los Angeles, led for a while in search for his initial victory in just his second start. Hayden Smith was also in the hunt along with Rick Hagen and Marty Lehrke. So Denton had his hands full. On lap 17 Denton got into turn two a little two hard. He and Hagen banged together down the backstretch. Then everything broke loose on the rear bumpers of the duo when Hart and Lehrke locked horns in the middle of turns three and four. When the dust settled Hart and Perry Humphries had ended up getting the worst of the melee. The officials called the race at this point with the finish reverting to the last green flag lap except for the cars involved in the accident. So that erased the fine runs by Hart and Lehrke with Greg McCown moving up to third ahead of opening night victor Brian Fitzgibbons and Bill Holland.
PIT NOTES: Jeff Wright was the night's quick qualifier in the sportsman. He also picked up the Sid's Hard Charger $200 award for gaining the most passing points in the feature. -- Friday night's KGB Race of Champions saw Winston Cup drivers visiting the track. Kenny Wallace nipped Kenny Schrader at the line in the 20-lap affair with Jimmy Spencer in third and Dave Blaney in fourth. These guys showed why they are the consummate professionals. With only five laps of practice in strange cars on a strange track, they were turning laps in the :16.40's. Wright's fast time Saturday night was :16.480. -- Great news from Las Vegas where our good buddy Chuck Trickle won the super late model main event.