EL CAJON, CA (09/22/01). Todd McLauchlan knew that all he had to do to sew up the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series late model sportsman championship at Cajon Speedway was drive a conservative race and hope he was able to avoid any trouble on the track.
EL CAJON, CA (09/22/01). Todd McLauchlan knew that all he had to do to sew up the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series late model sportsman championship at Cajon Speedway was drive a conservative race and hope he was able to avoid any trouble on the track. That is exactly what he did for all 40-laps of the season finale Saturday night.
The 38-year old finished third in the 40-lap Grand Prix but all he had to do was finish no worse than eighth if his step-dad Ron Overman won or ninth if Mike Mendenhall prevailed in the main event. Ron Overman did end up in victory lane and finished second in the season long points. Jerry Gay followed Overman across the line in the main event. Claude Bell was fourth and Danny Gay came back from a late-race spin to finish fifth. Mendenhall failed to finish; his car had an electrical fire on lap 34 while running seventh just ahead of McLauchlan.
In the companion main events, Ron Brown took over the point lead when he gained his fourth win of the season in the Grand American modifieds. Ed Hale led the field home for the eighth time this year in the pony stocks. Bob Wickey moved past Mark Holland into the number one spot in the standings with his fifth triumph of the season in the bomber stocks.
John Manke paced the opening 33 rounds of the late model sportsman points finale with Mark Meech in hot pursuit most of that time. Those rounds ran non-stop. Lap after lap Meech would look low in the turns, but was unable to make the pass. In fact, the top nine cars were playing crack the whip with Manke at the point. But on lap 33, the rhythm was broken. Danny Gay spun and tagged John Tyczki while they battled for fourth. Then after one green flag lap, Meech made a move on the low side exiting turn four. When the leading duo got to turn one, they got together and both were knocked from competition. That left Overman at the point with the elder Gay on his bumper. More importantly it gave McLauchlan a comfortable cushion. The remaining rounds ran non-stop and without incident.
Following the race, McLauchlan ran a Polish victory lap to honor the memory of several fallen heroes - the victims in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, along with Dale Earnhardt (McLauchlan's hood carried a tribute to him all season), and the late Ted Kallos. Kallos, whose blue #24 was a familiar super stock at Cajon for many years, lost his life in a racing accident at the track 24 years ago on September 24, 1977.
Despite wanting very badly to win the championship, Overman was his usual very gracious self. When asked if it bothered him to finish second in the points, he responded, "Not if it's to my step-son. Todd had a terrific year. He's a great engineer. He's done that car himself. It's a STR (Steve Teets) car so I'm happy to see it stay in our little STR family."
It was a long night for McLauchlan's team. First the transmission broke during the last hot lap session. Some scampering around the pits brought modified driver Mike Salm to the rescue with his backup. And while the tranny went in fine, nothing lined up. And though he was late to qualify, he clicked off the fastest lap of the night with a :16.229. With no heat races, he started 13th in the 18-car feature and never pressed the issue on the track.
"I drove a conservative race and it got me there at the end," the new champ smiled. "I just drove around and wasn't going to get in trouble. I knew where I needed to be." At the start of the feature, he had hung back on a bit on the original starts and didn't start moving for about three laps. "I knew those guys were going to shake up there. I didn't want to get caught in something." He just missed the Danny Gay incident with Tyczki. "I wasn't sure what Danny was going to do there," McLauchlan offered.. "It was close. I went through a cloud of smoke and kind of sucked up a little of the seat cushion."
The championship is McLauchlan's third at Cajon. He becomes the first driver to claim the trophy in the track's top three classes. He won street stock honors in 1990 and was the Grand American modified champ in 1997. Now he adds the NASCAR late model sportsman championship as well. In his first season in each class, he was each divisions Rookie of the Year as well (1988, 1991, and 1998). That's not a bad showing for the talented driver, who says he will now turn the attention of his racing career in a yet undecided different direction next year.
The modifieds had one of those races everyone except Ron Brown would like to forget. A red flag and two yellow periods were necessary before the field got one lap in. Then there were two more slowdowns along the way. Mike Salm, who entered the night the number one man in points (though just four points ahead of the elder Brown), was the victim of one of the first lap skirmishes. He was bounced into the crashwall entering turn one. He did return to the fray many laps down and was credited with tenth in the 11-car field. Scott Brown, who paced the points most of the season but fell to third a few weeks back, chased his Uncle Ron throughout the 20-lap feature. But age and experience won out. Scotty came home second ahead of Doug Carpenter. Early leader Stan Perkins took fourth ahead of Dave Williams.
The results of the pony stock feature were familiar with Hale making his 146th visit to Cajon's victory lane. He had rookie Kenny Hall trying to get by the last half of the race. But the kid just couldn't make the pass. It was Hall's sixth straight top five finish however. Douglas Wright Jr. stayed very much in the championship hunt by running third. Polesitter Jimmy Kyte took fourth ahead of sophomore Ken Wikoren, who came back after being turned around on the back stretch on lap 3. There was a jarring wreck on the homestretch on lap 7. Rookie Alex McCay got very high in turn four and then spun exiting the turn. Marty Schmidt just wasn't able to quite slip past and clipped McCay's mount, which was sitting backwards on the track. With no room on the track, Andy Papp and Craig Pippin piled in. No one was injured. The wreck was costly for Papp, who was just 107 markers behind point leader Hale in the standings. He was scored in 19th. Though he remains in third in the points, he has rookie Mike Weimann just one point behind and any hope of gaining a spot in the season long chase has disappeared.
The bomber feature shook up the points battle (it's hard to use that kind of word when you talk about the friendly competition between Bob Wickey and Mark Holland) for the championship. Wickey won the race but Holland lost several valuable laps in the pits when a distributor module failed on lap 11. He ended up 15th and lost his point lead to Wickey, who took home his fifth win of the season. Wickey now leads Holland by 16 markers entering next week's double points Grand Prix. Wickey and Rodney Shaw ran side-by-side for several laps during the middle portions of the 20-lapper before Wickey finally got by. Running the high groove, Shaw however just would not give up. It wasn't until there were just a couple of laps remaining that Wickey finally gained even a one-car advantage. He was five lengths in front when the checkered fell. Pat Garity got by Shaw on the white flag lap to take second. Behind Shaw were Eric Seene and Joey Schneider.
PIT NOTES: McLauchlan banked the $200 Hard Charger Cash put up by Charlie's Hub Caps and Diecast Collectibles. ^Å Gary Tamborelli wrapped up the late model sportsman championship at Orange Show Speedway Saturday night.