Lady luck rides with Wright at Cajon. EL CAJON, CA (06/15/02). If something had just gone a tad bit wrong in even one of three different incidents Saturday night at Cajon Speedway, Jeff Wright probably wouldn't have been sitting in victory lane...
Lady luck rides with Wright at Cajon.
EL CAJON, CA (06/15/02). If something had just gone a tad bit wrong in even one of three different incidents Saturday night at Cajon Speedway, Jeff Wright probably wouldn't have been sitting in victory lane following the 40-lap NASCAR Weekly Racing Series late model sportsman contest. But lady luck was riding with the 39-year-old San Diego racer. And so he made his second visit of 2002 to victory lane.
Wright was seven-lengths ahead of point leader Danny Gay when the checkered flag flew. John Manke got around James Roland following a lap 34 restart to take third. Roland had the fastest car on the track during a twenty-lap stretch in the middle of the race. But the racing gods were not as kind to him as they were to Wright and he slipped to fourth at the finish. Rick Chavez was fifth.
Scott Brown raced his way to his first Grand American modified main event triumph of the season. Victor Clark took honors in the pony stocks for the second time this year. Hayden Smith outlasted the bomber stock field to take his first main event of his career. J.D. Hendley was awarded the victory in the legend fiasco (I mean, feature).
Wright started third in the sportsman finale. He had the lead by the second lap after making a daring three-wide move into turn three on lap one to gain second place. Gay moved into the runner-up spot on lap 4. He too had tried it three-wide into turn three on lap 3, but thought better of it and backed off. Gay then chased the lead cheese most of the rest of the way. Following a lap 10 restart, Gay got into the rear of Wright as they came off turn four for the green. Wright got loose big time and Gay backed off. Wright was all over the track and almost spun but was able somehow to maintain control. The winner's third and final close call came on lap 29 as Gay was working him on the low side. It looked as if Wright's path might be blocked by the car of first-nighter Rex Murray. But then Murray suddenly spun in front of the leaders in turn four. This brought out the caution and left Wright firmly in front.
That Murray-spin probably also eliminated Roland from contention for the win. He was subbing for Jeff Seifert, who suffered leg injuries in a nasty motorcycle accident in Mexico a week earlier. Roland easily had the fastest car on the track from lap 10 through 29. Just before the five lap slowdown for Murray's spin, Roland was sitting on the lead duo's bumper. But his car wouldn't run just after a yellow and he fell back. Manke took over third on the lap 34 restart and dogged Gay to the finish. Gay padded his point lead over Manke by ten more markers. He also earned the $200 Crystal Cleaners Hard Charger Award for having the most passing points.
"I hand it to Danny Gay because he could have taken my victory away in a heartbeat," a relieved Wright said after his run. "I was big time loose on the restart. Danny hit me or maybe I turned down on him a little bit. But he was a professional. He could have taken me out and he didn't. On the restart he got under me a little bit. But this STR (Steve Teets) car is just fast. Steve has done a good job setting it up."
"My spotter and everybody is telling me patience, patience," Wright recounted of his three-wide first lap move. Wright went in low with Jack Lee alongside and Stephen Peace in the high groove. Often times when this happens no one comes out of the turn. This time Peace came out in front with Wright in second. "I tried the patience thing. But the hole was there. I was underneath them. Before I was even by them, I was keying my mike saying is that enough patience. But it worked. I thought Jack had enough room. I went down in the rumble strips and everything worked."
Then Wright mentioned the final stroke of luck. "If the yellow hadn't come out, that would have been a problem," he observed. "But he (Murray) got up out of the way and then he spun."
"But just going into the corner and looking in my side mirror and seeing that big (Lloyds Pest Control) mouse on the side of Danny Gay's car. That's the worse thing to see -- that mouse charging at you. But I'm glad everything worked out because my crew had to work hard this week and we had some sponsors here tonight."
Scott Brown bested his uncle Ron Brown by a dozen car lengths in the 25-lap feature for the Grand American modifieds. Mike Salm was stalking the leader during the late stages of the contest after a pair of race caution flags bunched the field. But Salm looped it in turn two with just a couple of circuits remaining; that gave the number two spot to the elder Brown. Brian Pusey gained third ahead of Doug Catania and Mike Jackson. The victory gives Scott Brown the number one spot in the standings. He had entered the night tied with Salm for the point lead. He started the feature in seventh position and was out front in just five rounds.
The pony stock race belonged to Pete Franke, then John Swink, and finally Marty Schmidt before Clark took over on lap 17. Until Clark moved out, the lead pack was jockeying for position lap after lap. Once in front Clark motored out to a five-car length lead that he carried to the stripe. Schmidt maintained second ahead of Hector Leon, Riverside visitor Mark Shackleford, and Mike Weimann.
Gantz went green to checkered in the bombers. The 2001 rookie of the year was well out in front when a yellow was thrown on lap 15 for a spin in turn two three laps earlier. That slowdown was not what Gantz wanted to see. It erased his comfortable lead and left the old professor Pat Garity on his bumper. Garity worked Gantz hard and clean. But Gantz did not make one mistake. On lap 18 Garity tagged Gantz as they entered turn three. Gantz held on and Garity spun out. Point leader Mark Holland closed fast on Gantz but fell a car length short. Rodney Shaw was third ahead of Marty Lehrke and Thomas Osborne.
In the legends, Bob Landreth crossed the stripe first. But he was black flagged for spinning leader Art Nevill in turn three of the final lap. Just a couple of laps from the finish, the race had to be stopped when there was a scary-looking accident in turn three. That melee was triggered when Tom Landreth and Art Nevill fell asleep on a restart and Dana Moore jumped from third to first as soon as the green was unfurled. Entering turn three almost a lap later later, Landreth drilled Moore and turned her around. The rest of the pack had to take evasive action. Ending up on the losing end was Cory Miles, who rode up over another car and flipped upside down into the crashwall. Miles' Ford caught fire as it was rolling. The fire was quickly extinguished and Miles was assisted uninjured from his car.