Cajon Speedway race report 2002-09-07

Cheavez finds Cajon victory lane again after 8 years. EL CAJON, CA (09/14/02). Rick Chavez has been knocking on the door all season long at Cajon Speedway. He had been in the lead as late as a lap and a half from the checkered flag. But he had...

Cheavez finds Cajon victory lane again after 8 years.

EL CAJON, CA (09/14/02). Rick Chavez has been knocking on the door all season long at Cajon Speedway. He had been in the lead as late as a lap and a half from the checkered flag. But he had not yet crossed the finished line first. That all changed Saturday night. Things finally went the right way for the 41-year-old second-generation racer for a whole 40-laps. As a result he was finally able to make his way to victory lane for the first time this year following a NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge main event.

Chavez had to outrun current point leader Danny Gay to claim his first late model sportsman victory at the 3/8 mile paved oval since June 11, 1994. Gay challenged Chavez most of the way and was three lengths back at the checkered. Fast qualifier David Beat was another six car lengths back in third. NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series regular and probable rookie-of-the-year Brandon Whitt ran fourth. Rex Murray rebounded from a first lap shunt and placed fifth. Beat earned the $200AAA Radiator Warehouse Hard Charger Award for earning the most passing points.

Dave Digiacomo led the final 22 rounds of the 75-lap Mechanix Wear Speed Truck Challenge feature. Jeff Coskey returned to his 2001 form by winning the non-stop 20-lap bomber stock finale. Matt Arnold continued his domination of the factory stocks; he won for the fifth time in seven outings this year in another caution-free 20-lapper.

Chavez led all but the opening two rounds of the sportsman contest after starting fourth. Instead of having his problems late in the main event, he got them out of the way early this time around. In a very frustrating start to his evening, he was only able to get one qualifying lap and then missed his heat race. His crew searched high and low for the problem before finally discovering a cracked distributor cap after the heat race. In the feature he was unstoppable.

The race had to be restarted after Murray got into Ed Hoffman in turn one and turned him around. John Manke saw his already thin hopes for the title basically evaporate when he got caught up in the melee and smacked the wall. Stephen Peace then led the first two laps before Chavez took over for good. The only slowdown along the way came on lap 15 when Peace tagged Jerry Gay in turn three and Gay spun.

That incident erased a huge 1/3-lap margin that Chavez and Danny Gay had on their pursuers. David Beat made it a three-car-tussle after the race resumed until about lap 35 when he dropped back a bit. Gay was able to stick the nose of his white Monte Carlo under Chavez's black Pontiac in several turns. It may have been the best race Chavez had ever driven. He appeared oblivious to Gay because he never appreciably altered his line through the turns. As a result Gay had to do all the work and was unable to make a pass on the low side.

"It was a great race<" Chavez said with a giant smile. "Danny Gay gave me a lot of room. But this Larry Lyon-prepared, Lyle Hunter owner, Mark Norris-front clipped from Port City (was awesome); the whole crew did a great job."

"We had a bad distributor cap that we chased all day long," Chavez continued. "It had a hairline crack in it. We couldn't even find the dang thing. We finally started replacing all the parts we could. We didn't even make the heat race. But when we came out for the main event the car was running."

The key to success may have been a different setup on the car. Mark Norris put a new front clip on it after a wall-banging incident a few weeks ago. "The Bilsteen Shocks Motorsports division wanted us to try a little different setup with this Port City clip," Chavez explained. "We put the setup in and planned on coming out and practicing yesterday. They didn't allow us to practice because they had the trucks out here. So we just thought we would bring it out anyways. It definitely drives different. The car is not perfect yet. But it's faster than the car has ever been."

In the bombers, Coskey showed why he was last year's most improved driver. He was making only his fifth start of 2002. Coskey had the pole but yielded the number one spot to Chris Boyer at the start. But by lap five Coskey was out front as Boyer faded quickly. Joey Schneider started fifth and was up second by lap 11. He was able to close a bit on the leader but was about three lengths short at the line. Rookie Brian Fitzgibbons had another fine run. He ended up third ahead of "The Professor" Pat Garity and soon to be crowned 2002 bomber stock champ Mark Holland.

Matt Arnold had a perfect night in the factory stocks, setting fast time, winning the quick heat, and then coming from ninth to prevail in the 20-lap finale. Vernon Gilmore ran second. But he was disqualified when he refused a claim on his car by Jim Tucker. There is an $800 claim on the whole car except the safety equipment. That claim can be exercised by the track or a competitor. That DQ moved Martin Kepler up to second ahead of Brian Silvas, Ryan Gay (Danny's cousin), and Donn Stewart. The refusal of the claim leaves Gilmore unable to compete in the division for the remainder of the year.

Digiacomo inherited the number one spot in the truck contest when race-long leader Randy Brown blew the motor in his Chevy in dramatic fashion entering turn one on lap 53. When the motor detonated, Brown's truck erupted in a ball of flame and then the truck spun into the crashwall. The fire extinguished itself and Brown was not injured. Digiacomo went on to take the checkered eight lengths in front of fast qualifier Robert Sanders. That accident was the only slowdown in the otherwise trouble-free event.

PIT NOTES: Manke's meeting with crashwall in the feature drops him to 164 points behind Danny Gay in the points chase. Danny can sew things up on Sept 14 by having a 148-point lead after the night. Danny is already guaranteed of being the Cajon rep in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge Sunbelt Region. No one has yet officially clinched a title though each (modified Scott Brown, street Rich Green, pony Ed Hale, and bomber Mark Holland) has nearly padlocked the chase. Their nearest pursuers would need major miracle to overcome their deficits and then still pray that the leaders get lost on their way to the track or decide to go play golf the rest of the season.

-cs-

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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Brandon Whitt