EL CAJON, CA. (08/25/01). Mike Mendenhall may feel he doesn't have a shot at winning the late model sportsman championship at Cajon Speedway any longer. But Saturday night he was the class of the field in a dandy NASCAR Weekly Racing Series...
EL CAJON, CA. (08/25/01). Mike Mendenhall may feel he doesn't have a shot at winning the late model sportsman championship at Cajon Speedway any longer. But Saturday night he was the class of the field in a dandy NASCAR Weekly Racing Series 40-lap main event on the 3/8 mile paved oval.
Mendenhall took the lead from Danny Gay after running side-by-side with the youngster for about a dozen laps in the middle of the contest. Just after Mendenhall got past, Gay looped it in the second turn and lost his shot at a runner-up finish. His dad Jerry Gay ended up second after a hard fought tussle with Claude Bell. Point leader Todd McLauchlan survived at least three scares to come home fourth. Ron Overman took fifth after also getting caught up in the Gay spin.
After the races, Mendenhall paused to remember Don Stanwood, known as "Hippie Don" to everyone at the Cajon Speedway. Hippie Don owned Graphix and Stuff and provided vinyl lettering for a lot of cars at the track. He suffered a fatal heart attack on August 23 while he was bowling. "I know I drove him crazy because I was so picky," Mendenhall recalled. "I remember him with his glasses sitting so low on his nose all the time. He would call me a turd (because of my pickiness). But he always helped me and helped a lot of people out here. If you were in a bind at the last minute, he took care of it and got the job done for you - even if it took him until after midnight."
Ron Brown paced all 25-circuits of the Grand American modified feature. Rick Hagen inherited the street stock main event win when Johnny Johnson's Monte Carlo was three pounds light. Johnson lost his hood when he was caught up in a first lap shunt. The cover on his rear bumper was also flapping the entire race after being torn loose in the same incident. John Robinson took the 25-lapper for factory stocks. Lyndon Dysinger dominated the mini-stockar action.
There was one scary moment during the street stock race. The contest was interrupted when part-timer Frank Stielau was forced into the wall by Rob Overman on the backstretch on lap 6. His throttle stuck wide open and Stielau's Monte Carlo rode full bore into the turn three concrete where the fuel line broke. The front of the car erupted in fire. But with the throttle hung, the car rode all the way around turns three and four hugging the cement before it careened off the wall at the top of the front stretch and stopped on the pit apron. The fire just kept getting bigger and bigger. It was a scary moment but Frank scampered out quickly and most importantly he was unhurt. Our crack fire and rescue crew was quickly on the scene and doused the fire which had fully engulfed the front end of the machine.
The rest of the street stock race was to say the least ugly though Johnson and Hagen had a spirited, but clean battle up front. There was lots of pushing and shoving from the front of the pack all the way to the back. Point leader Rich Green was the innocent victim of one incident and then the perpetrator of another (for which he was black flagged to the rear of the pack). Richard Hinze, a victim of a big lap one skirmish on the backstretch, ended up second. While polesitter Rob Freeman came home third. Brian Collins who also had to go the rear once for "ungentlemanly driving" came back to finish fourth in the 40 minute, 25-lap affair.
By contrast the modified affair ran cleanly. The only slowdown came on lap 13 when second running Michael Jackson had his motor erupt in turn one. Mike Salm and Scott Brown chased "Uncle Ron" the last half of the 25-lapper. Dave Williams took fourth while Steve Lloyd gained fifth.
Danny Gay fought problems all night long in the powerplant of his Monte Carlo. They checked everything. They changed plug wires before qualifying and even changed the carburetor before the main event. But all that didn't stop him from running away from the pack at the start of the sportsman feature. But the first start was erased when McLauchlan got into someone in turn three and triggered a multi-car stackup. Bell, Wayne Morse, and Jerry Gay got the worst of that one. Young Gay was undaunted until a lap 15 yellow left Mendenhall on his bumper. That yellow resulted when McLauchlan got into Mark Meech in a battle for third. Meech broke loose just a bit, but held on while McLauchlan went all the way around.
The next dozen laps saw young Gay trying to hold onto the lead while Mendenhall worked him on the low side. Lap after lap the pair ran side-by-side while Mendenhall inched forward - two inches gained one lap, one inch lost the next. At one point Gay twitched just a tad bit in turn three and left a donut on Mendenhall's passenger-side door. Mendenhall slipped once allowing Gay to gain a clear lead briefly. But then Mendenhall came back with vengeance. He finally gained a slight advantage on lap 26. Gay failed to give up and charged back. But on lap 28 he got a bit high in turn two and his Monte Carlo went all the way around. Overman clipped the rear of Gay's mount and Mark Meech plowed into Gay.
The final ten rounds saw the elder Gay and Claude Bell run fender to fender for second while Mendenhall motored away. McLauchlan then worked his way back up behind that duo. On lap 33 Bell wiggled off turn four. McLauchlan burped and slapped the wall. But all continued. The closing couple of rounds saw the Gay, Bell, and McLauchlan right back together again. But there was no change of position.
"It could be better, it could be better," Mendenhall said of his car after his fourth win of the season. "A dog with fleas as my buddy Charles Utts would call it. I didn't think we had a car to win. I don't know. We kind of gave up on the whole point thing and we kinda testing out 100-lap setup (for the open comp in October)."
When it was pointed out that he gained points on both McLauchlan and Overman, Mendenhall responded, "Not enough. I sure made it easy on them. But that is the way goes."
"But it was fun racing with Danny. I was really disappointed that Danny didn't get to finish right behind me. I thought he could do it. But I don't know what happened to him. That was too bad for him. He needed a good finish."
Danny Gay had his head cradled in his arms in his pits. "I don't know what happened," he said of the lap 28 spin. "I don't know if I ran up too high or if I just entered too high or something broke. The thing is so loose now." As for his motor woes all night, Danny was frustrated. "We still have that same problem right now; it's just a little bit less of a problem. The motor is missing. There is an electrical problem or a carburetor problem. We just don't know. We changed just about everything you can. It runs really good. It's fast. But it doesn't run up to par. There's a lot more in the motor. It (blubbers) all the way down the straightaway. It was like that in the heat race (which he won) and it's still like that now."
PIT NOTES: From the oops big time department. Rick Bogart didn't get to run last week's sportsman main event. Seems some pitman filled up his fuel cell with water instead of gas.