Wright answers critics with victory at Cajon EL CAJON, CA (08/24/02). Jeff Wright has been uniformly criticized at Cajon Speedway this year for his overly aggressive driving style. Saturday night the veteran racer answered those critics both on...
Wright answers critics with victory at Cajon
EL CAJON, CA (08/24/02). Jeff Wright has been uniformly criticized at Cajon Speedway this year for his overly aggressive driving style. Saturday night the veteran racer answered those critics both on an off the track. First he edged out Danny Gay by just a matter of inches at Cajon Speedway in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge late model sportsman main event. Then in his post-race interview he won back even more fans with his honest self-appraisal.
On the track, Gay was in the driver's seat most of the contest. But Wright dove low into turn three on the final lap. The two came out of turn four side-by-side, bounced together, and rubbed each other to the finish line before ending up in the infield in a cloud of dust. The verdict was unanimous. Wright had taken the checkered flag in front by just a matter of inches. It was his third win of the season. His ride was worth $1250; that included the $800 prize money, $250 Sid's Auto Body bonus money (this was the fourth of six such designated races, and the final $200 for being the Sid's Hard Charger for gaining the most passing points. And what a hard charger he was!
Greg McCown was a first time victor in the bomber stocks. Ed Hale continued his domination of the pony stocks. He raced his way to his ninth victory of the season and 155th of his long 42 year career. Michael Peace romped to his second straight Allison Legacy car feature victory.
Wright came from eighth starting position in the sportsman 40-lapper. Gay started sixth. But it was Rick Chavez who led early until Gay worked his way past on lap nine. Wright followed Gay past the early leader and the race settled down to a terrific two-car battle for the final 30 rounds.
More than once Wright dove under Gay, the track's point leader. But each time Wright would break loose. He lost about five car lengths in turn four on lap 15, but drove his way back on the leader's tail by lap 21.Then on the 27th circuit, Wright lost traction, this time in turn one. That cost him another couple of lengths. But he pedaled back hard. On lap 37 there was slight contact between the two exiting turn two. This time it was Gay got a bit sideways. But Wright backed off and Gay was able to gather it back up and maintain the advantage. Then came the white flag and the final round. Wright made his move going into turn three and was just inches ahead when they got to the stripe.
After the race Wright quickly addressed the issue of his driving style. "That was a good race. I was shaking the last lap," Wright said. "I didn't want to spin Danny out. I have to hand it to him. He's a racer. He raced me clean and I raced somebody clean for once. But in this conversation I would really like to tell the 5 car (John Manke) and his crew that I've had my head up my butt and I'm really sorry for what I've done for them for the season." For the record Wright has been black-flagged several times for rough driving. A week ago he tagged Manke in a battle for second place and that was not the first time he had taken Manke, the second place driver in points, out of a race.
"Steve Teets was on the radio for me tonight," Wright went on. "He really helped me around."
"I broke loose a couple of times," Wright explained. "Then I knocked him (Gay) out in two and got him a little sideways. I got behind him and let his correct it up. We went on. Then on the last lap Steve was telling me to take the car in slow underneath him. He wiggled a little bit and I got underneath him. We rubbed. But honestly I thought I was in second because I slid across the line cockeyed and he was straight.
"That is how I should race a lot more," Wright concluded. "The people out here should expect that of me. And (when we both ended up in the infield), I ended up dirty. But that sure beats being the dog of the night."
The race ran relatively clean from green to checkered. On lap 3 Manke and Stephen Peace got together and Peace spun in turn two. Lap 8 saw Jack Lee loop it in turn three. And on lap 26 Rex Murray and Peace somehow made contact entering turn three. Before everyone came to a stop Ed Hale was in the wall and Claude Bell was also caught up. The skirmish happened in the middle of a tight knit pack of about seven cars that were battling for the fourth through tenth positions.
Placing behind Wright and Gay in the feature were Jerry Gay, Manke, and Jeff Seifert, the night's quick qualifier, who turned a very quick lap of :l6.201. That was a full three tenths of a second quicker than Wright, who was second fastest.
In the pony stocks, Tim Beeney found himself out front at the start as he has so many times this year. But Ed Hale had his Pinto on a string in the low groove. He started 11th and was up to fifth in less than three circuits. He was put on Beeney's bumper with the help of a lap 6 caution flag and was in front to stay on lap 7. Beeney faded to fourth by the checkered. Marty Schmidt was in hot pursuit of Hale for the last half of the contest but ended up second. Mike Weimann closed quickly and moved from fifth to third in the last two laps. George Behlman came back from a lap 6 spin to end up fifth.
McCown's victory in the bomber stocks was long overdue. Earlier this year he was known as Mr. Fifth Place after finishing there five times in the first ten races. He came close to a victory on July 13 but fell just short behind Pat Garity. But Saturday night he was on the prowl. He started 12th and was one of only a handful of the faster qualifiers to work his way through traffic. Meanwhile Thomas Osborne was out front. When McCown got up to second, Osborne was ten lengths in front. But he knocked that margin in half by lap 11 and then it was erased entirely when a yellow came out. McCown made short order of Osborne when racing resumed on lap 12. He got under the leader in turn one and had a clear advantage by turn four. Brian Fitzgibbons, in only his ninth start, qualified sixth fastest and gave McCown a run for his money. Fitzgibbons fell two lengths short at the stripe. Mark Wendell, the night's quick qualifier, was another fast finisher. The ever-improving driver ended up third ahead of Scott Denton and Eric Evans, who was subbing for Chris Boyer.
McCown struggled for words as his crew pushed him back to his pit after the post-race weigh-in. He even had to be reminded to put the steering wheel back on. "This is my first main event and that is so exciting," he said with his voice cracking with emotion. "We have worked so stinking hard for it. We 're very excited about it. I'm speechless. It is such an awesome feeling. All those wins in the heat races and not to take anything away from those. But it doesn't compare to a main event. I love it. These guys worked their butts off today. We had a terrible practice. But it is really exciting to get a main event. I want more."
"I didn't' have time (to get nervous)," McCown pointed out. "Brian Fitzgibbons was doing a great job. He had a wonderful night tonight and I am very happy for him. He drove very cleanly. He was pressuring me. I could feel him. I thought I would just leave him a line, but it's a line that I choose. So no, I didn't have any time to feel any pressure."
Peace took over the number one spot in the legacy car 20-lapper when pacesetting Scott Dannen slipped just a bit in turn four on lap 7. A lap 17 yellow put Dannen back on the leader's bumper. But Peace was not to be denied. Dannen lost the runner-up spot to John McCain on the next to the last lap. Rob Ferguson and Sean Bishop rounded out the top five.
PIT NOTES: Driving the Mark Norris rent-a-racer was former Midwest ace Ed Hoffman, who now resides in Fallbrook. Hoffman won 14 short track and one road racing championship many years back running against the likes of Dick Trickle, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace. -- At Orange Show Speedway Saturday night, Gary Tamborelli moved a lot closer to his second straight championship by running first and second in their twin main events.