MWS: Elko race report

Steve Carlson wins rain shortened Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring Great Clips 300 at Elko Speedway. Elko, Minnesota (September 29, 2002)--Steve Carlson took the lead on lap 245 and went on to win the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR...

Steve Carlson wins rain shortened Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring Great Clips 300 at Elko Speedway.

Elko, Minnesota (September 29, 2002)--Steve Carlson took the lead on lap 245 and went on to win the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring Great Clips 300, Sunday afternoon at Elko (Min) Speedway. The win was Carlson's fourth of the year and allowed him to stretch his season-long point lead to 102 markers over Brian Hoppe with just two races remaining on the year.

Carlson took the lead after he and leader Jon Lemke touched exiting turn four, sending Lemke around.

"I feel really bad about Jon and me touching," said Carlson. "We were racing pretty hard there and this is a pretty small place. It certainly wasn't intentional."

The race was stopped 17 laps short of the scheduled distance due to rain.

Bud Pole fast qualifier Ron Breese, Jr started 10th after the series mandatory invert. Breese steadily worked his way to the front, but had to settle for runner-up honors. Lemke recovered from his spin to finish third with rookie Josh Vadnais and Eddie Hoffman rounding out the top five.

The Great Clips 300 headlined the 12th annual, three-day, Fall Festival of Speed. Minnesota favorites Lemke and Kevin Cywinski led 26 starters to the green flag. The pair ran virtually side-by-side for the first few laps before Lemke took command with Justin Diercks, Jeremy Lepak and Carlson quickly falling in line behind Cywinski.

The laps clicked off fast as Lemke set a torrid pace around the .375-mile, high-banked Elko Speedway oval. The first yellow flag did not appear over the speedway until lap 208. The long green flag run allowed Lemke to put several good cars down a lap to the leader, including championship contender, Hoppe.

Carlson tracked Lemke down while the leader was working lapped traffic.

"Lapped traffic was tough today," said Lemke. "They all have a right to be on the race track, and I've been a lapped car myself, but lapped traffic was a bear today. They used me up."

On lap 130, Carlson used the cars of Paul Menard and Tim Schendel, both of whom were fighting to stay on the lead lap, to gain an advantage on Lemke and snuck into the lead.

The event's first caution flew on lap 208 for the spinning mount of Larry Hunter. The amber allowed everyone a trip down pit lane for tires and fuel.

When the field was sent back under way on lap 225, Carlson led Lemke, Cywinski, Vadnais, Breese, and Hoffman. Those six were the only drivers still on the lead lap after Lemke's early race tear.

On lap 235, Lemke made a strong outside move on Carlson and took over the point. But 10 laps later, with Lemke running a slightly higher groove than Carlson, the pair touched, sending Lemke around.

"At the end there, Steve and I were racing hard," said Lemke. "I don't know if it's just Elko Speedway where Steve and I have a problem, but it was just racing. This K.C. Colors car was awesome today. They sure knew we were here."

Lemke was referring to an incident at the track, one year ago, involving he and Carlson. The pair got together while fighting for the lead in a preliminary race to the RE/MAX Challenge Series event. That incident took Lemke and Carlson out of contention for the win.

Breese took advantage of Lemke's spin to move up one position in the final run down, but with the rain, never got a good opportunity to test Carlson.

"I would have loved the chance for one final shot at Steve," said Breese. "I haven't run this series full-time this year, so I haven't got a chance to race a lot of these guys, and I really love doing it. Mother Nature just didn't hold up her end of the deal."

Sixth through tenth were Cywinski, Menard, Lepak, Diercks and Schendel. After qualifying second, Hoppe struggled all race and finished 11th and lost 50 more points to Carlson in the hunt for the championship.

The RE/MAX Challenge Series next travels to the LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway, October 5-6, for the running of the Oktoberfest 250 presented by All-Tel. The Oktoberfest 250 will be tapped for airing on the Speed Channel, Monday night, November 18.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Paul Menard , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Steve Carlson