MWS: Gateway race report

Jon Lemke wins Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring stop at Gateway International Raceway. Madison, Illinois (July 20, 2002)--Jon Lemke won the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring, RE/MAX Challenge 125, Saturday afternoon at ...

Jon Lemke wins Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring stop at Gateway International Raceway.

Madison, Illinois (July 20, 2002)--Jon Lemke won the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring, RE/MAX Challenge 125, Saturday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois. The win was Lemke's first of the season and second of his career.

Defending series champion and current point leader Steve Carlson was second, .203 seconds behind the winner. Brian Hoppe, Justin Diercks and Jason Schuler rounded out the top five.

Lemke survived two late race restarts en route to the win.

"The last time we were here, in May, we had a late race caution and the driver missed third gear and we lost a bunch of spots," said Lemke. "This time we started each restart in third gear. I can make it to fourth gear without missing a shift if I start in third."

The 100-lap affair started with rookie Eric Fransen on the pole after the top 12 from qualifying were inverted. At the green outside pole sitter Tim Rothe jumped to the lead with Fransen, Carlson, Boris Jurkovic and Lemke following.

Carlson and Justin Diercks were on the move early. Carlson moved up to the third spot by lap five while Diercks cracked the top five on lap eight. Carlson took the lead on lap seven with an inside move on Rothe as the pair raced down the front straight. By lap 12 Diercks worked under Fransen for the second spot and started to chase down Carlson.

The field was put under caution the for the first time on lap 20 when Dave Finney came to rest on the apron in turn one. Finney had an oil line come loose on his Mendel Plumbing Chevrolet and it started a minor fire. Finney got out of the car under his own power and was fine.

All of the lead lap cars, except Carlson, Diercks, Fransen and Craig Smith used the caution as an opportunity to pit.

Once back underway, the field went on a 35-lap green flag run. During that stretch, front runner Tim Schendel had the ignition fail on his Mathews Solocam Bows Chevrolet, ending his day early. The same problem also sidelined Smith.

With the long green run flag run, Carlson and the others who had yet to pit began to worry that they may have to come in for service under the green.

"We were starting to talk about it over the radio, that we were going to have to pit under green," said Carlson.

Carlson, Diercks and Fransen got the yellow they were hoping for on lap 61 when Erik Darnell made hard contact with the front stretch wall after getting into oil dropped on the racing surface by Ronnie White. As Darnell careened off the wall, Jurkovic got tangled up in the incident, ending his day early.

With the leaders pitting, Lemke took control of the event. The field was set back under green on lap 71 with Hoppe, Paul Menard, Schuler and Eddie Hoffman giving chase.

Hoppe and Menard immediately waged a torrid battle for the second position, a battle that Carlson quickly joined in on, allowing Lemke to stretch his margin.

"I didn't see any of that," said Lemke. "I told my crew not to talk to me on the radio until after the checkered flag."

Two brief cautions in the last 15 laps allowed Carlson, Hoppe and the rest of the front runners two final shots at Lemke.

"I thought that if we would have had a longer green flag run we might have had something for Jon," said Carlson. "We pitted later than everyone else and my tires seemed to take longer to come in after a caution."

Lemke was able to hold off Carlson and notch the triumph, just one week shy of the first anniversary of his first career win.

Four cautions slowed the race for a total of 36 laps bringing Lemke's average speed down to 91.781 mph.

Paul Menard captured his first career Bud Pole fast qualifier award while Bryan Roach was the highest finishing rookie for the first time in his young RE/MAX Challenge Series career.

The RE/MAX Challenge 125 was run as a companion event to the Busch Series, Grand National Division and can be seen, tape delayed, on the Speed Channel, July 29 at 7:00 p.m. (CT).

The series next travels to Pikes Peak International Raceway, in Fountain, Colorado, July 26-27, for the running of the Rent-Rite West 150.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jason Schuler , Paul Menard , Tim Schendel , Erik Darnell , Justin Diercks , Steve Carlson