VADNAIS DOMINATES AUTO TRADER 150 IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST AND SOUTHWEST SERIES COMBINATION EVENT ERIE, Colo. (June 3, 2006) - Josh Vadnais came to Colorado National Speedway (CNS) with simple goals. He and his team wanted...
VADNAIS DOMINATES AUTO TRADER 150 IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST AND SOUTHWEST SERIES COMBINATION EVENT
ERIE, Colo. (June 3, 2006) - Josh Vadnais came to Colorado National Speedway (CNS) with simple goals. He and his team wanted to qualify for the race in time trials, have a good race and be able to pay for the trip from Minnesota with the winnings. It materialized as much, much more.
Vadnais, racing out of White Bear Lake, Minn. and representing the Midwest Series (MWS), thoroughly dominated the Auto Trader 150 in the combination event for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest and Southwest Series for his first career NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division victory. He took the lead from Rip Michels on lap 22 and did not face a real challenge over the final 129 laps. That's how good Vadnais' Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chevrolet was. Re-starts, which were few and far between, proved to be the only time that Vadnais found cars on his rear deck lid, but those attempts to catch the race leader were short lived as he simply drove away from the pack.
"It's not often that you get a car like this," exclaimed the winner as he stopped his car on the front stretch of the 3/8-mile oval in suburban Denver for the post-race celebration. "Unbelievable!"
A late caution creating a re-start on lap 146 would provide second-place finisher and current Southwest Series (SWS) points leader Eric Holmes, who had been not so much stalking Vadnais but rather trying to keep him in sight, one last opportunity to go for the win. However, just as had been the case all night long, Vadnais was able to power his way to a comfortable working margin. Holmes would eventually be beaten to the finish line by .986 seconds.
"I kept thinking to myself that (Vadnais) would come back to me, but he never did," said Holmes of Salida, Calif.. "On the re-starts I tried to plant the Sunoco Racing Fuels/Taco Bell Chevrolet underneath him heading into turn one, but he was just too fast tonight. We're happy with the second-place finish, but still disappointed. Our car was good, their car was better."
Vadnais served notice to the entire field of the 43 cars looking for a slot in the 32-car main event during time trials by winning his second career Bud Pole Award in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division competition. He posted a lap time of 16.094 seconds which translates to 82.764 mph on the CNS racing surface. A series rule mandated six, eight or 10-car invert, of which Vadnais randomly drew and eight, meant that he would have a little traffic to work through on his way to the front. It took just 21 laps to work past those seven cars.
"That ended up being easier than I ever imagined," he stated. "I would be coming up on a car and think to myself how I was going to get around them once I got there, but I was already there. My crew gave me a car that was an absolute privilege to drive. It did everything I asked of it and more."
Not that he needed much luck, but a pair of long green flag runs worked to the advantage of a driver whose car was as fast as and handling as well as Vadnais'. When the caution flag came out on lap 135 ending the second long run under green, his lead was nearly two-thirds of a lap and growing.
Steve Carlson, nine-time Midwest Series champion and racing legend, finished third in his Gordon-Pepping, CPA Chevy after starting 11th. After the race, the veteran, out of West Salem, Wisc., focused more on the racing venue and its hospitality rather than his performance. "I had a good car tonight and we're pleased with our finish," he said. "This is such a great track to race at and we really enjoy coming here. The facility and the crowd are as good as anywhere. We thank the staff of CNS and all the race fans here for supporting us over the years. It is appreciated."
Midwest Series entrant Mike Gallegos of Wheat Ridge, Colo. had a strong performance in the Gallegos Racing Chevy by finishing fourth. He also started in the fourth position.
Perennial Southwest Series title contender Rip Michels of San Fernando, Calif. started his Stock Building Supply/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet in the outside pole position but seemingly battled a loose condition in the mid portions of the event causing him to slide back a few slots. He finished the race in fifth for his second top five in three races this season.
Tim Schendel (MWS), Jim Pettit, II (SWS), Jerry Robertson (MWS), M.K. Kanke (SWS) and Dan Fredrickson (MWS) rounded out the top 10.
In addition to the victory and Bud Pole Award, Vadnais also picked up the Featherlite "Most Improved Driver of the Race" Award given to the driver who improves his finishing position the most from the last series event. He finished 20th in the 2005 season finale for the Midwest Series thus improving his finish by 19 places and besting the Southwest Series Kanke's improvement of 14 spots from their last event.
Joe Vadnais, the crew chief for the winning car, picked up the Lunati "Crew Chief of the Race" Award.
Southwest Series participant Eddy McKean, out of Jerome, Idaho, produced a sub-par effort in time trials in his Wide World of Maps/Magic Valley Pipe Pontiac and started in the 30th position on a driver's provisional. He finished the race in the 11th position garnering the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award given to the driver who improves his position the most over the course of the event.
In these combination events, championship and car owner points are distributed by the car's overall finish in relation to the other vehicles entered into the event from the same series.
Holmes came into the event with a slim five-point advantage on McKean, but with his first-place finish amongst Southwest Series competitors he was able to stretch that lead out to 30 points.
Something to watch in the Southwest Series standings this season is the progress up the charts made by two-time and defending series champion Pettit. He started the season in a huge hole after losing a motor in the season's opening race at Phoenix International Raceway leaving him with a 31st-place finish. With his overall seventh-place effort, and third within the Southwest Series ranks, Pettit vaulted into seventh position in the championship point standings and just 21 points out of fourth place.
This was the Midwest Series' opener for the 2006 season and Vadnais gets the early jump on the competition in their title hunt. His outlook on this season made a complete turn around with his performance in this race.
"We're just a family racing outfit with a fairly modest budget," he said. "I can't even say that we had any particular goals other than race as often and as well as we can. This win coupled with the fact that our next race is at a track that I like a lot and have had some success at really sheds a different light on this season."
Carlson finished second out of the Midwest Series contingent putting him squarely in the hunt for an incredible 10th series championship. To put this accomplishment into perspective, the next closest driver to Carlson in terms of championships won in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division is the Northwest Series' Garrett Evans with four titles.
The next event for the Midwest Series will be July 14 at Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn., and the next time out for the Southwest Series will be July 2 at Altamont Motorsports Park in Tracy, Calif.