NWS: Evergreen II: Post-race notes

Green to checkers John Bender leads every lap for win Monroe, Wash. (May 10, 2003) -- Starting on the pole John Bender, of Monroe Wash., drove the Big Daddy's Bar & Grill / Andy Reece Trucking Chevrolet Monte Carlo for his first career victory...

Green to checkers John Bender leads every lap for win

Monroe, Wash. (May 10, 2003) -- Starting on the pole John Bender, of Monroe Wash., drove the Big Daddy's Bar & Grill / Andy Reece Trucking Chevrolet Monte Carlo for his first career victory in the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series during the NUPRECON 125 presented by NAPA at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.

Prior to the event Bender the 2001 series rookie-of-the-year said he thought they had a good chance of placing well on Evergreen's 3/8s-mile short track.

Leading each of the 127 laps Bender worked to save his car for late in the race.

"We had a good lead midway through the race. This track is hard on tires and I was doing everything I could to save the tires for the end. Our set up was good; I know this track and what works here. I knew from early-on no one would be better than what we had," said Bender.

Taking his first career NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series win Bender is racing for consistency.

"We have a new approach for how I race this season. Sponsor money is tight and this crew puts so much into what you see on the track. I can't thank these guys enough for what they do. What I can do is race smart, if we get some wins that's great, I want to win. My first priority is to finish every race, then in the top five whenever possible. If I do that things will take car of themselves," said Bender.

For the second consecutive race the fireworks were saved for the final lap after Bender took the white flag.

Racing into turn one Jason Jefferson, of Yakima, Wash., driving the Northwest Dodge Dealers, 2003 Dodge Intrepid went inside John Zaretzke, of Maltby, Wash., in the Hayen Associates / By Design Rockeries / Innovations Ford Taurus. With no room for both cars the door closed on Jefferson. The two cars wrecked sending another four cars spinning out of control.

With the white flag still in the air the remainder of the field would scramble through the spun cars and race on to the checkers. Zaretzke would finish eighth, while Jason Jefferson who came in the NUPRECON 125 with the series championship points lead would finish in fourteenth position.

Setting qualifying fast lap of 17.351 seconds at 77.805 mph, Robb Touchette, of Lake Stevens, Wash., driving the #45 Alternative Blasters / J & R Trucking Rentals Chevrolet Monte Carlo, won his first career Bud Pole Award in just his third NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series start.

Touchette would be one of many benefactors of the final lap crash. Racing in among the top-10 with laps winding down at the sight of the crash he went low putting two tires in the dirt then sprinting to the checkers for a second place finish. Passing the spun out Jason Jefferson on the final lap Touchette took rookie of the race honors, and ten points in the Victory Circle Chassis rookie-of--the-year point chase.

"We were about twenty-five laps into the race and I was slippin and slidin around. It had the feel of being used up right then. I think everyone was in the same boat. I was happy taking the Bud Pole Award, but once the race got going we were all racing 18.5 (lap times). It didn't matter at that point if you were three-quarters of a second slow in qualifying. Everyone thought it was going to be a big crash fest tonight, but we avoided the crash, finished second, and took the pole. This is what I call a good night," said Touchette.

Taking a provisional starting 20th on the grid Ed Watson, of Mt. Vernon, Wash., racing the Creekside Retirement Community Chevrolet Monte Carlo won the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" racing his way into the top ten placing him in the right place when the last lap incident occurred. Watson chose the middle of the track, avoiding spun out cars then raced to a third place podium finish.

Starting fourth Kevin Hamlin, of Snohomish, Wash., racing the D.T.G Chevrolet Monte Carlo slide back as far as fourteenth mid way through the race. On lap 124 he was scored in thirteenth position. Following the white flag turn one pile-up Hamlin would cross the line in fourth position salvaging a top-five finish.

"We didn't have the best car in the world and missed on the set up. The track changed we're going to have to figure out these tires. We weren't good in the heat, and we weren't good when it cooled off. Were trying to figure out the tire, and we will. This is new for us being out of the top ten, but we will learn from this and be a stronger team for it," said Hamlin.

Hamlin missed the wreck and feels a little luck was due.

"We got really lucky; we haven't had any good racing luck all year. We had some luck on the last lap. I feel bad for all the teams that were caught in that one. We gained a few points out of the deal. We want to move into the top-ten and go forward from there," said Hamlin.

Twenty-eight cars entered the NUPRECON 125, four did not qualify: Rod Schultz Sr., Rod Schultz Jr., Robert Tesch, and Kevin Brown.


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Drivers Jason Jefferson , John Bender , Kevin Hamlin