DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (September 15, 2003) Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. collected his fourth victory of the season at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd. Jefferson was ready to settle for third...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (September 15, 2003) Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. collected his fourth victory of the season at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd. Jefferson was ready to settle for third place when then leader Eddy McKean and Kevin Hamlin tangled on the final lap. The contact left McKean in the infield grass and Hamlin the last car on the lead lap. For the second straight race Jason Jefferson finished second behind his older brother, with John Bender in third, Joe Benedetti finishing in the fourth position, and Steven Howard rounding out the top five finishers in the NAPA "150".
For the third consecutive year, Jeff Jefferson will wrap up the Bud Pole Award for winning the most Bud Poles in a season. Jefferson toured the one-third mile paved oval of Magic Valley Speedway with a quick lap of 14.231 seconds/84.239 mph to top all twenty-five qualifiers. Gary Lewis clocked in second quick, followed by four-time track champion Bruce Quale making his first career start in the series. Eddy McKean and Kevin Hamlin rounded out the top five qualifiers. Robert Tech of Keizer, Ore. was the only driver not to start the 150-lap event.
Jason Jefferson of Yakima, Wash. started on the pole after a six-car invert was drawn. Jefferson's time at the point was short lived, as two-time series champion Kevin Hamlin of Snohomish, Wash. grabbed the early lead as the field took the green flag. The action slowed as quickly as it began as series point leader Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. looped his Chevrolet in turn three bringing out the first of seven caution periods. Hart stayed on the lead lap but dropped to the tail end of the 24-car field.
The green waved again on lap 8 with Hamlin holding the field at bay, followed by Eddy McKean who had moved around Jason Jefferson, with Gary Lewis in tow. Jason Jefferson held the fourth spot, with Jeff Jefferson in fifth, followed by Bruce Quale, Brandon Riehl, Joe Benedetti, John Bender, and Wes Rhodes.
Local star Bruce Quale and Brand Riehl got together on lap 24 to bring out the second caution. The contact left Riehl with a broken radiator. Quale was able to continue but he dropped to the end of the field. When the field restarted on lap 29, it was Hamlin leading McKean, followed by Lewis, Jason Jefferson, Jeff Jefferson, Benedetti, Rhodes, Bender, and Howard.
By lap 50 Hamlin and McKean were able to distance themselves from the rest of the field as they pulled out to a 15-car length advantage. Jason Jefferson maintained third, followed by Lewis, Jeff Jefferson, and Benedetti. Lewis and Jeff Jefferson got around Jason Jefferson on lap 57 as Jason Jefferson's Dodge started to tighten up and wash up the track.
The fourth caution of the race was brought out when Russell Butler got into Rod Schultz Sr. sending the RES Investments Chevrolet spinning. Both cars were able to continue. At the 75-lap mark, Hamlin still paced the field followed closely by McKean, Lewis, Jeff Jefferson, Jason Jefferson, and Benedetti.
Brett Thompson brought out the fifth caution on lap 81 when he dipped his right ride tires off the back stretch causing his Chevrolet to spin in turn three. Thompson was able to continue.
Hamlin paced McKean and Lewis at the lap 100 mark, with Jeff Jefferson, Jason Jefferson, and Benedetti in close pursuit. Rhodes led the second five, followed by Bender, Howard, Rick Suran, Jeff Bailey, and Chris Hart.
The final caution came out for Wes Rhodes as he drifted high on the back stretch and looped his Chevrolet off of turn three. Rhodes was able to continue and would finish in the eleventh spot. The final restart came on lap 137 with Hamlin searching for his first win of the season. McKean was glued to Hamlin's bumper, followed Lewis, the Jefferson's, and Benedetti.
Gary Lewis would see his night end on lap 138 as his transmission broke on the restart sending the 1998 champion to the garage area with a 19 place finish. For more than 140 laps McKean followed Hamlin sizing up the opportunity like a poker player waiting to call. McKean made his move on the outside of Hamlin on lap 147 and completed the pass on lap 148. Hamlin fought back on the inside several times, but each time McKean took the advantage. McKean took the white flag with Hamlin charging back. The duo raced single file into turn three and Hamlin closed the gap through the corner. As the pair exited turn four Hamlin nudged McKean and the contact sent McKean spinning into the infield grass. Hamlin was assessed a time penalty for the contact and would finish 13th. McKean finished 12th.
When the smoke cleared it was Jeff Jefferson picking up his fourth victory of the season. "I was racing for third," Jefferson said. "When Eddy got around Kevin on the outside I thought it might get exciting. Luck always plays into this and tonight was good for us. We had a great car and a win is a win."
When asked about his championship chances Jefferson was optimistic. "Chris (Hart) is real good at Wenatchee, but so are we," Jefferson said. "This whole team has worked so hard all season, and am just glad that we can go into the final race and have a shot at it."
Finishing second for the second consecutive race was Jason Jefferson. "I had a fifth place car tonight and to finish second is fantastic," Jason Jefferson said. "My car got tight right off the bat, but the longer we ran it started to get a little better. By the end I was just trying to hold my position."
Jason Jefferson knows his chances at the title are a long shot, but he also knows that you first have to complete every lap. "I don't think you could ask for any better then what we have going into Wenatchee," Jefferson said. "Three drivers with a shot at the title. It is going to be a great race."
A surprised John Bender finished third. "It is great to have a good run again," Bender said. "We have had some bad luck over the last several races and to finish third tonight is awesome. You never know how the race will end and you just have to put yourself in in the top five and hope it goes your way. Tonight it did."
Kevin Hamlin was disappointed in the outcome. "When Eddy Got by I tried to get back underneath him," Hamlin said. "I got into him as we both got on the gas and he spun. I was wrong and I am sorry for Eddy and all the fans."
McKean had a moral victory even if it did not come with a trophy. "I knew Kevin was going to make another run on me after I got around him," McKean said. "It was a great race tonight and the fans saw a good show. I really wanted to win this race for all my fans and supporters. We gave it a good shot, but it just didn't happen."
With Jeff Jefferson's victory he moved into first place in the championship standings by 12 points over Chris Hart who finished the race in the eighth position. Jason Jefferson shaved a few points off the lead and closed to within 30 points. Gary Lewis maintains the fourth spot with John Bender moving to fifth place. Kevin Hamlin falls to sixth, followed by Joe Benedetti, Rick Suran, Jeff Bailey, and Steven Howard.
The race took 51 minutes and 57 seconds to complete at an average speed of 64.31 mph. There were two lead changes among three drivers with Kevin Hamlin leading the most laps (146). There were seven caution periods for 31 laps. Jeff Jefferson won the Bud Pole Award with a fast lap of 14.231 seconds/84.239 mph. Jason Jefferson was the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Race with his runner-up finish, and Jeff Bailey won the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race Award for improving the most positions (19th-7th).
The final event of the season for the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is Saturday, September 27 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in Wenatchee, Wash. in the running of the Wenatchee "150". The series will crown a first-time champion at the event and will honor the champion and all the competitors at the series awards banquet Saturday, October 11 in Tacoma, Wash.
For all the latest news and information regarding the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series log on to www.nascartouring.com/raybestosnwseries