Lewis holds off hometown hero McKean for first victory of 2003. TWIN FALLS, Idaho (June 16, 2003) Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. breathed a huge sigh of relief after crossing the finish line .190 seconds ahead of hometown hero Eddy McKean to win...
Lewis holds off hometown hero McKean for first victory of 2003.
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (June 16, 2003) Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. breathed a huge sigh of relief after crossing the finish line .190 seconds ahead of hometown hero Eddy McKean to win his first race of the 2003 season in NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series competition. Lewis led the final 69 laps after passing front row starter Chris Hart on lap 56 to win the inaugural Pepsi "125" at Magic Valley Speedway Saturday night. Joe Benedetti of Auburn, Wash. finished third, with Yakima, Washington residents Chris Hart and Jason Jefferson rounding out the top five finishers.
Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Jeff Bailey of Kennewick, Wash. posted the fasted time in qualifying in his first ever visit to the one-third mile banked paved oval with a quick lap of 14.283 seconds/83.932 mph. Following Bailey in qualifying was fellow rookie Jason Jefferson, with local driver and defending Featherlite Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean in third, 1990 Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series champion John Dillon in fourth, and track record holder Gary Lewis posting the fifth fastest time. The field of 25 cars would make the starting grid with the top eight qualifiers being inverted to start the 125-lap race.
Chris Hart benefited from the invert and started the Pepsi "125" from the pole position and quickly set a fast pace. The field settled out and each driver searched the track where their car would work best, but in turn two a couple of cars got lose and lost momentum causing the train to back up forcing three-time Magic Valley Speedway race winner Garrett Evans to pit for repairs for front end damage. The first of five cautions flew for oil deposited on the track by the car of Matt Hall. When the clean up was completed the race resumed with Hart still at the point and Evans at the back of the field five laps down.
On lap 29 Nick Lynch of nearby Burley, Idaho lost the handle on his Chevrolet and was unable to re-fire his car after spinning in turn two. Lynch would retire from the event and be credited with a 24th place finish. At the same time Lynch spun, Rod Schultz Jr. looped his car in turn four bringing out the second caution on lap 43.
By the lap 50 restart, Lewis was glued to the bumper of Hart's Chevrolet and looked to have the faster car, but Hart slammed the door each time the Pontiac driver edged his nose to the inside. After several laps of pressing the issue on the inside, Lewis went to the high side of the track and the duo waged a spirited battle for half a dozen laps before Lewis was able to take the point on lap 56. Hart did not let Lewis get far as he shadowed his every move until the caution flew on lap 62 for the car of Schultz Jr.
The race restarted on lap 67 with Lewis out front and Hart in tow. McKean got by Benedetti for third dropping the Racecals Pontiac driver to fourth, with John Dillon comfortably in fifth. Jeff Bailey, Jason Jefferson, Kevin Hamlin, Pete Harding, and Brandon Riehl rounded out the top ten in the running order.
The fourth caution flag came out for John Dillon as he spun his car after dropping the right rear tire of the backstretch. He was unable to save the car from spinning and collected Bailey and Harding. Current point leader John Bender and Hamlin were assessed a stop and go penalty for passing the passing the pace car while the field was under caution, dropping them both a lap down.
Lewis led the field to green on the lap 92 restart followed by Hart, McKean, Benedetti, Jefferson, Steven Howard, Jeff Jefferson, Rick Suran, Rod Schultz Sr., and Brett Thompson. McKean got by Hart on lap 94 with Benedetti moving the third. Hart settled back into line in fourth. By lap 110 Lewis put the lapped cars of Schultz Jr., and Robert Tesch between him and McKean and lengthened his lead.
The final caution flew on lap 112 when Harding and Travis Powell got together in turn one. Harding's night ended with a 22nd place finish and Powell was able to continue and finish in the 16th position.
When there is a caution in the last ten laps, all cars will line up single file with lead lap cars up front. Lewis was able to hold off a hard-charging McKean over the final six laps to win his first race of the season. McKean finished second, with Benedetti in third, Hart in fourth, and rookie Jason Jefferson in fifth.
"We had an awesome car today," Lewis said. "I knew a win was just around the corner and I am real happy it was here at Magic Valley. The fans are always real good to us and Steve York (Track Promoter) puts on a great event."
Lewis was one of the few cars that was able to use the outside groove to his advantage throughout the race and credited the crew for the right set up. "I practiced the entire time on the outside," Lewis said. "My car just worked on top where there was plenty of bite. We were pretty confident about coming here and doing well based on our finishes in the past. We just loosened the car up a bit more."
Recording his career best Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series finish was hometown driver Eddy McKean. "I feel great about the finish," McKean said. McKean who regularly races on the Featherlite Southwest Series where he is the defending champion has struggled at his home track in RBNWS competition. "It's great to run good here so close to home. We have never really had a good car here in the past so to finish second feels real good."
Collecting his best finish of 2003 was Joe Benedetti finishing third. "My car did not fall off tonight," Benedetti said. "My brakes started to go soft mid-way through the race so I had to play it conservative, but I am real happy to get a podium finish tonight. I really came into this race not wanting to make any changes to the car since there was only three us here this weekend, but we ended up changing everything, so my hats off to the guys. They all worked real hard."
My car just got too tight at the end," said Hart who finished fourth. "This is my first lead lap finish here at Magic Valley (Speedway) so I am real happy. We have tried to be consistent all season and this will definitely help us in the points."
Collecting Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race honors and extending his rookie point lead to ten markers over Jeff Bailey was Jason Jefferson. "This is a new track for us and we just missed the setup a bit," Jefferson said. "I am very happy to finish fifth as this was a great effort for the whole team. My inexperience here showed tonight, but top five finishes is our goal each time out, so we are right on track."
Just happy to finish was Jeff Jefferson. "My car was not good at all tonight," Jefferson said. "We totally missed it (setup). I can't believe we finished sixth, we should have been lapped, but I'll take it."
The race took 46 minutes, 40 seconds to complete at an average of 53.570 mph. The action was slowed five times for 32 laps and there was one lead change between two drivers. The margin of victory for Lewis was .190 seconds. Jeff Bailey won the $325 bonus for winning the Bud Pole Award with a time 14.283 seocnds/83.932 mph, with Brandon Riehl collecting the Powerade "Power Move-of-the-Race" Award and the $750 bonus for improving the most positions during the event. Riehl started 24th and finished 9th. Jason Jefferson was the Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race with his fifth place performance.
Chris Hart takes over the point lead after six events with John Bender dropping to second. Jeff Jefferson maintains third place, with Jason Jefferson in fourth and Joe Benedetti rounding out the top five. Gary Lewis heads the second five followed by Steven Howard, Kevin Hamlin, Jeff Bailey, and Pete Harding rounding out the top ten.
With Pontiac sweeping the top three spots in the Pepsi "125", the manufacture' has moved into a tie for second place in the manufactures' championship race. Chevrolet maintains the top spot with four victories after six events this season. Pontiac and Dodge share second place with one victory apiece, with Ford in third.
The next event for the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is Saturday, July 5 for the second of three races to be staged at the beautiful quarter-mile paved oval of Wenatchee Valley Super Oval in Wenatchee, Wash.