NWS: Raceway Park: Official race report

DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (August 11, 2003) Wes Rhodes of Olympia, Wash. was declared the winner of the Coors Light "125" at Raceway Park in Kalispell, Mont. after NASCAR Officials assessed a time penalty to Kevin Hamlin. Rhodes earned his first career...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (August 11, 2003) Wes Rhodes of Olympia, Wash. was declared the winner of the Coors Light "125" at Raceway Park in Kalispell, Mont. after NASCAR Officials assessed a time penalty to Kevin Hamlin. Rhodes earned his first career victory in NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series competition in his 48th career start. Point leader Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. finished second to extend his point lead, with Ed Watson, Jason Jefferson, and Rick Suran rounding out the top five finishers.

Kevin Hamlin topped the speed charts in qualifying and was the only car in the 12 second bracket. Hamlin toured the large quarter-mile layout of Raceway Park in 12.975 seconds/69.364 mph to earn his second Bud Pole Award of the season. Jeff Jefferson was second quick, with Joe Benedetti, Jason Jefferson, and Steven Howard rounding out the top five qualifiers. Hamlin drew a 6-car invert putting the two-time defending series champion on the outside of the third row to start the 125-lap clash. Luck would win out for point leader Hart as he would start the race on the front row after having to change an engine after practice and qualifying sixth. Robert Tesch of Keizer, Ore. was the only car not to qualify after loosing an engine and practice.

Chris Hart led the field to green just after 11pm but did not hold the point long as Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader Jason Jefferson drove past Hart on lap 2 and would go on to lead the next 22 circuits. Jeff Jefferson dogged his brother and finally made the pass for the lead on lap 24. Kevin Hamlin settled into third place, with Brand Riehl in fourth, and Chris Hart rounding out the top five in the running order.

Jefferson set a torrid pace and began to stretch his lead on younger brother when the first of five caution flags flew on lap 47 for Steven Howard. Howard lost power on his Great Northwest Homes Chevrolet and would finish the event in the 23rd position.

The brothers Jefferson led the field back to green on lap 52 with Hamlin, Riehl, and Hart in tow. Gary Lewis moved up to sixth from his tenth starting spot, with Wes Rhodes Ed Watson, Jeff Bailey, and Rick Suran rounding out the top ten at the lap 60 mark. Jason Jefferson began to lose the handle on his Dodge mount dropping him back to the sixth position on lap 70.

Hamlin and Jeff Jefferson gave the capacity crowd plenty of excitement as the duo swapped the lead several times after racing side-by-side for several laps. Hamlin was finally able to take to point on lap 76. Meanwhile, Riehl moved up to challenge Jefferson and moved into second behind Hamlin on lap 77. At the lap 80 mark, Hamlin led Riehl, Jeff Jefferson, Gary Lewis, Jason Jefferson, Chris Hart, Wes Rhodes, Ed Watson, Jeff Bailey, and Rick Suran.

The second caution flag came out on lap 97 for Mike Merry and Dan Rhodes. Rhodes cut a tire and slowed on the track while Merry spun exiting turn four and stalled. At the lap 100 restart, Hamlin looked to have to the field in check as he eyed his first victory of 2003. Riehl was firmly in second place, with Jeff Jefferson looking to find a way back around the front two. Gary Lewis stood fourth, and Jason Jefferson was running solidly in the fifth position.

What looked to be a routine finish to an exciting event really got interesting on lap 113 when Bailey's engine let go in turn three dropping oil and causing several cars to scatter. Jason Jefferson was the first to hit the oil sending the Dodge spinning up the banking. Also involved were Rod Schultz Sr. and Rod Schultz Jr. Rick Suran, Wes Rhodes, and Chris Hart were also involved, but were able to continue. The field went red on lap 115 so clean up of the track could be completed.

The race restarted on lap 119 but the caution flew immediately after the car of Matt Hall re-entered the race from the pits but did not get up to speed in time as Jeff Jefferson and Gary Lewis were racing side-by-side exiting turn four and were squeezed by Hall. The resulting contact sent Jefferson sliding through the infield and into turn one in a cloud of dust. The contact left Jefferson's ride severely damaged but able to roll. Lewis headed to the pits for repairs and would finish one lap down in 13th.

The caution set up a green, white, checkered finish for the fourth time this season and the outcome would thrill the Montana fans. Hamlin held the point, but Riehl was seeking his first career victory and forced the issues with Hamlin as the pair entered turn one on lap 127. Riehl dove under Hamlin and the two made contact but both drivers kept theirs cars pointed in the right direction on the white flag lap. As the pair entered turn three, Hamlin was glued to Riehl and nudged the rookie driver out of the way exiting turn four sending Riehl spinning.

Hamlin crossed the stripe first followed by Rhodes, Hart, Watson, Jason Jefferson, and Suran. After further review by NASCAR Officials, Hamlin was assessed a time penalty for the contact with Riehl and would finish in the eighth position. The second five were John Bender, Brandon Riehl, Hamlin, Jeff Jefferson, and Colorado visitor Kevin Clark rounding out the top ten finishers.

After being informed of the win, Rhodes was very pleased. "I would have liked to celebrated in Montana," Rhodes said. "A win is a win and the only thing I missed was the smokey burn out. You have to be in position to win and I was."

Hart and his team struggled all day, but a runner-up finish takes away a bit of the sting. "Considering we had to change a motor and the car was not exactly right, we had a great day," Hart said. "Top five finishers go a long way and this helped us in the championship."

Equaling his best career finish of third, Ed Watson was thrilled with the outcome. "A top five finish makes all the hard work pay off," Watson said. "We had a great race and the car got better the longer we ran. It was a lot of fun to run at the front."

Moving back into second place in the standings after finishing fourth, Jason Jefferson was pleased with a another top fiver performance. "To come out of here with a top five was real important to us," Jefferson said." "The only unknown is the next event at Pacific, but after that we have a lot of confidence at the tracks we are going to. It is going to be tough to catch Chris, but we are going to make every effort, so look out."

The race took 38 minutes and 27 seconds to complete at an average speed of 47.899 mph. The action slowed five times for 20 laps. Kevin Hamlin won the Bud Pole Award and the $325 bonus. Ed Watson won the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race Award and the $750 bonus for improving the most positions in the event. Watson started 12th and finished third to equal his best career finish. There were three lead changes among four drivers.

The next race for the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is Sunday, August 24 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash. This event will see the series return to a roadcourse for the first time in two years and the return of NASCAR racing to Pacific Raceway in 17 years. For all the latest news and information regarding the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, log onto www.nascartouring.com/raybestosnwseries

Race Stats:

Failed to Qualify: Robert Tesch

TIME OF RACE: 38 Minutes, 27 Seconds
AVERAGE SPEED: 47.899 mph
MARGIN OF VICTORY: .106 seconds

BUD POLE AWARD: Kevin Hamlin, Northwest Racing Enterprises Chevrolet, 12.975 seconds/69.364 mph
POWERADE MOVE OF THE RACE: Ed Watson, Creekside Retirement Community Chevrolet
ROOKIE-OF-THE-RACE AWARD: Jason Jefferson, Northwest Dodge Dealers Dodge

CAUTION FLAGS: Five for 20 Laps (47-51, 97-100, 114-115, 116-118, 121-126)

LAP LEADERS: Three lead changes among four drivers. Chris Hart 1, Jason Jefferson 2-23, Jeff Jefferson 24-75, Kevin Hamlin 76-129


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , Jason Jefferson , John Bender , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis , Matt Hall , Kevin Clark