Hart hammers home win at Wenatchee DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (July 7, 2003) Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. led all 126 laps to win the Keglers' "125" at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in Wenatchee, Wash. Saturday night as the NASCAR Elite Division, ...
Hart hammers home win at Wenatchee
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (July 7, 2003) Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. led all 126 laps to win the Keglers' "125" at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in Wenatchee, Wash. Saturday night as the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series wrapped up the first half of the season. Hart beat former series champion Gary Lewis to the line by .173 seconds to score his first victory of the season and extend his series point lead. Jeff Jefferson finished third, followed by Garrett Evans, and Bill Lawrence rounding out the top five finishers.
Bill Lawrence of Kelowna, British Columbia scored his second career Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 13.040 seconds/69.018 mph. Jeff Jefferson was second on the speed charts followed by Jeff Bailey, Kevin Hamlin, and Gary Lewis. The fastest 16 qualifiers set the grid with four provisional starting positions assigned. That left Rod Schultz Jr., Matt Hall, Brian Saling, and Robert Tesch to duel it out in the 10-lap non-qualifiers race. Schultz Jr. and Hall transferred to the Keglers' "125".
Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. started on the pole after an invert pill of six was pulled. With track position being a premium at WVSO, Lewis looked to win his fourth career race at the quarter-mile facility. Hart had other intentions as he got the jump on Lewis at the start. By lap 10, Hart led Lewis, Hamlin, Jeff Jefferson, and Bailey.
The first of nine cautions came out on lap 14 for the car of Brandon Riehl. Riehl's Chevrolet lost power and stalled, needing a push back to the pit area. Riehl would make repairs, but finished twelve laps off the pace in the 18th position.
By lap 35, Hart continued to hold the point with Lewis in tow. The fourth caution flag flew when Joe Benedetti and Wilbur Bruce tangled in turn three. Benedetti made contact with the outside wall but was able to re-fire the engine and stay ahead of the leaders. The caution was a break of sorts for Kevin Hamlin. Hamlin, the two-time and defending series champion was looking for a little good luck when disappointment struck again. A fuel leak in the rear of the car caused a fire to develop dropping the champ out of the lead pack and into the pits to make repairs. Hamlin would return 15 laps down where he would finish in the 20th position.
As Hart crossed the start/finish line at the half-way point of the race, the action among the top ten started to heat up. Lewis maintained the second spot with Jeff Jefferson in third. Bill Lawrence moved up to the fourth position with Evans in tow. Jason Jefferson followed in the sixth position, with Robb Touchette, Wes Rhodes, John Bender, and Rick Suran rounding out the top ten in the running order.
Lap 100 saw the field scrambling for every position. The top ten stayed virtually the same except for Benedetti making it back up to tenth place before a spin in turn four dropped the former Rookie-of-the-Year a lap down. The final caution set up a green, white, checkered finish with all lead lap cars up front to battle it out for position. Hart held on to win his first race of the 2003 season and fourth career win in NASCAR Elite Division competition.
Lewis finished second, with Jeff Jefferson in third, followed by Garrett Evans, and Bill Lawrence. Jason Jefferson led the second six and scored Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race honors for the fourth time this season. Robb Touchette finished seventh, with John Bender, Rick Suran, and Rod Schultz Jr. rounding out the top ten finishers. Twenty-one of 22 cars were running at the the conclusion of the event with Wilber Bruce the only driver to retire.
A normally quiet and reserved Hart celebrated with his crew in victory lane. "This track is all about track position," Hart said. "We had a great set up under the car and we were able to get the jump on Gary at the start and that made the difference. I am real happy the way we have run so far this season, this gives us a lot of momentum for the second half."
Pleased to finish second and improving in the point standings was Gary Lewis. "Anytime you can earn a top five finish, you have to be happy," Lewis said. "Chris had a great car tonight and the cautions did not fall our way. I needed more green flag laps."
"We are making progress every week," Jeff Jefferson said. "Another top five run feels real good."
With the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series entering the second half of the season, strong runs and good finishes will be needed to ensure a final top ten points position at seasons end and an invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be held at Irwindale Speedway November 6-8. Hart extended his point lead to 45 markers over Jeff Jefferson. Jason Jefferson moves into third place 62 points behind Hart. John Bender falls to fourth place, with Gary Lewis moving up to fifth place. Joe Benedetti falls one position to sixth, with Steven Howard holding steady in seventh. Kevin Hamlin is in the eighth position, while Garrett Evans makes a big jump in the standings and moves up to ninth. Jeff Bailey rounds out the NASCAR Top 10 after seven of 14 races so far this season.
The race took 45 minutes and 22 seconds to complete at an average speed of 41.330 mph. The action was slowed nine times for 49 laps. Chris Hart led all 126 laps. Bill Lawrence won the Bud Pole Award and the $325 bonus with a quick lap of 13.040 seconds/69.018 mph. Rod Schultz Jr. won the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race Award and the $750 bonus for improving the most positions in the event. Schultz Jr. won the non-qualifiers race and started 21st on the grid, and then turned in his best career performance finishing in the tenth position. Jason Jefferson collected the Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race honors and increased his rookie point lead over Jeff Bailey to 15 points.
The next race for the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is this Saturday, July 12 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. in the running of the Parts Plus "125" on the 5/8-mile paved oval. Registration starts at 10:00 am with practice starting at 2:00 pm. For all the latest news and information log onto www.nascartouring.com/raybestosnwseries