Hamlin continues dominance at Wenatchee Valley with Cellular One 125 victory on Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (May 25, 2002)-- Kevin Hamlin continued his quest for a second consecutive Raybestos Brakes Northwest ...
Hamlin continues dominance at Wenatchee Valley with Cellular One 125 victory on Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (May 25, 2002)-- Kevin Hamlin continued his quest for a second consecutive Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring championship by winning the Cellular One 125 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval. The win marked Hamlin's eleventh consecutive top-5 finish dating back to last season and was his third victory in four previous starts on the .250-paved oval.
Chris Hart was second followed by Pete Harding. Gary Lewis and Shane Biles rounded out the top-5. The race was run in 34 minutes, 37 seconds for an average speed of 55.201 mph. Jeff Jefferson captured his 3rd Bud Pole Award of the season but fell out of the race on lap 42 with electrical troubles.
Hamlin started on the pole based on a six-car invert. In front of capacity crowd, Hamlin brought the 22-car field to the green flag and quickly darted to the lead over Hart and Harding. Harding would fall back to seventh place in the running order by lap four as the inside groove moved by the Surrey, British Columbia native.
Setting a blistering pace, Hamlin and Hart would begin to lap traffic on the races 30th circuit before a caution came out for a spin in turn No. 4. On the restart, the pair again moved out to a sizable lead over the field before again lapping traffic on lap 55.
Lewis, who had started in the tenth position on the grid, moved to fourth by lap 80 and set his sights on Troy Conrad who was running in the third. With Conrad defending the inside groove; Lewis made a bold pass on the outside of the tight Wenatchee Valley oval. Harding, who had caught back up to the top-5 running machines, followed Lewis into the top-4 running order.
Biles found himself in fifth place on lap 98 after starting ninth and driving a patient race to get to the front.
As the battle waged behind Hamlin and Hart for runner up positions, the pair moved out to a two second advantage on the remaining top-5 race cars. On lap 101, Harding passed Lewis off turn No. 4 and set his sights on Hart.
By lap 113, Harding had caught Hart and the two veterans battle for the second place position as Hamlin moved out to a one second lead. Harding took several looks to Hart's outside and on lap 122 seemed to have a good run on the Yakima native before checking up entering turn No. 3. As the checkers flew on lap 125, Hart and Harding were well over a second behind the victorious Hamlin.
Hamlin, behind the wheel of his American Dream/Berrymans Chevrolet, led wire-to-wire and said that after a while, he settled into running a good line around what is becoming one of his favorite racetracks on the series.
"When you're running out front for that long, you start daydreaming about what's on TV tomorrow, and God here comes Chris and he's going to pass me and we're going to end up finishing 19th," Hamlin said tongue-in-cheek."There are all kinds of emotions running through your head when you're winning one of these races, you really have to stay focused. My crew did an excellent job for me today and gave me a great race car with this American Dream/Berrymans Products Chevrolet."
Hamlin's consecutive top-5 running order streak has come from his pit crew he added."My dad and all of the guys on the crew are just awesome, I'm very proud of these guys."
Thoughts of his second consecutive championship are not on his mind Hamlin acknowledged."We have a few more races to go but we're going to try and keep it up and see what we can do with it," he said."We have to take it one race at a time and enjoy it. We're going to keep doing what we're doing, Chris Hart is having an awesome year and we're just going to have to see how its goes."
NOTES OF INTEREST:
Ed Watson won the 15-lap qualifying race as Travis Powell finished second. Both drivers advance to positions 21 and 22 on the grid for the Cellular One 125. Ted Mickelson, Chris Rothfus, Aaron Young, Brian Saling, and Jerry Fink failed to advance from the 15-lap shootout into the main event.
Bill Lawrence, a native of Kelowna, British Columbia returned to the Northwest Series after taking most of last season off to tend to his business interests north of the border. Lawrence ran strong all evening and came home with a seventh place finish, his first top-10 achievement in over a year.
Kelly Mann continues to lead Travis Powell in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series Rookie of the Year points standings. Mann has collected 39 points over the course of four events while Powell is three markers back at 36 points.
Travis Bennett, who hails from Ellensburg, Wash., made his debut in a Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series behind the wheel of the No. 53 American Dream/Bowman's Chevrolet. Bennett ran well all day and was very competitive against the established veterans of the field. He went down a lap early but was able to come home 12th in the Cellular One 125. As a second car to the American Dream Motorsports stable, Bennett will again take part in Northwest action at the series next stop, June 1 at Yakima Speedway.