SWS: Cajon: Event preview

El Cajon, Calif.(March 15, 2002) - M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif., looks to rebound at Cajon Speedway Saturday, March 23 when the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division returns to action on the tough 3/8-mile paved oval outside...

El Cajon, Calif.(March 15, 2002) - M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif., looks to rebound at Cajon Speedway Saturday, March 23 when the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division returns to action on the tough 3/8-mile paved oval outside San Diego, Calif.

Kanke suffered a season ending leg injury at Sears Point Raceway in June of last year, which relegated the series veteran to the sidelines to recuperate. The 2002 Featherlite Southwest Series opened at Phoenix Int'l Raceway last month and Kanke and crew was confident their return would be successful. After qualifying in the top five all doubts of his rust were removed, but a lap one incident left the 18-time series winner frustrated. With PIR in the past, Kanke has his sights set squarely on Cajon where he won the first of four races in 2001

The tight 3/8-mile paved oval favor veterans, as each end of the track requires a balanced setup and finesse behind the wheel. "I love these old challenging tracks," Kanke said. "Cajon is a lot of fun to drive, you have to work every lap, and you need a whole lot of luck. If you do not have much experience this track will bite you."

"What happened yesterday is in the past," Kanke said. "I just want to race. If I can show up and be competitive, we are going to have a lot of fun. I wish the schedule was 20-24 races like it was several years ago, I just love to race." Kanke stops short of predicting success or looking too far down the road. "Right now all I want to do is go out and win the race at Cajon," Kanke offered. "We won last year and have run good there in the past. We tested this past week and I feel we have a great car to get the job done. Qualifying is going to be the key. You don't come from the back at Cajon and win."

Jon Nelson of Hemet, Calif., agrees with Kanke's assertion. "This is a veterans track," Nelson said. "This track is real tricky, both ends are so different, you have to give up something on one end to get through the other." Nelson knows, he collected his first series win at Cajon in 2000. "Winning gives you confidence and confidence makes the car go fast," Nelson continued. "You need confidence to get around Cajon."

More than 38 drivers will vie for one of 24 starting positions with only 18 positions being filled via time trials. Four provisional starting positions will be used with the final two starting spots being filled from the top two finishers from the Non-qualifiers race. With qualifying being a race within a race, several teams will have to go back and do their homework.

Joe Herold of nearby Poway, Calif. loves the challenge that Cajon Speedway brings. "Racing is a stress relief for me," Herold said. "I work hard all week like everyone else and racing on the weekends is therapy. I love the teamwork it takes to overcome challenges on the racetrack and Cajon presents several. Cajon is a track that requires patience, but at the same time you have to get up on the wheel or you're going to the back. I would not trade this kind of fun for anything."

One driver that looks to rise to the top this season is Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. Pettit finished second in last years event and knows he must qualify well in order to have the same kind of success. "If you do not qualify in the top eight it is going to be tough," Pettit said. "Kanke has a ton of experience and he schooled us last year. This track is a set of compromises. You have to figure where you want to pass and set the car up to work there, and just deal with the rest."

Over the winter the Hall Kinion.Com team has built two brand new cars and focused the energies on constant improvement. "We ran good at some tracks last year, just not good enough," Pettit said. "We have another year under our belts and I believe we will be more competitive at each track this year. Cajon is a benchmark."

If optimism equaled success, then this year's rookie class will be hard to beat. Led by Adam Andretti, the 2002 rookie class includes local rising star Brandon Whitt, the 2001 Bullring track champion Jason Allen, 2001 Mesa Marin track champion Dan Holtz, and the versatile David Gilliland. Andretti tested at Cajon and found the track like no other. "I have never been to a track like Cajon before," Andretti said. "It is really neat and fun to drive. My team has a lot of confidence after we tested. We learned so much. I was not real good at first, but as the day went on I was running close to what (Auggie) Vidovich was running. My crew chief Roger Bracken has brought so much to this team, his abilities give me confidence behind the wheel."

The Coors Light 125 at Cajon Speedway is the second of fourteen events scheduled for the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division in 2002. The series enters its 17th year riding a wave of success that has seen its former champion's graduate to NASCAR's premier series'. Matt Crafton, Kurt Busch, Ron Hornaday, and Rick Carelli have all parlayed successful Featherlite Southwest Series championships into NASCAR stardom. While some drivers seek greater fortune, series veterans like Kanke and Nelson are comfortable knowing that they are as good on any given Saturday night as their Winston Cup brethren are on Sunday's.

"You take what the track gives you," Kanke explained. "Cajon changes from plenty from day to night, so experience is on my side. I have been there and know what to expect, but you also need a hefty helping of luck." Nelson adds, "I have nothing to loose and absolutely no pressure. That in itself gives me confidence."

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses.

NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks.

Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Hills Brothers Coffee, Goody's Headache Powders, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-nascar/fsws-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Kurt Busch , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Rick Carelli , Adam Andretti , Brandon Whitt , David Gilliland , Joe Herold , Dan Holtz , Jim Pettit II , Jason Allen