SWS: Cajon race report 2002-03-23

Kanke continues Coors Cajon domination EL CAJON, CA (03/23/02). M.K. Kanke is back. After suffering a badly broken leg in a devastating accident at Sears Point last June and then being caught up in a first lap melee at Phoenix last month, the ...

Kanke continues Coors Cajon domination

EL CAJON, CA (03/23/02). M.K. Kanke is back. After suffering a badly broken leg in a devastating accident at Sears Point last June and then being caught up in a first lap melee at Phoenix last month, the veteran NASCAR Southwest Series regular drove under Burney Lamar on the final circuit to take honors in the Coors Light 125 at Cajon Speedway Saturday night.

Lamar had led the entire contest from the pole until he bobbled in the center of turns one and two on the final circuit. Kanke took quick advantage of the mistake made by 2001 series rookie-of-the-year. He dove underneath; the two raced even down the backstretch. Kanke then moved Lamar up the track just a tad in the final turn to secure his advantage and take home his third series victory at the 3/8 mile paved oval.

"Burney goofed up over there in one and two and we took advantage of it," observed Kanke, who has more top five finishes in Southwest Series history at Cajon than any other driver.

Frank Maronski drove a steady race for third. He had to fend off Sean Woodside in the closing stages of the contest. Youngster Brandon Whitt was fifth, edging out hometowners Auggie Vidovich and Jerry Gay, who took home sixth and seventh. The race was slowed only three times, all for single car spins.

The weatherman was almost the victor. After eight cars qualified a persistent but light rain started falling. It then took two hours before the track was race ready. First the legends ran their 20-lapper where Jim Smith prevailed. Then qualifying resumed about 8:50 and was concluded 30 minutes later. The semi was cancelled, sending 16 of the 40 entries home with no opportunity to race. The Coors Light 125 was pushed off at 9:50 and concluded 40 minutes later.

Lamar had only two close calls during his race-long stint at the front. The first came in the opening turn when he was bumped by fellow front row started John Baker. Then on lap 94 Rocky Nash looped it just in front of him in turn four. The three slowdowns came after local veteran Mark Meech spun into the turn three wall while running third on lap 23. Sean Monroe ended up in the infield on lap 65. The final slowdown, which was Lamar's undoing, came when Baker went all the way around in turn one on lap 113. That final yellow resulted in a three-lap sprint to the checkered.

Kanke had started sixth and picked off his rivals slowly. He had the most trouble getting around Maronski into second, but finally succeeded just short of the 100-lap mark.

Local drivers Whitt, Vidovich, and Gay were all pleased with their runs. Whitt is a 2002 series rookie-of-the-year hopeful. He started fifth and ran in fourth, fifth, and sixth the entire way. Gay battled with Whitt most of the contest. He started ninth and passed Whitt briefly for fifth before getting pinned behind a lapped car. Vidovich was forced to take a provisional after being one of those to qualify just after the rain delay. But he marched steadily forward from his 19th starting position and passed Gay for sixth in the final turn.

"The car was good. It just took us two to three laps (after each yellow) to get up to speed," the 19-year-old Whitt observed after his second series start in the Moen Faucets / STR car. "But once we were up to speed, we could run as good or better than most of the cars on the track."

Vidovich, who was the points runner-up for both 2000 and 2001, had his familiar trademark smile after he climbed from the cockpit of his PG Series, CarQuest, Ransom Bros Lumber Monte Carlo. "That was pretty good. It wasn't easy," Auggie commented. "I'm not tired at all. I wanted more laps. I would have gotten them all. The car was really good. At first I didn't know about it; it was a little tight and loose off. As more laps went, everybody got worse than I did. I ended up getting better. At the end, my car was even turning better and coming off better."

"I have a Darlington stripe," Gay laughed as he pointed to the right rear quarterpanel of his starnursery.com Monte Carlo. The Las Vegas based team, which is not running a full season with the series this year, gave the seat Cajon's second all time winningest driver for the Coors Cajon contest "I got it (the stripe) coming off turn two. It was fun out there until the brakes went away on the 60th lap. But they (the crew) said they've never taken the car home (from here) in one piece with all the fenders on it." When asked if he would like to drive the car, which won the 1999 series championship with Kurt Busch, all year Gay smiled "Yes, but I don't think Mr. Brucker (the Cajon Speedway promoter) would like that. I'd just like to thank Craig (Keough) and Bobby (Meyn) and those guys and my local Saturday night pit crew for Mike (Hagerman) coming and spotting. And for Stu (Peace) for telling me to simmer down."

PIT NOTES: Meech had been the fastest in the afternoon practice sessions. He ended up the fastest qualifier of those who took the track after the rain delay. Gay had been the second fastest in practice, but he ended up ninth on the grid. The top qualifiers, Rocky Nash, Todd Souza, Kanke, and Whitt, all had the advantage of timing before the rain fell.

-cs-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Kurt Busch , Brandon Whitt , Burney Lamar , Auggie Vidovich , Todd Souza , Jim Smith , John Baker