Meech masters home turf for Featherlite Southwest Series win. EL CAJON, Calif. (April 6, 2003) Mark Meech of La Mesa, Calif. has waited 14 years to return to victory in NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series competition, and he did...
Meech masters home turf for Featherlite Southwest Series win.
EL CAJON, Calif. (April 6, 2003) Mark Meech of La Mesa, Calif. has waited 14 years to return to victory in NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series competition, and he did just that in front of his hometown fans at Cajon Speedway Saturday night. Meech started the race on the pole position after Bud Pole winner Craig Raudman pulled an eight invert to set the starting lineup and shuffle the top eight qualifiers backwards. The draw was to Meech's benefit as he led all 125 laps of the COORS Light "125" to record his second career victory. Dan Holtz of Pacific Palisades, Calif. finished second with Modesto, California's Steve Belletto finishing a career best third. Eric Holmes and Jim Pettit II rounded out the top-five finishers.
Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. in his HPS Mechanical/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet won his 13th career Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 16.149 seconds/83.597 mph to lead all thirty-five qualifiers. Frank Deiny Jr. posted the second quick time, with Brandon Whitt, Steve Belletto, and Eddy McKean rounding out the top-five qualifiers.
Seventeen drivers made the show on time with Jim Pettit II, David Gilliland, Mike Ledbetter, Scott Busby, and Bryan Germone making the starting lineup through the provisional system. That sent thirteen cars to the 20-lap non-qualifiers race. Danny Burson and Kevin Vernon transferred from qualifying race to make up the last two starting positions in the 24-car starting grid.
Mark Meech led the field to green but the action slowed immediately as Joe Herold suffered a suspension problem and pulled the #5 Quality Chevrolet in to the pits. Thomas Martin was collected and dropped water around the track from a busted radiator. The track crew went to work on the water and oil and the race was restarted on lap 13. Meech continued in the lead followed by Eric Holmes, Dan Holtz, Eddy McKean, and Brandon Whitt.
On lap 35 Craig Raudman tangled with Eddy McKean in turn two which eliminated both from contention. Both drivers would return many laps down. Also involved in the incident was Brandon Whitt. All three cars were running in the top five at the time. The caution allowed Meech to cool his brakes as his car began to develop a push.
By lap 60, Meech continued to display his mastery of the Cajon Speedway 3/8-mile layout and built a lead as much as 15-car lengths at times over Dan Holtz. Todd Souza was up to third, with Steve Belletto in tow in fourth. Holmes was running fifth, with Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year co-leader JR Patton leading the second five. Following Patton was Burney Lamar in seventh, followed by Jim Pettit II, Auggie Vidovich Jr., and local driver Jeff Seifert.
Patton spun across the start/finish line causing all cars to choose high or low with Souza narrowly missing Patton as he squeezed between him and the wall on lap 87. By the lap 95 restart, only 10 cars were on the lead lap including Meech, Holtz, Souza, Belletto, Holmes, Lamar, Pettit, Vidovich, Seifert, and Germone. Souza and Holtz waged a spirited battle during the second half of the race but contact on lap 108 caused a tire to go down on Souza's right front dropping him three laps down. Souza returned to finish 14th.
Meech was unchallenged the remainder of the distance and took the checkered flag 1.3 seconds ahead of Holtz. Steve Belletto was third, with Eric Holmes tallying another top-five finish and Jim Pettit II rallying to finish fifth. Auggie Vidovich Jr. wound up in sixth after a disappointing qualifying run, with 1996 series champion Bryan Germone making his way to seventh after using a past champions provisional to make the show. Local driver Jeff Seifert finished eighth, with Scott Busby recording his best finish of the season in ninth. Victory Circle Chassis ROTY contender Danny Burson from Albuquerque, NM had a strong showing of tenth after winning the non-qualifiers race and starting at the rear of the field.
"I have waited a long time to win on the series again," Meech said. "We had a real good car tonight, but winning the invert deal made the biggest difference. I was able to start from the best seat in the house. I do not know if the result would have been the same if I started in eighth."
Dan Holtz backed up his win at Mesa Marin Raceway with a strong second place effort and moved into fifth place in the overall point standings. "We are starting to run like I thought we could," Holtz said. "This series is tougher than anything out there, and we just needed some time to learn the cars and the tracks. I think we are finally racing at a consistent level which will make us much more competitive. This finish is a big step in the right direction for our team."
Steve Belletto collected his best career Featherlite Southwest Series finish with a third place performance. "We knew we had a good car here," Belletto said. "After qualifying, I was a lot more enthusiastic and just hoped we could stay around the front all night. My car worked well in traffic and I was able to run my line to stay with the leaders."
With several of the point leaders having problems the point standings were shaken up a bit, but with a sixth place finish, Auggie Vidovich Jr. still tops the charts by 61 points over Eddy McKean. McKean finished 17th, five laps down. Bryan Germone moves up a spot to third after finishing seventh, with Eric Holmes moving into fourth place with another strong performance. With his second place effort, Dan Holtz rounds out the top five in the standings. Jim Pettit II, Craig Raudman, Frank Deiny Jr., Belletto, and Doug McCoun are the second five in the standings.
The race took 57 minutes and 18 seconds to complete at an average speed of 54.824 mph. The action was slowed four times for 40 laps and Meech's margin of victory was 1.3 seconds over Holtz. Craig Raudman won his 13th career Bud Pole Award with a time of 16.149 seconds/83.597 mph and the check for $325, with Bryan Germone picking up the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race for starting 22nd and finishing 7th along with the $750 Powerade check. Danny Burson collected the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Race Award with his 10th place performance and moved into fifth overall in the ROTY standings. There were no lead changes as Meech led all 125 laps.
The next event on the Featherlite Southwest Series schedule is Saturday, April 26 at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. with the running of the Budweiser "125" presented by Havoline.