SWS: Cajon Speedway opener preview

EL CAJON, CA. The pits should be jammed on opening night at Cajon Speedway. Yes, this Saturday night the 3/8-mile paved oval located next to Gillespie Field launches its 41st season of auto racing. The NASCAR Featherlite Series stock cars will...

EL CAJON, CA. The pits should be jammed on opening night at Cajon Speedway. Yes, this Saturday night the 3/8-mile paved oval located next to Gillespie Field launches its 41st season of auto racing.

The NASCAR Featherlite Series stock cars will be the featured attraction for the opener. The Coors Light 125-lap feature will cap the evening. Also taking to the asphalt will be the Mechanix Wear Speed Trucks and the Allison Legacy cars.

Race time is 6:45 PM. Qualifying runs will start an hour and a half earlier. Starting things off will be the practice runs at 2:00.

The largest field of Southwest Series cars in eight years should be on hand. At last count 37 drivers have entered the first short track event of the year for the traveling series. They opened their 2001 season last month on the one-mile track in Phoenix. Their season will conclude at the same track in November with stops along the way at other short tracks throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Topping Saturday’s entry list is Lakeside’s Auggie Vidovich. The 20-year-old finished second in the series point standings last year in his rookie season (series champ Matt Crafton has moved up to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series). Despite having run only one year with the SWS, Vidovich is a veteran racer, having spent his last four years racing stock cars and trucks. Vidovich won four series races a year ago - at Tucson, Albuquerque, Denver, and Bakersfield. In the Coors Light contest at Cajon last June, Vidovich had to settle for second but very nearly passed victor Jon Nelson in the final turn.

This weekend’s entry list has a strong local flavor though it also includes entrants from Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, and Idaho. In addition to Vidovich other locals include Mark Meech of La Mesa, Eddie Bryans of El Cajon, Steve Smith of Escondido, Joe Herold of Poway, and Bruce Bechtel of Corona. Bechtel cut his racing teeth in the late model sportsman division at Cajon before graduating to the Southwest Series. He was the fastest qualifier here when the series last visited in June 2000. Meech is a former series winner. Herold and Smith are graduates of the Ultra Wheels Super Truck Series. Bryans is a veteran campaigner. Jason Fensler of Wilton has been assigned to drive the Vista based Lee’s Iron and Steel Chevrolet. There have been 19 previous Southwest Series races run at Cajon, dating back to 1986. In fact Cajon Speedway is the only track which has hosted a series race during each of the series’ 15 seasons.

Three former winners are among the 37 entrants. Nelson, who lives in Hemet, will try to repeat his run from a year ago. Two-time winner Craig Raudman (1995, 1999) will be driving his San Clemente based Chevrolet Monte Carlo. And MK Kanke of Frazier Park will be hoping to have one of his usual strong runs at Cajon. Kanke was third in last year’s run. He won here back in 1993.

<pre> NASCAR FEATHERLITE SOUTHWEST SERIES POINT STANDINGS

1.      Ken Schrader    Fenton, MO              1 win   180*
2.      MK Kanke        Frazier Park                    170
3.      Greg Pursley    Lake View Terrace               165
4.      Darrell LaMoure Phoenix, AZ                     160
5.      Rick Carelli    Denver, CO                      155*
6.      Jim Inglebright Fairfield                       150*
7.      Eddy McKean     Jerome, ID                      146
8.      Scott Brandt    Tucson, AZ                      142
9.      Auggie Vidovich Lakeside                        138
10.     Steve Smith     Escondido                       134

* Ken Schrader, Rick Carelli, and Jim Inglebright are not series regulars. They only enter one or two Southwest Series races each year.

-Robert Gardner

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Steve Smith , Matt Crafton , Rick Carelli , Bruce Bechtel , Jim Inglebright , Greg Pursley , Joe Herold , Darrell LaMoure , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich