Carelli makes Copper comeback By Brett Borden Phoenix (February 7, 2000) - The High Plains Drifter has returned. It wasn't a spaghetti western, but Sunday's Copper World Classic presented by Bosch at Phoenix International Raceway read like a...
Carelli makes Copper comeback By Brett Borden
Phoenix (February 7, 2000) - The High Plains Drifter has returned. It wasn't a spaghetti western, but Sunday's Copper World Classic presented by Bosch at Phoenix International Raceway read like a Hollywood script come to life for Rick Carelli.
Carelli, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver who suffered massive facial injuries in an accident last season at Memphis Motorsports Park, stood face to face with his anxiety and came away with a wire-to-wire victory in the Featherlite Southwest Series 50 presented by Penda Truck Accessories, the opener for the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring.
"Words can't describe what I am feeling right now," said Carelli. "I have been going through tough times and different emotions in the last eight months. Sometimes pure joy. Sometimes pain. Today just puts an exclamation point on the whole thing.
"I was so focused and I was concentrating and I felt every bump I hit. I felt like I did 20 years ago. This is the sweetest win I have ever had. It's just great to be able to come back here to Phoenix where I won in 1982 and be able to win in 2000 and still be going strong. It's just unbelievable."
For Carelli, the victory capped off a long road to recovery.
"I had so many obstacles to overcome to get back here. But I took them one at a time. Over the years, you get in a comfort zone, and then one day something happens and you realize you may not get to do what you love to do."
Carelli made a believer of runner-up Rick Allison, whom he beat by .54 seconds. John Dillon, Ron Eaton and Greg Pursley rounded out the top-5. NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Ken Schrader finished 16th after winning the Bud Pole, while 1999 NASCAR Winston West champion Sean Woodside finished 19th and fellow NASCAR Winston West competitor Eric Norris was 14th.
Carelli won $10,945 for his efforts, including the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps. It was the 21st victory in Carelli's Featherlite Southwest Series career and his fifth win in the Copper Classic.
Schrader and Carelli led the Featherlite Southwest Series field to the start. Schrader set a series record on the one-mile PIR oval with a lap of 27.228 seconds (132.217 mph) to get the Bud Pole Award. Carelli, the Arvada, Colo., resident was next at 27.537 (130.733 mph).
Pursley (Newhall, Calif.), Mark Reed (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Allison (Mesa, Wash.) filled out the top-5 starters. All five drove Chevrolets.
The race will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis by TNN at a later date.
The next race for the Featherlite Southwest Series will be March 24 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield.