SWS: Champion crowned in Phoenix

McKean Wins Race While Pettit Claims Title at Phoenix DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (November 5, 2004) Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho again dominated the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Cruise America "125" Phoenix International Raceway...

McKean Wins Race While Pettit Claims Title at Phoenix

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (November 5, 2004) Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho again dominated the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Cruise America "125" Phoenix International Raceway to score his second win of the season and third at PIR. McKean held off a determined Eric Holmes by .278 seconds to add to his Phoenix resume where he has finished no less then third in eight out of the last nine races staged at the one-mile paved oval. The victory also moved McKean up to the third position in the final point standings. Following Holmes to the stripe were NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Star Ken Schrader, newly crowned series champion Jim Pettit II, and rookie Nick Lynch.

Lamar scored his fifth Bud Pole Award of the season with a quick lap around the one-mile oval of 27.387 seconds/131.449 mph to lead 47 drivers in qualifying followed by teammate Craig Raudman, Eddy McKean, Ken Schrader, and Jim Pettit II. Ed Belec, Roger Avants, Dustin Jones, Russell Butler, and Brett Thompson failed to qualify for the event.

Lamar led the field to green shortly before 4:00 pm and set a torrid pace hoping to accomplish what Eric Holmes did at PIR last month. Holmes led flag to flag in October. The first of five cautions came out on the opening lap for a spin involving Darrell LaMoure, Jeff Seifert, and Jody Tanner. On the lap 8 restart Lamar looked to have hit the set up and quickly pulled out to a ten car length lead on Raudman. Lamar's time leading the pack ended on lap ten when second place in the point's Raudman drove underneath his teammate going into turn. Lamar would not be a factor the rest of the race and finished a disappointing 31st.

Raudman held the point and picked up where Lamar left off extending his led over Lamar, McKean, Schrader, and Auggie Vidovich. Raudman was cruising comfortably, but McKean was closing in by lap 40. Unexpectedly, Raudman pitted under green handing the lead over to McKean on lap 42. Raudman had a wheel that had become loose and he had no other choice but to pit which resulted in him loosing two laps to McKean.

By the half way point of the 125-lap event, McKean lengthened his lead over Lamar, Schrader, Eric Holmes, and Vidovich. Rookie Nick Lynch was running sixth, with Pettit, Tim Schendel, Jeff Jefferson, and David Gilliland rounding out the top ten.

The second caution flew on lap 77 for Jody Tanner who spun for the second time in turn two. Just before the caution came out Gilliland and Greg Voigt made unplanned pit stops loosing two laps to the field. Under caution, McKean, lead all lead lap cars into the pits for tires and fuel. McKean's crew completed a flawless pit stop sending the 2002 series champion out first followed by Schrader, Lynch, Lamar, and Jefferson. The second five were led by Pettit, Schendel, Vidovich, Holmes, and Kyle Busch who was making his NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division debut.

The third caution came out on lap 86 for an incident in turn two involving Doug McCoun, Todd Souza, Busch, Jeff Bailey, and Brandon Riehl. The incident ended the day for McCoun.

McKean maintained his control on the top spot and held off a fierce challenge from Schrader over the next twenty laps but was never able to pull away to more than five car lengths. The fourth caution occurred when Riehl and Lamar made contact in turn four. Both cars suffered damage that put them out of contention.

With the laps winding down McKean continued to pace the field. Holmes who won at PIR a month prior saw his chance for a repeat dwindle when he had to pit for flat left front tire. Holmes did not loose a lap but lost valuable track position. Pettit moved up to fifth place searching for his fifth win of the season. Raudman was able to make up his laps and by lap 110 he managed to catch McKean. McKean let him putting Raudman on the tail end of the lead lap.

The fifth and final caution came out when Vidovich and Jefferson tangled in turn one. Vidovich worked his way to the inside of Jefferson. Jefferson not knowing that Vidovich was underneath his Dodge, turned down and the contact sent both cars up into the outside ended a top five finish for both drivers.

The restart came on lap 119 which meant McKean would lead the pack single file to the green flag. That was all the cushion McKean need to score his third career victory at PIR. Holmes, who had fresher tires was able to cut through the field and dove underneath Schrader on the final lap to finish second. Schrader held on for third, with Pettit, and Lynch rounding out the top five finishers. Joe Herold finished sixth to record his best ever finish at Phoenix, followed by Busch, Raudman, Zach Niessner, and Schendel.

The victory vaulted McKean past Lamar for third place in the final standings while Pettit's fourth place finish cemented his first series title.

"We have a great setup for Phoenix," McKean said. "We really wanted to win this event for Bob (Molner) and the entire team. We moved up to third in the standings which was real important to us after the problems we had in the middle of the year. I real happy for Jim (Pettit) for winning the championship. He and his team are a real class act."

Finishing second in the car that carried him to the win last month was no defeat for Eric Holmes. "Our car was great, but catching Eddy and then trying to pass him would have been interesting," Holmes said. "This car is awesome. Two races and a first and second place finish is pretty good. This car is so good that we are taking it to Irwindale for the Showdown."

Pettit was all smiles knowing he accomplished his biggest feat to date. "I am so proud of this team," Pettit said. "We were not going to take any chances, but we weren't just going to ride around either. Finishing fourth was important and I know was the icing on the cake. My hat's off to Eddy. That guy has this place figured out. We really don't have a lot of time to celebrate the championship with the Showdown next week, but you can bet they'll be a party in Prunedale."

Pettit will lead the Southwest Series contingent into Irwindale, Calif. for the second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Pettit finished second to Ron Breese last season in the event and knows he has some unfinished business. Joining the top five in the final standings with a coveted invitation will be Joe Herold, Rip Michels, Greg Voigt, Todd Souza, and Doug McCoun.

The event took one hour, 21 minutes, and 49 seconds to complete at an average speed of 91.566 mph. The action was slowed five times for 29 laps of caution. There were two lead changes between three drivers with McKean leading the most laps (82). Nick Lynch was the top finishing rookie but Rip Michels claimed the Autometer Rookie title. Eric Holmes collected the $300 Featherlite Award, while Dan Holtz moved up from his 29th starting position to finish 12th to claim the $750 PowerAde Award. Lamar clinched the 2004 Bud Pole Award with his fifth fast time of the season.

The Southwest Series will honor Pettit and the rest of the series drivers at the annual awards banquet to be held on Friday, December 10 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. The 20th season for the Southwest Series will begin on Sunday, January 23, 2005 back at Phoenix, Int'l Raceway. For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Jeff Jefferson , Brett Thompson , Eric Holmes , Jeff Bailey , David Gilliland , Joe Herold , Dan Holtz , Darrell LaMoure , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich , Todd Souza , Tim Schendel , Rip Michels , Kyle Busch