Gilliland tops field in Colorado clash. DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (August 18, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. thrilled a capacity crowd when he passed local track hero Jerry Robertson with three laps to go in the United Power/Touchstone...
Gilliland tops field in Colorado clash.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (August 18, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. thrilled a capacity crowd when he passed local track hero Jerry Robertson with three laps to go in the United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" Saturday night a Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo. The win was Gilliland's third victory of the season in NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series competition and catapulted the second year series driver up to fifth place in the season standings. Following Gilliland to the line was Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. who closed to within 26 points of point leader Auggie Vidovich Jr. who finished tenth. Jerry Robertson, Dan Holtz and Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year contender Danny Burson rounded out the top five finishers.
Craig Raudman served notice that his team is moving in the right direction when he won his 21st career Bud Pole Award with a fast lap of 15.917 seconds/84.815 mph around the 3/8-mile paved oval. Track record holder Burney Lamar clocked in with the second fast time, with rookie Danny Burson, David Gilliland, and Jerry Robertson rounding out the top five qualifiers. Bruce Yackey and Cristopher Muhler rounded out the 26-car field after finishing one/two in the 15-lap non-qualifiers race. Nine drivers failed to make the show including Kevin Clark, Roger Avants, Joe Herold, Scott Wilson, Greg Potts, Danny Mientka, Nate Thiesse, Thomas Martin, and Richard Johnson.
Victory Circle Chassis' rookie contender Frank Deiny Jr. started the race on the pole after Raudman drew an eight-car invert. Outside pole sitter Eric Holmes grabbed the early lead at the drop of the green flag to lead lap one. Deiny closed back up on Holmes and took the lead back on lap 2. Deiny led through lap seven, when local star and NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Northwest regional leader Jerry Robertson took the lead on lap eight.
Robertson, making his first start 2003, took control of the race on lap 8 and set out to repeat his performance from last season. Robertson controlled the early pace with Deiny in tow. Gilliland moved up to second place by lap 10, followed by Eric Holmes, Bear Lynch, and Craig Raudman rounding out the top five. Burney Lamar led the second five with Danny Burson in sixth, JR Patton in seventh, Darrell LaMoure in eighth, Mike Ledbetter in ninth, and Dan Holtz rounding out the top ten.
Ledbetter's top ten run ended when he had to pit on lap 19. Ledbetter would return and finish the event in the 25th position. The first of four cautions came out on lap 33 when points leader Auggie Vidovich and 2003 series champion Eddy McKean tangled in turn two. McKean suffered front end damage to the left front and had to pit for repairs. McKean would run one lap down the rest of the event until having to retire after his power steering gave out on lap 116. Vidovich would rebound from the spin and stay on the lead lap.
Robertson continued to set the pace at lap 50. Gilliland had moved up to second, with Lamar, Lynch, and Deiny rounding out the top five. Burson held down the sixth spot, followed by Holmes, Holtz, Rick Carelli, and Tim Schendel rounding out the top ten. Deiny's night of good luck ended after a tire on the right side apparently went down sending the Star Nursery Chevrolet hard into the turn one wall. Deiny was Ok, but the car was done for the evening.
The third caution flew on lap 72 when Holmes spun in turn four and 1998 winner Doug McCoun slowed with electrical problems. McCoun was done for the evening and Holmes was able to continue on the lead lap.
By lap 100, Robertson still set the pace, but Gilliland took his measure every lap looking for a weakness in the leader. Gilliland looked to have a faster car, but each time he made a move, Robertson covered the line to perfection. Lamar fell back a bit, but still ran in the third position, with Burson moving up to fourth, and Lynch maintaining the fifth position.
Jim Pettit II, who is seeking his first series title, had made his way into the top ten and by lap 129 moved into the third position. Pettit needed a caution in order to make a run on the leaders, as Robertson and Gilliland were more than half a lap ahead in heavy traffic. Luck would shine on Pettit as the final caution flew on lap 137 for the spinning car of LaMoure.
After lining up the cars for a single file restart, the field would see a green, white, and checkered finish with Robertson taking the green on lap 147. Gilliland pressed the issue and made a superb pass as the pair exited turn four. Pettit was also able to get by as the handle on Robertson's Chevrolet started to go. Gilliland held off a determined Pettit to collect his third victory of the season and fourth of his career. Pettit crossed the stripe .130 seconds behind, with Robertson holding on for third. Holtz and Burson finished fourth and fifth respectively.
A jubilant Gilliland thank his whole crew and stated he had some unfinished business. "Rich Fountain and this entire team do a tremendous job setting up this car," Gilliland said. "Last year we fell a few laps short. This year all I wanted was to win. My car was real good off the corner and that last yellow help me. Jerry started to drift up a bit over the final laps and my car worked good out of the corner. It is just a great feeling to win one of these races and to do it here in front of all these fans is pretty special."
Pettit was happy to finish second, but was disappointed in what could have been. "Qualifying bit us again," Pettit said. "We just missed it, but our race set up was perfect. I think we could have made a run on David if we had a few more laps, but it just took us too long to work through the traffic. This is a great night for us as we took back a bunch of points from Auggie."
After winning last season, Jerry Robertson turned in another stellar performance. "I drove the car pretty hard early and it gave up a bit at the end," Robertson said. "We were competitive again and that means a lot. I hated to see that last caution, but that is racing."
Finishing fourth was Dan Holtz. "We just keep focusing on the big picture and the results will be there," Holtz said. "This was a fun race tonight. We ran good from the start, we just had to let the race come to us."
Scoring his second top five finish and collecting Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race honors was Danny Burson. "I learned quite a bit tonight," Burson said. "I kind of let off at the beginning, but the fast guys just go flat out early. I dropped back to around 10th or 11th and had to get into a rhythm. By the end of the race I was feeling pretty confident. It was a great to race with guys."
Int'l Truck & Engine Midwest Series regular Tim Schendel finished sixth, followed by Lamar, Lynch, Mike Gallegos, and point Vidovich rounding out the top ten. Vidovich maintains the point lead by a scant 26 points over Pettit. Holmes holds down the third position after a 14th place effort. Holtz stays in fourth, with Gilliland climbing to fifth place. Raudman drops to sixth after a 20th place finish, with JR Patton, Eddy McKean, Steve Belletto, and Burney Lamar rounding out the top ten in the points with five races to go.
The race took 54 minutes and 54 seconds to complete at an average speed of 61.475 mph. There were four caution flags for 29 laps and three lead changes among four drivers. Raudman collected the $325 bonus for his third Bud Pole Award of the season, with Jim Pettit II picking up the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race and the $750 bonus for improving the most positions in the event.
The next event for the Featherlite Southwest Series is Saturday, August 30 at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, Calif. as drivers prepare for a run at the NASCAR Top 10 in preparation for an invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown November 6-8.