SWS: Colorado: Race report

Robertson wows hometown crowd. Erie, Colo. (August 18, 2002) Jerry Robertson of nearby by Arvada, Colo. used track experience and dazzled his hometown crowd en route to his first career Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring victory...

Robertson wows hometown crowd.

Erie, Colo. (August 18, 2002) Jerry Robertson of nearby by Arvada, Colo. used track experience and dazzled his hometown crowd en route to his first career Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring victory Saturday evening in the United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" at Colorado National Speedway. A hard-charging David Gilliland was second, with series point leader Eddy McKean coming home third. Jim Pettit II rallied to finish fourth and RE/MAX Challenge Series regular Brian Hoppe rounded out the top five.

Burney Lamar of West Sacramento, Calif. set a new track qualifying record and earned his fourth Bud Pole Award of the season. Lamar's time of 15.736 seconds/85.791mph paced 37 drivers in qualifying. The entire field was separated by less than 6/10's of a second with an average qualifying time of 16.043 seconds. Local driver Travis Clark was second quick, followed by Scott Schmidt, Chris Muhler, and Jim Pettit II rounding out the top five qualifiers. The lightning fast qualifying speeds left several drivers scratching their collective heads. Two-time defending race winner Auggie Vidovich Jr. qualified 18th, with former track record holder M.K. Kanke, posting the 17th fasted time.

40 drivers were on hand but unfortunately three drivers had trouble in practice and were not able to make a qualifying attempt. Most notably was current track point leader and NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge Regional leader Roger Avants. Avants, a former winner on the Featherlite Southwest Series, blew a motor in practice and was unable to change his power plant before qualifying began.

With only twenty-six starting positions available for the 150-lap sprint, thirteen drivers lined up for the 20 lap non-qualifiers race that would see two drivers transfer to the big dance. Brian Hoppe won from the eighth starting position and made the transfer along with local driver Mike Snow. Failing to make the show were Bear Lynch, Danny Mientka, Scott Backman, Rocky Nash, Tim Schendel, Bruce Yackey, Greg Fowler, Kevin Clark, Ed Belec, Ronnie White II, and R.P. Dykes.

Lamar led the field to green in front of a standing room only crowd of more than 14,400 dedicated Colorado race fans. Lamar has led the most laps of any driver this season and looked to dominate another event. Lamar led the first 15-laps before his car started to push up the racetrack allowing Jim Pettit II to assume control of the race. Pettit, enjoying recent on-track success, paced the field for the next nineteen circuits. The first of three cautions flew on lap 24 when Lamar and Chris Muhler tangled on the backstretch. Muhler was able to continue but Lamar's night ended with heavy suspension damage.

Pettit continued to lead the race on the lap 30 restart but elected to save his tires for a run later in the race, allowing a fast moving freight train named Jerry Robertson to take over the lead on lap 35. Robertson blistered through the field, at times producing a lead of three seconds over Pettit. At the one-third mark, Robertson was at the point, followed by Pettit, Eddy McKean, David Gilliland, Brandon Whitt, Frank Maronski Jr., Brian Hoppe, Chris Muhler, Mike Ledbetter, and Steve Belletto rounding out the top-10.

The second caution period came when the car of Todd Souza lost power and was unable make it to the pits. Souza was assisted off the track and returned nine laps down to finish in the 20th position. Robertson continued to pace the field through the middle section of the race, even though his car started to produce smoke that grew increasing worse. By the halfway point, the top four were the same and Brian Hoppe made his way up to fifth from his 25th starting position. The second five were led by Chris Muhler, followed by Whitt, Ledbetter, with M.K. Kanke and Auggie Vidovich Jr. joining the top-10.

The final caution flag waved on lap 110 for the car of Mike Snow who spun in turn 2 and was unable to re-fire. The final restart came on lap 116, the perfect time for Pettit to make his planned move. That plan was foiled when the #03 Hall Kinion mount developed a miss in the engine that got progressively worse. First McKean got by Pettit, then David Gilliland made the move around the Ford. Meanwhile, Robertson was able to negotiate the traffic and build a substantial lead over McKean. Gilliland moved past McKean on lap 134 and started to close in on Robertson. Gilliland was 3/10's of a second faster each lap then Robertson but in the end he did not have enough laps to catch the local star. Robertson took the checkers .187 seconds ahead of Gilliland. McKean finished third to pad his point lead, with Pettit holding on to fourth, and Brian Hoppe rounding out the top-5 finishers.

Finishing sixth through tenth were Doug McCoun, M.K. Kanke, Brandon Whitt, Travis Clark, and frank Maronski Jr. rounding out the top-ten. Failing to finish the 150-lap distance were Scott Schmidt (accident), Lamar (suspension), two-time race winner Auggie Vidovich Jr. (electrical), Mike Snow (brakes), Scott Busby (engine), Richard Burton (suspension), and Mike Gallegos (engine). Nineteen of the 26 drivers who started the race were running at the end.

"This is a big win for us," Robertson said. "I borrowed this car because my car was not ready and it just worked flawlessly. I was concerned when my car started to smoke, but as long as it kept sticking I was going for it. This is such a tough series to win in and I hoped my experience here at CNS would pay off, and it did."

Finishing second and recording his third straight top-ten finish for new car owner Rich Fountain was David Gilliland. "This whole team works real hard and this finish is a testament to the team," Gilliland said. "I wish this race was a few laps longer, I think I could have caught Jerry (Robertson) and made a move for the win. This finish just shows what we are capable of and how good we are going to be."

Extending his point lead with his sixth top-five finish of the season was Eddy McKean. "You always want to win," McKean said. "My car just got a little tight at the end, but I am real happy to finish third. This finish goes a long way towards a championship. I am excited about how we have run all season. CNS is a fun track to race and tonight was real competitive."

Collecting his fifth straight top-ten finish and third top-five finish of the season was Jim Pettit II. "I am disappointed that we weren't able to contend for the win," Pettit said. "I think we had the car to beat, I was just riding around waiting for the final 30-laps. When the motor started to miss, my heart sank. This finish proves what a great team we have, but man did I want to win this thing."

Making the long tow from Madison, Wisc. was RE/MAX Challenger Series regular Brian Hoppe. Hoppe finished fifth but was hoping for better. "To finish fifth after starting at the back is pretty good," Hoppe said. "I had a great car; one I think could have won this race. At the end the car seemed to go neutral so I could not mount much of a challenge. Lapped traffic hurt us a little, but fifth is real good."

McKean extended his point lead to 120 markers over M.K. Kanke. Lamar falls to third after a 25th place finish 124-points behind McKean. Pettit maintains the fourth in the standings 155-points behind. Doug McCoun jumps back into the top-five 195-points back. The second five see Todd Souza in sixth, with Frank Maronski Jr., Steve Belletto, Brandon Whitt, and Joe Herold rounding out the top-ten.

A new race record was set for the 150-lap distance at 49 minutes, 8 seconds. Lamar collected his fourth Bud Pole Award of the season, and Jerry Robertson won the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (116), and Brandon Whitt was the Rookie-of-the-Race. The average race speed was 68.690 mph with only three cautions for 18-laps, and the margin of victory was .187 seconds. There were two lead changes among three drivers.

The Featherlite Southwest Series drivers will take two months off before returning to action on Sunday, October 20 at Mesa Marin Raceway as part of the "October Classic" weekend. The Sunday afternoon race is slated for 150-laps. The final race of the 2002 season will be on Thursday, November 7 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway where the 17th series champion will be crowned.

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of eight NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses. NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks. Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Goody's Headache Powders, Raybestos Brakes, Hills Brothers Coffee, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jerry Robertson , Brandon Whitt , Scott Busby , David Gilliland , Burney Lamar , Mike Ledbetter , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Steve Belletto , Auggie Vidovich , Todd Souza , Tim Schendel , Kevin Clark , Richard Burton