SWS: Irwindale: Event preview

Teams ready for Irwindale showdown on speed. Irwindale, Calif. (June 04, 2002) -- Eddy McKean has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the big tracks of the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division, however, he knows that in...

Teams ready for Irwindale showdown on speed.

Irwindale, Calif. (June 04, 2002) -- Eddy McKean has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the big tracks of the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division, however, he knows that in order to claim a championship he will have to improve on his short track performances. That is exactly what he plans to do as the Featherlite Southwest Series returns to Irwindale Speedway Saturday, June 8 for the first of two appearances. McKean is optimistic about his chances in the K&N Performance Filters "150" Saturday night. " I have run pretty good at Irwindale in the past with a couple of top-tens," McKean said. "You just don't move to this level of racing and win races every week. Before I won my first track championship, I had thirty races under my belt at the same racetrack. This will be my fifth trip to Irwindale."

When asked, competitors will tell you that Irwindale Speedway is a short track that races like a superspeedway. The wide, multi-groove facility is deceptively fast and lends itself to three-wide racing. That combination plays perfectly into McKean's hand. "Last year I had a couple of chances to win on short tracks, but I obviously wasn't ready," McKean continued. "I have a sharp crew chief in Marc Lungren, and I have learned a tremendous amount as a driver over the last year. Winning at Pikes Peak has given me the confidence to win again."

Current second place title contender, Sean Woodside, is no stranger to Irwindale Speedway's banked-asphalt oval. Woodside won the track's Super Late Model Championship in 2001 despite missing a race early in the year. Woodside looks to make it two in a row in the TV races, as he won the last televised event at Mesa Marin Raceway back in April.

Sophomore sensation Burney Lamar continues to balance his full-time school studies and racing. Lamar, a junior at Cal State Sacramento, aims for perfection both on and off the track. Lamar holds a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom; however, if you ask him he is only doing "B" work on the track. "I have had opportunities to win races this year," Lamar said. "I let the victories slip away and I know that is part of learning. I'm frustrated, but not discouraged."

I like my chances at Irwindale," Lamar continued. "My crew chief, Junior Joiner, has a lot of experience there and his set-ups have been right on all season." Lamar hopes to make a have a passing grade at Irwindale Speedway by claiming his first career Featherlite Southwest Series victory. "Irwindale is so big and wide, it makes so fun to race. You can mix it up every lap and run side-by-side with no problems. It's going to be a great race, one that I hope I win."

In order for McKean, Woodside, or Lamar to hoist the winner's trophy, they' ll all have to get through series veteran M.K. Kanke. Kanke won on two occasions in 2001 on the ultra-fast Irwindale speed plant. Kanke's on-track prowess and racing guile will be a formidable challenge for all comers as he plans on victory number 19 which will tie him with Mike Chase for second on the all-time win list behind Rick Carelli (21).

The Irwindale Speedway event will be the third televised race for the Featherlite Southwest Series on the SPEED Channel in 2002. The race will air on Monday, June 17 at 8 pm EST as part of NASCAR's Racing Across America Series. More than 40 drivers will be on hand and attempt to qualify for one of thirty starting positions at the West's marquee racing facility.

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.


* The race within the race -- Brandon Whitt and Steve Belletto have quietly established themselves as the early front runners for the coveted Rookie-of-the-Year crown. Whitt, a twenty year old from El Cajon, Calif., has topped the Rookie class on three occasions this season, with Belletto scoring Rookie-of-the-Race honors twice. Whitt leads Belletto by five points, with 2001 Mesa Marin Raceway track champion Dan Holtz in third.

* Welcome Back -- Craig Raudman returns to the Featherlite Southwest Series for the first time since his championship run of a year ago. Over the winter, Raudman's championship team was disbanded and sold which left him on the outside looking in. Raudman has run selected Super Late Model races at Irwindale Speedway and Mesa Marin Raceway in preparation for June 8. He is confident about his chances Saturday night as he has tested his new car several times and consistently laid down record lap times.

* Tony Toste fills the seat in the CBA Motorsports Chevrolet vacated by Sean Monroe. Toste has been away from racing for over two years and is excited to be back in the drivers seat. Toste finished 20th in his first outing for Clarence Broussard at PPIR on May 19.

* Etc. -- Eddy McKean became the fifth different win in five events this season following his triumph at the last series event at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway. There have also been five different Bud Pole Award Winners at each of the first five events.


* Todd Souza looks to capitalize on strong finishes this season and find Victory Lane on Saturday at Irwindale Speedway. After a disappointing 2001 campaign that saw him start only eight events, the Watsonville, Calif. native regrouped over the winter to build a championship caliber team. That work has paid off as Souza has collected two top-five and three top-ten finishes in five starts this season. He also finds himself solidly in fifth place in the championship hunt after five events, just 95 markers out of first place.


* "Even a blind chipmunk gets an acorn once in a while." -- Scott Busby (No. 73 Richmond American Homes Chevrolet), describing his ninth place qualifying effort at Pikes Peak.

M.K. Kanke is the only Featherlite Southwest Series driver to win more that one event at Irwindale Speedway since it began operations in 1999. Kanke won two events at Irwindale Speedway in 2001.


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Drivers Rick Carelli , Brandon Whitt , Scott Busby , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Craig Raudman , Steve Belletto , Todd Souza , Tony Toste