SWS: Irwindale II: Race notes

IRWINDALE, Calif. (September 1, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. collected his fourth victory of the 2003 season in NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series competition at Irwindale Speedway Saturday night by winning the ...

IRWINDALE, Calif. (September 1, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. collected his fourth victory of the 2003 season in NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series competition at Irwindale Speedway Saturday night by winning the Advantage Ford "150" 2.188 seconds ahead of Kevin Vernon. Eric Holmes finished third, with Eddy McKean in fourth and series point leader Auggie Vidovich Jr. rounding out the top five finishers.

Kevin Vernon won his second career Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 17.931 seconds/100.385 mph to top 36 qualifiers. David Gilliland, Ben Walker, Michael Price, and Darrell LaMoure rounded out the fast five in qualifying leaving Chris Hines, Greg Potts, Brandon Loverock, Don Kerr, Tommy Fry, Scott Calvin, Ryan Arciero, and Branden Bonnett to grid for the 12-lap non-qualifiers race. Hines and Potts finished one/two to fill out the 30-car starting grid.

Holtz and LaMoure started on the front row after Vernon drew a 6-car invert. LaMoure lost the handle on his NAPA/Yerf Dog Chevrolet as the field filed into turn one bring out the first of three caution periods. LaMoure's spin collected 2001 series champion Craig Raudman adding to his disappointing season. The action resumed on lap 8 with Ben Walker in Clarence Broussard's Chevrolet controlling the point. Gilliland moved into second place with Doug McCoun, Dan Holtz, and Kevin Vernon rounding out the top five in the running order at lap 10.

By lap 20, series point leader Auggie Vidovich Jr. started to make his move towards the front from his eighth place starting position, along with Greg Fowler, Nick Joanides, and Eric Holmes. The race stayed green through the one-third mark with Walker out to a commanding lead over Gilliland. Vernon moved up to third, with McCoun in fourth, and Vidovich in fifth place. Holmes, Holtz, Joanides, Fowler, and Herold maintained the second five positions, followed by Eddy McKean, Jim Pettit II, Steve Belletto, Mike Ledbetter, Thomas Martin, Todd Souza, Rick Ruzbarsky, Chris Hines, JR Patton, and Keith Spangler rounding out the top twenty in the running order.

The third and final caution came at the expense of race leader Walker as he tried to negotiate lapped traffic he tangled with the car of Martin and found the wall ending his night. Martin's night was also over. That gave the advantage over to Gilliland who had been riding a distant second to Walker over the first 75 laps.

Gilliland's advantage may have been cut short if another caution had come out as his SOCAL Pipe Trades Chevrolet dropped a cylinder on lap 80. Gilliland was able to flat foot the car around the half-mile oval and maintain his advantage over Vernon over the final fifty laps. Meanwhile, Vernon and Holmes waged a spirited battle for second place, but each time Holmes was able to get along side of Vernon, he slammed the door a powered his Chevrolet out of the corner.

By lap 106 defending series champion Eddy McKean made his way into the top five from his 25th place starting position and looked for a solid finish to boost his standing in the NASCAR Top 10. On lap 107 Doug McCoun lost power in his Truline Chevrolet and pulled into pits ending his evening.

Vidovich's luck started running out on lap 110 when the right front of his car started smoking. He radioed his crew and told him he had lost his front brakes essentially ending his march to the front. Vidovich stayed on track hoping to salvage a good finish.

Over the closing laps, Gilliland was able to handle the lapped traffic without difficulty and scored his fourth win of 2003 by a margin of 2.188 seconds over Vernon who held off a determined Holmes to finish a career best second place. Holmes finished third, with McKean and Vidovich rounding out the top five finishers.

"It has been a lot of fun racing for Rich Fountain this year," Gilliland said. "There is nothing like winning races and this series is the toughest around to win on. I am really thankful we did not have another caution as I lost a cylinder and don't know if I could have done anything on a restart. This is great. I love this place!"

Finishing a career best second was Kevin Vernon from Bakersfield, Calif. "This race was about the motor," Vernon said. "This Watkins engine was the difference. Eric was real tough, but we were able to power out of the corners so much better. It was fun racing him."

"Kevin (Vernon) drove a great race," Holmes said. "I tried everything I could to get around him, he was just stronger off the corner than I was tonight. A top five finish is great and keeps us in the championship race. I know I gained a few points tonight."

Scoring his second top five finish of the season and shedding a little light on an otherwise forgettable season was Eddy McKean. "Racing is so much more fun when you run good," McKean said. "We have not had much luck this season and to finish with a top five here means a lot to the whole team. We have not been very good here in the past and this finish will go a long way in turning our season around. We are going to racetracks that I am pretty good at, and tonight's finish gives me confidence when we come back in November."

Vidovich's point lead stands at 72 points over Pettit who struggled and finished 18th at Irwindale. Holmes maintains third place with Gilliland moving up to fourth place. Dan Holtz rounds out the top five in the overall standings. McKean moves back up to sixth place, followed by Steve Belletto in seventh, JR Patton in eighth, Craig Raudman in ninth, and Burney Lamar in tenth place. Doug McCoun sits just 26 points outside the NASCAR Top 10.

The race took 58 minutes, 7 seconds to complete and was slowed only three times for 22 laps of caution. The average speed was 77.430 mph and Gilliland's margin of victory over Vernon was 2.118 seconds. Kevin Vernon won the Bud Pole Award and the #325 bonus with a quick lap of 17.931 seconds/100.385 mph. Eddy McKean won the $750 Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race for improving the most positions in the event (25th to 4th). Kevin Vernon also scored Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Race honors for the first time this season. There were two lead changes between two drivers with Ben Walker leading the most laps (76).

The next event for the Featherlite Southwest Series is Saturday, September 20 at Tucson Raceway Park in Tucson, Ariz. where the series will return after a one-year hiatus. This year's event will honor and pay tribute to John Baker who died 15 month's ago.

For all the latest news and information regarding the Featherlite Southwest Series log on to www.nascartouring.com/featherliteswseries .


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Drivers Eric Holmes , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Rick Ruzbarsky , Steve Belletto , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Ben Walker , Todd Souza , John Baker , Nick Joanides