SWS: Irwindale preview 2001-09-01

Irwindale, Calif. - - The NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour will make its third and final appearance of the 2001 season at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night, September 1 which just happens to be the first day of a long Labor Day weekend....

Irwindale, Calif. - - The NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour will make its third and final appearance of the 2001 season at Irwindale Speedway on Saturday night, September 1 which just happens to be the first day of a long Labor Day weekend. Honoring that fact, Irwindale Speedway and partner Advantage Ford will stage a spectacular fireworks show directly after the races on that evening. And, as is the Speedway's policy for all NASCAR touring events, all youngsters 12 and under get in free with paid adult admission.

"Our fans had such a great time at our 4th of July fireworks show that we decided to do it again on this last three-day weekend of the Summer," said track promoter Bob DeFazio. "Racing is always dramatic at the Speedway, and this will be a little icing on the cake for the fans who choose to spend the first day of a great family weekend with us."

And, all the in-sky pops, booms, and starbursts will be mirrored in the on-track action earlier that night as the top pros of the Featherlite Southwest Tour slug it out for all-important championship points on what many consider the fastest and most competitive half-mile paved oval in the country.

Fans are advised to get to the track early on September 1 to enjoy the on-track autograph session where every car and every driver in the starting field will be in place on the grid and fans are allowed to go onto the race track to meet drivers and crews just prior to the races.

M. K. Kanke won the first two Irwindale races of the 2001 season in fine style but has been sidelined (possibly for the rest of the season) with a broken leg that he received in a nasty accident in practice for the Tour race at Sears Point on June 23. Fans will miss the lanky competitor from Frazier Park who many thought was well on his way to a long-overdue championship year.

Last Saturday in Erie, Colorado, Lakeside's Auggie Vidovich Jr. held off a hard charging Craig Raudman to win the United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" Saturday evening at the 3/8-mile Colorado National Speedway. The victory was the second of 2001 for the 20 year hotshoe and kept the young talent within striking distance of Craig Raudman in the season long championship chase. Following Vidovich and Raudman to the line was Rookie candidate Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho, with Jim Pettit II in fourth, and Bob Lyon rounding out the top five.

Travis Clark of Littleton, Colo. grabbed the Bud Pole Award with a time of 16.076/83.976 mph and lead the first 99 laps before Vidovich assumed control of the race. Clark's impressive run ended on lap 120 when he was involved in a multi-car incident along with Jon Nelson and Nick Joanides. McKean garnered Rookie-of-the-Race honors and lies just 13 points behind Rookie leader Scott Brandt. Vidovich's margin of victory over Raudman was .001 seconds. Clark earned the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (99).

Coming into Irwindale Raudman leads Vidovich by a "comfortable" (???) 113-point (1631 to 1518) margin. Popular driver Darrell LaMoure is 87 points behind Auggie with 1431. With only four races left after Irwindale, winning at "LA's 1/2-Mile Super Speedway" on Labor Day weekend might just be the key to a 2001 season championship for one of these top competitors.

For the record: Featherlite Southwest Series cars are slightly smaller versions of those seen in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Races are open to 1996-1999 versions of American-made, steel-bodied production passenger sedans. Approved models include the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ford Thunderbird and Taurus, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Pontiac Grand Prix. While the NASCAR Winston Cup Series car weighs 3,400 pounds and maintains a wheelbase of 110 inches, the Featherlite Southwest Series car must weigh a minimum of 2,900 pounds and have a wheelbase of between 101 and 105 inches. Both types of cars are powered by 350 to 358 cubic inch V-8 engines.

The Featherlite Southwest Series became a part of the NASCAR Touring Division in 1986. 2000 proved to be not only a memorable season for the series, but a record-breaking one as well. With the attraction of last year's thrilling championship race, the seasons to come promise to offer large purses, more fans and guaranteed grass roots racing excitement. The series is one of four NASCAR regional touring series, along with the Slim Jim All Pro Series, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, and RE/MAX Challenge Series which feature Late Model cars running under one blanket of rules that allow them to compete on a regional basis as well as at national events that highlight each of the four series.

Long-time track promotional partner Advantage Ford is the presenting sponsor of the 150 -lap event. "Our relationship with Irwindale Speedway, which began well before opening night in 1999, has been a very strong one," Mike Wedmore, Advantage GM, indicated. "People come to the Speedway from all over southern California; they meet our personnel at our trackside product display area, of see the Advantage Ford Mustang Pace Car and Advantage Ford Truck Safety Vehicles and remember us when they're in the market for a new car, truck, or SUV or even a super-clean, low-mileage used car. The Irwindale fans really respond to our support of their favorite sport, they're a great group of people and hundreds of them have become good customers of our dealership."

In salute to the track's pre-race "Trucker's Night" celebration activities the American Race Trucks (they'll do an "enduro length" 75-lapper!) and the Ultra Wheels Super Trucks are also on Saturday night's big show bill. Tickets are on sale now at the track box office (13300 E. Live Oak Avenue just off the 605 freeway), by phone (626-358-1100) and over the internet at www.irwindalespeedway.com.

Gates always open early at Irwindale (4:00 pm) and fans are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy a live band, face painting for the kids, and an "insider's" look at the race cars as they practice and then qualify for the night's action. Pre-race festivities start early and an on-track autograph session offering fans a close-up and personal contact with NASCAR Southwest Tour drivers and the machines that they race will be a highlight of the night for early-arriving fans. THANK YOU


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Drivers Darrell LaMoure , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich