SWS: Irwindale: Race notes

Pettit Notches Seventh Career Victory in Southwest Series Action at Irwindale DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (June 20, 2005) Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. hit the right combination this past Saturday in a critical test in his bid to claim ...

Pettit Notches Seventh Career Victory in Southwest Series Action at Irwindale

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (June 20, 2005) Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. hit the right combination this past Saturday in a critical test in his bid to claim back-to-back NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series championships by winning the Advantage Ford "100" at Irwindale Speedway.

Pettit, who has never won a Southwest Series race at Irwindale in nine previous attempts, ran strong throughout the 100-lap race on California's marquee short track, taking the lead for good on lap 82 and building a big enough advantage to hold off a last-ditch efforts by runner-up Greg Pursley and third place finisher Rip Michels as the race ended with a green, white, and checkered finish.

The victory was Pettit's second of the season and seventh career triumph in his fifth full-time campaign in the series. But Pettit needed a little luck in the process. That luck came when Bud Pole winner Burney Lamar reeled off a quick qualifying effort to lead all twenty-eight cars and then drew an eight-car invert putting Pettit on the pole in prime position.

Pettit led the field to the green flag but only managed to lead lap one before losing ground to sophomore driver and Irwindale Speedway record holder Rip Michels. Michels, the winner of 39 Irwindale Speedway features in Late Model and Modified action, quickly dispatched of Pettit as the duo exited turn two on the second lap. Michels had his game face on all afternoon in preparation for the event after suffering a blown motor two weeks before in Colorado.

As soon as Michels took the lead, 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion Greg Pursley also took advantage and dropped Pettit to third on lap three. Before the field could get sorted out the first of five caution flags flew when Mike Price slapped the outside turn three wall collecting Darrell LaMoure and local Irwindale hotshoe George Ruark making his first career series start. Price's night ended in the garage.

Michels maintained the point position over Pursley, Pettit, Dan Holtz, and two-time NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division winner Brandon Riehl at lap 10. The second caution came out for debris from Ruark's car. The action quickly resumed with Michels still in the lead.

Two-time Southwest Series winner this season Auggie Vidovich continues to flex his muscle and moved forward battling with Riehl for the fifth position. The two made contact on lap 21 and Riehl managed to save his car from spinning as he was sideways through turn two, but only lost one position.

The third caution came when LaMoure lost his hood and limped his way in to the infield pit area on lap 36. By lap 40, Michels still had Pursley and Pettit covered with Holtz and Vidovich in tow. Riehl led the next five followed by Gary Lewis, Bud Pole Award winner Lamar, Nick Lynch, and former series champion Eddy McKean.

As the race reached the halfway mark, Michels, Pursley, and Pettit had pulled away to a sizeable lead over the second pack of cars. Lewis had the fastest car on the track at the time and challenged Vidovich for the fifth spot. The two made contact down the front stretch causing Vidovich to lose four spots dropping him to ninth. Lewis then got by Holtz for fourth place on lap 65 and began to close the gap on the leaders.

When Lewis was just about the catch the leaders his car started to back up and he was forced to pit on lap 75 to replace a flat right front tire. Lewis lost three and finished 18th. Meanwhile Pettit started to make his move to reassume the lead. Michels, Pursley and Pettit began racing three wide to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. Pettit moved underneath Pursley for second on lap 81 then Michels went high the next and Pettit pounced on his prey and took the lead on the next lap. Pursley also took advantage and moved into second dropping Michels to third.

Lynch then moved into fourth place followed by Vidovich, Holtz, Riehl, M.K. Kanke, three-time Irwindale winner David Gilliland, McKean, and Greg Voigt rounding out the top ten in the running order at the lap 85 mark. Ruark's night finally came to an end when he crashed into the turn two wall collecting Riehl who had no where to go. Riehl would pit and lose ten laps making repairs to his Aero Turbine sponsored machine.

With five laps to go Kanke and Holtz were fighting for the fifth spot but the two touched and Holtz saw his great run end in the turn four wall. That caution set up a green, white, and checkered finish that would send the race into extra laps. Pettit paced the field on the restart closely blanketed by Pursley and Michels. The trio ran side-by-side over the final two laps with Pettit edging Pursley by a scant .200 seconds at the finish line. Michels held on for third with Vidovich moving around Lynch for fourth. Lynch had his best finish of the season in fifth.

Giving his dad a special Father's gift in Victory Lane was Pettit. "We had a great car tonight," Pettit said. "This victory is for my dad for all that he has sacrificed over the years so we could go racing. Our car was set up for the long run and we hit it tonight. I knew we would be good and it was sure great to see Rip (Michels) and Greg (Pursley) have great finishes."

Finishing second to record his best effort of the season was Greg Pursley who also put the Star Nursery.Com car back on the podium for the first time in five years. "This has been a long-time coming for Craig Keough," Pursley said. "Craig has meant so much to this series over the years and I am thrilled to get this car back up front. The fans here at Irwindale Speedway are the best and I know they saw a great show tonight. It was a lot of fun racing Jim and Rip side-by-side at the finish."

Though the victory eluded Michels, he was still happy with the finish. "With the kind of luck we have had this year I real happy to finish third," Michels said. We had a great 80-lap car and we just fell short. I used it up early and had nothing left. This Stock Building Supply team is on the right track and we look forward to the rest of the season running up front with these guys,"

Stephan Sadler was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year competitor with his tenth place performance. It was his first career top ten finish. "I was concerned early in the evening," Sadler said. "I did not qualify well at all and I was very disappointed. But I started feeling a lot better as the raced progressed. It feels real good to run competitively and compete in the top ten."

Pettit's win allowed him to increase his point lead over new second place in the standings Vidovich to 36 points after six events. Lamar falls to third place after a disappointing 15th finish. Kanke moved up fourth place just 28 points behind Lamar. Moving into fifth place was Greg Voigt after claiming his sixth top ten performance in six races this season. Eddy McKean moves up to sixth, while Pursley, Thomas Martin, Lynch, and Michels round out the top ten.

The race took just 44 minutes and 54 seconds to complete the 100-lap/50-mile distance. The action was slowed five times for 23 laps of caution. There were two lead changes between two drivers with Michels leading the most laps (80). Lamar collected the $400 Bud Pole Award to score his thirteenth career fast time. Michels picked up the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous event (15), while Voigt earned the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in this event (15). Duane Sharp led his team to victory and collected the LUNATI Crew Chief Award.

The next event for the Southwest Series is this weekend and will feature some NASCAR NEXTEL Cup flavor on Saturday, June 25, when the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 takes the green flag at Infineon Raceway for the series' only road course event of the season. Five NEXTEL Cup drivers are slated to compete in the Southwest Series event, highlighted by Michael Waltrip, a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 (2001, 2003).

Other NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers scheduled to compete include Kyle Busch, Travis Kvapil, Boris Said and Dave Blaney. This will mark the first Southwest Series event for four of the five drivers - Said has competed a number of times, including a 25th -place effort in last year's Snap-on Tools 200.

"We're looking forward to getting some track time in the Southwest Series," Kvapil said. "This will be my first race in Sonoma so I'll need to get as many laps in as I can."

Busch will drive for the same team (MRG Motorsports) that saw David Gilliland take the checkered flag at Infineon Raceway in 2004. Kyle's brother, Kurt Busch, won the Southwest Series race in the Sonoma Valley in 1999. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regular Kevin Harvick also won the event in 2003.

Practice and qualifying for the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 takes place on Friday, June 24, with the green flag set to drop on the 64-lap feature on Saturday at 1 p.m. (Pacific). For ticket information, call 800-870-RACE or visit www.infineonraceway.com <https://webmail.nascar.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.infineonraceway.com/> or www.ticketmaster.com <https://webmail.nascar.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.ticketmaster.com/> .

Race stats:

Time of Race: 44 mins, 54 secs
Average Speed: 70.156 mph
Margin of Victory: .200 Seconds

BUD POLE AWARD: Burney Lamar, 1 HPS Mechanical/Victory Circle/Groeniger Chevrolet

FEATHERLITE AWARD: Rip Michels, 12 Stock Building Supply/LADCO/Victory Circle Chevrolet

POWERADE AWARD: Greg Voigt, 9 Auto Pro Racing <http://www.nascarregionalracing.com/story.asp?Series_ID=8&News_ID=9702##> Engines Chevrolet

LUNATI CREW CHIEF AWARD: Duane Sharp, 03 Racing for the Missing Ford

Caution Flags: Laps 6-11; 15-17; 36-39; 90-93; 98-103. 5 for 23 laps.

Lap Leaders: Jim Pettit, II 1, Rip Michels 2-81, Jim Pettit, II 82-105.

Total Laps Led: Rip Michels 80, Jim Pettit II 25. 2 changes involving 2 drivers.

Top 10 Driver Points: Jim Pettit, II 974, Auggie Vidovich 938, Burney Lamar 900, M K Kanke 872, Greg Voigt 836, Eddy McKean 815, Greg Pursley 796, Thomas Martin 780, Nick Lynch 754, Rip Michels 717

Sunoco Rookie Points: Don Campbell 50, Dustin Jones 48, Ryan Foster 39, Stephan Sadler 39, David Mayhew 34.


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Drivers Michael Waltrip , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Greg Pursley , Don Campbell , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Jim Pettit II , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Dave Blaney , Ryan Foster , Rip Michels , Gary Lewis , David Mayhew , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil