SWS: Irwindale: Race notes

Michels Mastery of Irwindale Nets Southwest Series Win DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (August 16, 2006) Rip Michels from San Fernando, Calif. claimed his first career NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series victory this past Saturday night at...

Michels Mastery of Irwindale Nets Southwest Series Win

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (August 16, 2006) Rip Michels from San Fernando, Calif. claimed his first career NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series victory this past Saturday night at his home track of Irwindale (CA) Speedway in front of more than 5,000 enthusiastic and supportive race fans. Greg Pursley, the 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series National Champion finished second with Eric Holmes, Thomas Martin, and Eddy McKean rounding out the top five finishers in the Stock Building Supply sponsored event.

Greg Pursley claimed his eighth career Bud Pole Award earlier in the evening with a quick lap of 18.035 seconds/99.806 mph around the lightning fast half-mile paved oval. Pursley drew a 6-car invert placing Holmes and two-time series champion Pettit on the front row to start the 100-lap event.

Holmes, who is currently second in the point standings, was unable to lead a lap as Pettit quickly asserted himself at the front to lead lap one. Pettit has faced countless struggles this season and was looking to get his season on track and looked to have the car to do so but quickly fell victim to Michels on lap six.

Michels and Pettit exchanged the lead several time over the next three laps before Michels took command of the race on lap 9. Michels who was winless in his previous 35 starts in the Southwest Series had something to prove. His sponsor, Stock Building Supply, was sponsoring the race and he had come so close on two previous occasions at Irwindale, including the 2005 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

"I have won a lot of races at Irwindale over the years," Michels said. "The 'tour' is tough and this was one that I have wanted since last year."

While Michels controlled the pace out front, former track champion and 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion Greg Pursley was making his first start of the season in the Southwest Series. Pursley started sixth after the invert and through most of the race never fell further than third eventually making a couple of runs at Michels but ended finishing second.

Holmes who was looking to regain the point lead and packing up his second place performance at Stockton last month was never able to mount a charge at Pursley or Michels but had his hands full trying to hold off Pettit early and Thomas Martin as the laps wound down.

Martin who is in his fourth year on the series had the fastest car through the middle part of the race and was looking for his best finish of the year. His stellar run nearly ended on the lap 22 restart when he missed a shift and dropped all the way back to sixteenth before getting back up to speed. Luckily all cars were able to miss his stalled vehicle and after a couple of laps he started moving back towards the front.

Martin would eventually end up finishing in the fourth position to record his best finish of the season. Eddy McKean who has had a very consistent season thus far continued his finishing average by placing fifth for his fifth top five finish of the season.

When the checkered flag dropped after 100 laps, Michels celebrated the nearly perfect victory among his enthusiastic fans and family.

"I just can't believe it," said Michels. "We have tried so hard and had come up short. I am so thrilled for Stock Building Supply and this whole team as we have waited a long time for this. We had a great car tonight and it could not have worked out better."

Finishing second in a new car was Pursley. "I love these cars and I have missed racing this season," Pursley said. "The Star Nursery team put a great car under me and finishing second feels great. I congratulate Rip on picking up his first win."

"We did what we needed to do," said third place finisher Eric Holmes. "The championship is going to come down to the final lap of the final race. We are in position."

Loose is fast but Thomas Martin created a new definition for loose. "My car was fast that is for sure," Martin said. "But at the same time it was a handful to drive most of the race. I am just glad to work my way back to the front to finish well. My team has worked hard all season for this finish."

Rounding out the top five finishers was former champion McKean. "It is another solid finish for us," McKean said. "This place is tricky with set ups, we missed just a bit and the finish keeps us close in the points."

With the win, Michels extends his point lead to 21-points over Holmes. McKean drops to third just eleven points behind Holmes. After finishing 12th, M.K. Kanke maintains fourth but drops 72-points behind McKean. Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year leader David Mayhew climbs one position to fifth just 90-points behind Kanke.

Michels led 92 laps in route to the win with only three caution periods for 19-laps. There were three lead changes between Michels and Pettit. Twenty-five of 29 cars were running at the conclusion of the race with 19 cars running on the lead lap.

Greg Voigt, Thomas Martin, Jim Pettit II, Kevin Vernon, and Kevin Clark round out the top ten in the standings with two races to go to determine the final series champion and the invitation list to the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown which will be staged back at Irwindale in October.

Martin earned the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions over the previous race (17), while Darrell LaMoure earned the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the race (11). Brandon Loverock was the top finishing Sunoco rookie competitor while Mayhew extended his rookie point lead to 12-points over fellow rookie competitor Loverock.

The next event for the Southwest Series is next Saturday night August 19, 2006 at Colorado National Speedway in the annual running of the United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" in a special combination event with the Midwest Series. For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series log on to www.nascarregionalracing.com.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Greg Pursley , Eric Holmes , Darrell LaMoure , Jim Pettit II , Thomas Martin , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , David Mayhew