SWS: Irwindale race report

Kanke Schools Rookie for Win at Irwindale Irwindale, Calif. M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park California gave a lesson in tire management and collected his second straight victory and fourth of the season in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR...

Kanke Schools Rookie for Win at Irwindale

Irwindale, Calif. M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park California gave a lesson in tire management and collected his second straight victory and fourth of the season in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competition. Rookie Ben Walker finished second after leading the most laps in the 150-lap FOOD 4 LESS sponsored event. Jon Nelson finished third, with Greg Pursley, and another Rookie Burney Lamar rounding out the top five.

John Baker of Tucson, Ariz. set the pace in qualifying with a quick lap of 17.711 seconds around the multi-grooved half-mile track. Since the event was scheduled for 150-laps, no invert would be used and Baker would start on the pole. Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. was unable to extend his Bud Pole Award record to six consecutive awards, as he and the Yerf-Dog team qualified a disappointing thirteenth. Marc Groskreutz qualified his Pontiac in second, with Kanke clocking in third quick, and Bob Lyon with the fourth fasted time.

The top four qualifiers got an extra opportunity to check the car out before the main event with a four lap Trophy Dash. Kanke bested Lyon, Groskreutz, and Baker as he set his sights on the prize which waited after 150-laps.

Groskreutz got the quick jump on the field from his outside front row starting position at the drop of the green. On lap five, pole winner Baker and eventual runner up Ben Walker got together coming out of turn four and the result left Baker spinning through the infield. Baker was able to recover, but the spin left him a lap down to the field and he was never able to make it up.

Groskreutz led the first twenty-five laps handily and built his lead to as much as 10-car lengths. Groskreutz held off the determined Walker until lap 26, when Walker was able to get a run coming out of two. The duo battled into three with Walker taking the point at the start finish line. Walker would go on to lead the next 75 laps, all the while knowing that the Veteran Kanke was just biding his time to make a move.

By lap 45 the field was spread out and lap traffic began to play a role in the pace that Walker was setting. The car of Lyon got loose in three and spun backwards in the center of the track. With nowhere to go the Chevrolet of Nick Joanides slammed hard across the nose of Lyons car. The result left six cars with damage, yet all were able to re-fire and roll away under their own power.

At the half way point of the race the field settled in to a rhythm with Walker showing the way, followed by Kanke, Groskreutz, Greg Pursley, and Auggie Vidovich. Jon Nelson in his Ultra Wheels Pontiac began to move steadily through the field and by lap 95 he was solidly in the third position. Lap 100 became problematic for Walker as the lap cars began to slow his torrid pace. Like a fox waiting to strike, Kanke held his car steady and maneuvered around the competition like a Terrell Davis around linebackers.

Kanke was able to take the lead briefly on lap 110, but Walker marched right back around pulling off a patented Earnhardt move. As the pair was dicing through traffic, Kanke used the lapped car of Milan Garrett as a pick and never looked back. The professor schooled the student and was gone. Nelson's charge to the front was slowed as he went into turn one hot and washed out in the corner. The loss of momentum dampened his charge, but he continued to hold the third position. In the meantime, the trio of Pursley, Lamar, and Vidovich waged a battle for fourth over the closing laps, with Keith Spangler racing his way into the top ten from his twenty-third starting position.

When the checkered flag flew, Kanke claimed his fourth victory in seven races this season and expanded his points lead over Craig Raudman to 194 points. Walker held on for second, with Nelson Pursley, and Lamar rounding out the top five. Finishing sixth through tenth were Vidovich, Spangler, Darrell LaMoure, Raudman, and NASCAR Winston West regular Sean Woodside.

"The race kind of fell into place," Kanke said. "With about fifty to go I started to step it up. The car was set up to hook up later in the race. Ben did a great job out there tonight, he did not drive like a rookie."

When asked about how lapped traffic played a role in the race, Kanke offered, "This is a neat racetrack, some cars work better high and others low. In order to be there at the end your car has to be able to around, lap traffic is always going to be there."

An excited Ben Walker, still limping from burns on his right foot suffered in the last FSWS visit to the track, talked about his run. "I was praying for a yellow there at the end," Walker said. "My car was better on restarts then Mike's. But the lapped traffic was a bit of a problem for me and I ate up my right rear tire and had nothing left. I am really happy to finish second to Kanke."

Third place finisher Jon Nelson looked to make it a three-car tango at the end but fell a little short. "I got impatient trying to catch those guys at the end," Nelson said. "It took me a couple of laps to scrub off the tires and by then it was over. Tonight's run helps us a bunch, it puts money in the pocket and we can go to Sears point."

Kanke still stands atop the point standings over Raudman. Pursley moves into third, with Vidovich maintaining fourth. Bob Lyon falls to fifth. Lamar jumps to sixth, with Jim Pettit II, LaMoure, Nelson, and Nick Joanides rounding out the top ten.

The race took 55 minutes and 58 seconds to complete at an average speed of 80.405 mph. The event was slowed three times for 16 laps. John Baker collected $300 for the Bud Pole Award, with Ben Walker picking up the $500 Gatorade Front Runner Award and Rookie-of-the-Race honors.

The Series has a week off before moving next to the twisting 1.949-mile road course of Sears Point Int'l. Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. for the running of the SNAP-ON TOOLS "200" Saturday, June 23, 2001.

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine 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, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.


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Drivers Greg Pursley , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich , Ben Walker , John Baker , Nick Joanides