SWS: Irwindale: Race report

Gilliland dominates for second career Featherlite Southwest Series triumph DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 8, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. won his second career NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series race in dominating...

Gilliland dominates for second career Featherlite Southwest Series triumph

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 8, 2003) David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. won his second career NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series race in dominating fashion Saturday night at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. Gilliland led all laps of the King Taco "150" en route to a .449 second victory over second place finisher Craig Raudman. The victory boosted Gilliland to eleventh place in the Featherlite Southwest Series point standings, just six points outside the NASCAR Top 10.

JR Patton of Las Cruces, NM collected his first career Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 18.207 seconds/98.863 mph to pace all 39 drivers in qualifying. Patton drew an invert pill of six, which put local Irwindale Speedway "hotshoe" Ben Walker on the front row to start the race in Clarence Broussard's CBA Motorsports Chevrolet. Following Patton in qualifying were Auggie Vidovich Jr., Brandon Whitt, Craig Raudman, and Gilliland rounding out the top five qualifiers.

Ten cars were relegated to the 15-lap non-qualifiers race which saw Tony Gomez of Lakeside, Calif. and Mike Price of Harbor City, Calif. transferring to the feature race. Failing to qualify for the event included drivers Scott Busby, Chris Hines, Nathan Thiesse, Stan Silva Jr., Jeff Seifert, Don Kerr, Richard Johnson, Keith Spangler, and Mark Meech.

Gilliland got the jump on Walker and led the first lap as the drivers quickly set a torrid pace. The action was slowed almost immediately when the car of Todd MacLauchlan from Alpine, Calif. broke his transmission and dumped a trail of fluid down the front stretch ending his night in the 30th position. As MacLauchlan exited the track, Greg Potts and Tony Gomez lost the handle on the slippery track and found the turn one wall. Potts left on the hook and finished 29th while Gomez Made repairs and finished 26th 13 laps down.

Gilliland led the field to green on the lap 21 restart and quickly distanced himself from second place Walker. Brandon Whitt moved up to third, with current points leader Auggie Vidovich Jr. in fourth, and Craig Raudman rounding out the top five. JR Patton led the second five with Steve Belletto in sixth followed by Mike Ledbetter, Dan Holtz, Bob Lyon, and Danny Burson.

Lyon made his 250th career start Saturday night and first start of the 2003 season. Lyon leads all drivers in career starts, but saw his top ten run end with a lap 60 spin. Lyon would finish 19th.

Caution flew for the second time on lap 28 for Frank Deiny Jr. as he spun exiting turn two after contact with Ryan Arciero. Deiny rejoined the rear of the field and did not loose a lap. Deiny, after early season success, would finish in the 28th position on the night and fall out of the NASCAR Top 10 to 16th in the point standings.

At the one third mark of the race, Gilliland extended his lead to as much as two seconds over Vidovich who was working on his fifth straight top ten finish of the season. Walker dropped to third, with Whitt in fourth, and Raudman rounding out the top five. Over the next fifty laps the top ten maintained their respective positions while Todd Souza and Jim Pettit II made their way to the front.

Vidovich closed the gap and pressured Gilliland for more than sixty laps. Vidovich made a move for the lead on lap 117 but last the handle spinning the car in turn one. Vidovich blended back in line in the 10th position as the caution flag flew. Over the final third of the race Raudman would close to the back bumper of Gilliland but could never mount a serious bid for the lead as his HPS Mechanical Chevrolet developed a push late in the race.

The race went extra laps after Bryan Germone drove low on Mike Ledbetter as the pair battle for third. Germone's car washed up and collided with Ledbetter sending the 1997 series champion into the turn three wall on lap 149. The race was red flagged while Germone's badly damaged Wine. COM Chevrolet was attended to. Germone walked away unhurt, but the car left on the hook. Ledbetter was having a career run going in third but dropped to eighth on the lap 159 restart.

Gilliland paced the green, white, checker finish to give car owner Rich Fountain his first career Featherlite Southwest Series victory. Raudman finished second to record his first top five finish of the season, while Bud Pole Award winner Patton finished a career best third and also collected the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Race honors. Fellow Victory Circle Chassis ROTY contender Danny Burson rallied to finish fourth, with Vidovich making it back to fifth.

Brandon Whitt had his best run of the season in sixth, followed by Ledbetter in seventh, Todd Souza in eighth, followed by Jim Pettit II, and Eric Holmes.

In victory lane Gilliland was received an enthusiastic ovation for his efforts. "We had a great car tonight," Gilliland said. "We have been really good here at Irwindale in the past and tonight we were able to close the deal. This was a big win for us and our sponsors. This really turns our season around and gives us a bunch of momentum going into the Infineon race."

Finishing second and returning to form was 2001 series champion Craig Raudman. Raudman has struggled on track this season, and the finish at Irwindale Saturday night was just what the doctor ordered. "I am real happy and proud of my team," Raudman said. "We have had little problems that took away solid runs all year. My hats off to David, he ran a great race and we just got too tight at the end to have anything for him. I am real happy with this finish and to get back into the top ten in the points."

Having a career night, JR Patton finished third after collecting the Bud Pole Award. "It was a lot of fun out there tonight," Patton said. "My crew has done a great job all season and I am learning a lot about finishing races. Tonight it all came together."

Vidovich might have shown disappointment for the spin on lap 117, but was pleased to finish fifth. "We keep having good finishes like this and who knows what can happen at the end of the season."

Continuing his charge to the top of the standings, Jim Pettit II finished ninth to record his third top ten finish of the season. Pettit had to claw his way back into the top ten after a lap 101 spin sent the Stockton race winner back to the 17th position. "It is bitter sweet and darn frustrating to work so hard," Pettit said. "If we could improve on our qualifying efforts, maybe we would not have to work so hard in the race. I know we can race good everywhere we go, but it is just frustrating to get taken out."

Vidovich extends his lead in the 2003 championship race to 91 points over Pettit on the strength of four top five and five top ten finishes in the first five races. Eric Holmes maintains the third spot after finishing tenth on Saturday, followed by Eddy McKean and Dan Holtz. McKean finished 12th after a rear suspension bracket broke early in the race forcing the 2002 series champion to just hang on throughout the race.

Souza jumps to sixth place in the standings followed by Lamar, Raudman, Patton, and Steve Belletto rounding out the NASCAR Top 10. The race took 1 hour, 20 minutes, and 6 seconds to complete at an average speed of 60.037 mph. There were nine caution periods for 54 laps and no lead changes as Gilliland led flag to flag. JR Patton collected both Bud Pole Award and the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Race honors, with Todd Souza claiming the Powerade "Power Move-of-the-Race with his eighth place finish after starting in the 26th position.

The next race on the Featherlite Southwest Series schedule is Saturday, June 21 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. with the running of the $92,971 Snap-On Tools/Jelly Belly "200" where current NASCAR Winston West competitor Jim Inglebright will attempt to win his fourth race in a row.

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


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Drivers Richard Johns , Brandon Whitt , Jim Inglebright , Eric Holmes , Stan Silva Jr. , Danny Burson , Bryan Germone , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Mike Ledbetter , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Steve Belletto , Nathan Thiesse , Auggie Vidovich , Ben Walker , Todd Souza