Las Vegas, Nevada (October 13, 2001) Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. showcased a dominating performance Saturday night under the lights at the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway by winning the Nevada "100" in Featherlite Southwest Series,...
Las Vegas, Nevada (October 13, 2001) Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. showcased a dominating performance Saturday night under the lights at the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway by winning the Nevada "100" in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competition. Raudman set a new qualifying record and led nearly every lap capturing his fourth victory of the season. Following Raudman to the line was Auggie Vidovich Jr. in second, with Scott Lynch, Eddy McKean, and John Baker rounding out the top five.
Raudman used the experienced gained from a successful test session earlier in the month to pace 46 other drivers in qualifying with a new track record around the tri-oval superspeedway with a quick lap of 36.354 seconds/148.539 mph. Doug McCoun of Prunedale, Calif. clocked in with the second best time of 36.787 seconds/146.791 mph. In all, six drivers eclipsed M.K. Kanke's mark of 37.196 set back in 1998 when the series last visited the track.
The top 30 drivers made the starting grid on time, with six provisional's being used to fill the field of 36 starters. Zach Neissner of Royal City, Wash. used the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring provisional after suffering with motor problems in qualifying. Neissner only completed two laps in the 67-lap contest before retiring with rearend problems. Brian Hoppe of Madison, Wisc., a regular on the RE/MAX Challenge Series qualified twelfth in his Gildan Activewear Chevrolet.
The bright lights of Vegas are not all reserved for the "strip", as the full field of 36 brightly colored FSWS cars glistened and rumbled to the line in front of the enthusiastic crowd. Raudman immediately established control of the race by leading the pack into turn one. As the train exited turn two, Raudman increased his lead to five car lengths over McCoun, with Lynch, Jim Pettit II, John Baker all in tow. The field quickly sorted themselves into a single file line, and by lap five the cars began to settle in as the Goodyear tires adjusted to the track. Auggie Vidovich Jr., currently second in the point standings, started to move toward the front from his 12th starting position. By lap six, Vidovich was able use the low groove to make his move but encountered Scott Brandt in turn one. The two battled side-by-side through the corner, but contact left Brandt spinning. The incident collected, Sean Woodside, Dan Holtz, and Eddy McKean. McKean only spun with slight contact with Brandt. All the others ended their night on the hook. The drivers were OK, but several cars will need extensive work before the next event this weekend at Mesa Marin.
The caution allowed many of the teams to pit for the mandatory stop and go that each team was required to make at some point in the race. McCoun elected to stay on the track and assume the lead, hoping that he would have an opportunity to pit later in the event. Hoppe and Greg Pursley had to make a second stop as the two were too fast exiting the pits and forced to return for an additional stop and go. That would proved to be costly for the pair as they would be mired deep in the pack for the restart.
On the lap 11 restart it was Rookie-of-the-Year contender Troy Adams leading the field to the green This was the first time this season that the former go-kart champion found himself at the point. Adams would lead the next three laps before fading, but managed to stay in the top five for the next 15-laps. Lynch had his Mr. Gas Chevy on a rail and quickly disposed of Adams on lap 12, with Raudman and Vidovich in hot pursuit. Lynch maintained the lead until Raudman drove past the 1999 Rookie-of-the-Year on the inside going into turn three. Lynch maintained the second spot for twenty circuits.
On lap 32, the cars of Adams, Bob Lyon, and Joe Herold all tried to occupy the same real estate exiting turn four resulting in a caution as all three spun with Herold spinning through the infield grass. Raudman maintained the top spot on the restart and started to exercise his muscle by extending his lead to as much as three seconds over Lynch. On lap 38, the melee no one wanted to see occurred when several cars spun out of turn two. The incident involved no less than ten cars with Pursley and Hoppe having to make an early exit due to damage from the contact. All drivers were OK and the action resumed on lap 43.
Raudman continued his drive to the championship as no one had anything for the series veteran who is seeking his first series title. The action stayed green through the rest of the event, as each driver sorted out their best line. Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho had perhaps the best drive of the night. After qualifying sixth for the event, he started to slip back at the start but maintained a top ten position until the lap six crash were he was clipped and spun. The contacted tore the front valence and disrupted the aero package on the car, but McKean was able to move back up through the field after restarting in the 29th position. Over the closing laps, McKean was able to move back into the top five and would finish in the fourth spot.
With Raudman out front, the race was for second as Vidovich was able to get around Lynch, but was unable to close the gap on Raudman. Raudman took the checkers ahead of Vidovich by 1.8 seconds, with Lynch maintaining third. McKean finished fourth for Rookie-of-the-Race honors, and John Baker rounded out the top five. Finishing 6-10 were Rick Carelli, Rocky Nash, Nick Joanides, Jim Pettit II, and Rookie Ben Walker.
"I am very happy for the win," Raudman stated. "I knew we would have a great car and tonight everything just worked perfectly. Over the closing laps I started to let up just a bit as the lap traffic in front of me started to race two and three-wide, I knew I no part of that." The victory was Raudman's fourth of the season and he was able to extend his series point lead over Vidovich to 209 points.
Finishing second for his fifth top five of the season was Auggie Vidovich Jr. "We were not able to gain any ground on Craig tonight," Vidovich said. "We're running out of time, but anything can happen over the next couple of races."
McKean was the top finishing Rookie for the third time this season. "This is the first time I have seen the track," McKean said. "We do not test, we just show up and hope we get it right. This car is brand new and it just flat worked. The incident early put us behind, but I was able to move back to the front. I am real happy to come here and finish well."
The race took 58 minutes, 17 seconds with an average speed of 103.460 mph. The action was slowed three times for 14 laps and there were four lead changes among four different drivers. Raudman set a new track record with his seventh Bud Pole Award of the season with a time of 36.354/148.539 mph. McKean won Rookie-of-the-Race honors. With Raudman's victory, Chevrolet has won every event this season and has a lock on the Manufacturers' Championship. Burney Lamar was able to capitalize on Brandt's misfortune and close the Rookie race to within a single point. The top four Rookies are separated by eight points with Brandt still leading going into the final three events.
Raudman maintains his point lead over Vidovich by 209 markers with Darrell LaMoure, Jon Nelson, and Bob Lyon holding down third through fifth respectively. Jim Pettit II moves into sixth, with Nick Joanides jumping up to seventh. Eddy McKean returns to the top ten in eighth, with Greg Pursley falling to ninth and Doug McCoun maintaining the tenth spot.
The FSWS will close their season with three races in 14 days. The series will next head to the high banks of Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. for the running of the Big O Tires "150" Saturday, October 20, 2001. Vidovich won the last time the series visited the track that has hosted more FSWS events then any other track.
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.