DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (July 27, 2003) Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. collected his first win of the 2003 NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series at Madera (CA) Speedway Saturday night in the running of the Lucas Oil "125" presented by ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (July 27, 2003) Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. collected his first win of the 2003 NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series at Madera (CA) Speedway Saturday night in the running of the Lucas Oil "125" presented by Madera Auto Center. The win was Holmes' fourth career triumph and second victory at the one third-mile paved oval. Holmes led twice for 83 laps en route to a .120 second advantage over Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. who collected his fourth top five finish of the season. Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. came across the line in third, with series point leader Auggie Vidovich of Lakeside, Calif. in fourth, and Modesto, California's Steve Belletto finishing fifth.
Craig Raudman topped the speed charts in qualifying with a quick lap of 14.611 seconds/82.048 mph which earned him his 20th career Bud Pole Award. Raudman moves into second place all-time behind M.K. Kanke who has 27 career Bud Pole Awards. Jeff Belletto, Steve Belletto, Auggie Vidovich, and Eric Holmes rounded out the top five qualifiers. Nine drivers were relegated to the 15-lap non-qualifiers event after Bud Pole qualifying concluded including Joe Herold, Greg Voigt, Bob McCoun, Frank Deiny Jr., Scott Busby, Richard Johnson, Stan Silva Jr., Kevin Vernon, and Darrell LaMoure. Joe Herold of Poway, Calif. led all 15 laps and transferred to the Lucas Oil "125" along with Greg Voigt.
Jim Pettit II started on the pole position after an invert of six set the grid. Pettit led the field to green but Holmes made the move on the outside of turn four and led the first four laps before fourth place starter Steve Belletto took control on lap five. Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Year point leader JR Patton had his transmission stick in second gear and had to pit on lap four. Patton lost six laps and finished the event in the 17th position.
The first of five caution flags flew on lap 9 for the spinning car of David Gilliland as he exited turn two. Gilliland was hoping to bolster his rise in the point standings after winning his second race of 2003 back on June 28, but racing luck did not smile on the Centrifugal Technology team as they retired from the event and finished 21st after only completing 36 laps.
Belletto paced the field until Holmes forced the issue on lap 45. Holmes made the pass after the two battled for two laps side-by-side. At the lap 50 mark, Holmes was at the point followed closely by Belletto, Raudman, and Pettit. Jeff Belletto raced in the fifth position with Vidovich in sixth, and Bryan Germone, Burney Lamar, Ben Walker, and Eddy McKean rounding out the top ten.
Lamar had the fastest car on the track, working his way up to fifth after starting 12th. He looked to have a bead on the leaders until contact with the lapped car of Thomas Martin sent the 2001 Rookie-of-the-Year spinning out of turn two. The incident sent cars scurrying for open space but the Chevrolet of Greg Voigt had no where to go and bounced off the nose of Lamar's car like a torpedo across the bow of a submarine. Lamar was able to make it to the pits for repairs, but lost four laps. Lamar finished 15th.
Holmes, Raudman, and Pettit controlled the pace and put on a show for the fans, often dicing three wide. Holmes slammed the door as Raudman and Pettit both took shots at the leader. At the lap 100 mark, Holmes paced the Pettit, followed by Raudman, Belletto, and Vidovich. Jeff Belletto led the second five, with Germone and Ben Walker battling for the seventh spot. Brandon Whitt, Greg Potts, and Eddy McKean rounded out the top ten.
The race looked as if Holmes was on a run away train and the action was going to be for the runner-up spot, but the fifth caution flew on lap 115 after the cars of Germone, and rookie Danny Burson spun exiting turn two. Germone lost power and had to have an assist to the pit area where he lost three laps. Burson was able to continue.
The Chevrolet of Raudman began to smoke at lap 110 and was going to have to come in the pits, but when the race was red flagged on lap 115, whatever was leaking, had cleared itself up and he was able to continue. The clean up and subsequent caution laps set up a green, white, checkered finish with Holmes claiming the checkers over Pettit and Raudman. Vidovich finished fourth, with Steve Belletto rounding out the top five finishers.
"It is never easy to win in this series and to win at Madera is even tougher," Holmes said. "We are racing for a championship and we needed this win. The way Auggie (Vidovich) is running he is going to be hard to catch, but anything is possible."
Finishing second and closing the gap by ten points on point leader Vidovich was Jim Pettit II. "We just keep digging and we are finally seeing the results of all the team's hard work," Pettit said. "This was a fun race tonight and Eric was just a bit better off the corner than I was so making the pass would have been tough. I could have moved him, but that is not the way I want to win. We made up a few points on Auggie tonight, but the consistency he has had all year will make it tough to catch him. We are both real good at Colorado National, so we will just try to one up him there."
Continuing his rise in the point standings is Craig Raudman who was happy to finish in the third position. "My brakes were not quite right so I backed off early," Raudman said. "My car did not work late in the race on the bottom of the track like it did earlier so I fell in behind Jim (Pettit) and learned a few things following him."
Raudman praised his team for their effort and dedication. "People may not realize, but this is a brand new team," Raudman continued. "I think we are finally sorting everything out and I am really looking forward to all the remaining races. I know we can make a run at Auggie, but the 'Shootout' at the end of the season is a big goal for us. We want to win."
With Holmes and Pettit finishing ahead of Vidovich, Vidovich loses 10 points of his championship lead and now leads the standings by 62 markers over Pettit. Holmes sits 41 point behind Pettit. Raudman moves up to fourth place, with Dan Holtz dropping to fifth place. Eddy McKean moves up one spot to sixth, with JR Patton, Bryan Germone, Steve Belletto, and David Gilliland rounding out the top ten after eight of 14 races.
The race took 42 minutes and 7 seconds to complete at an average speed of 59.358 mph. There were five cautions for 31 laps and three lead changes among three driver. Holmes led the most laps (83) en route to a .120 margin of victory. Craig Raudman won the $325 bonus for winning the Bud Pole Award, his 20th career Bud Pole, and Joe Herold won the Powerade Power Move-of-the-Race for improving the most positions in the event. Herold won the non-qualifiers race and started 21st and finished the 125-lap race in the 11th position. Danny Burson was the top finishing Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie with his 12th place performance.
The next race on the Featherlite Southwest Series schedule is Saturday, August 16 at Colorado National Speedway where local NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series hotshoe Jerry Robertson is the defending champion of the event. Log onto www.nascartouring.com/featherliteswseries for all the latest news and information.