EL CAJON, CA. (04/05/03). Eight of the 35 drivers entered in the NASCAR Featherlight Southwest Series field at Cajon Speedway Saturday night resided in San Diego County. Things didn't turn out too well for seven of them. Well a couple actually...
EL CAJON, CA. (04/05/03). Eight of the 35 drivers entered in the NASCAR Featherlight Southwest Series field at Cajon Speedway Saturday night resided in San Diego County. Things didn't turn out too well for seven of them. Well a couple actually ended up with probably satisfying though mediocre nights.
But the eighth, Mark Meech, was clearly the class of the field as the 3/8 mile paved oval opened its 43rd season.
The 46-year-old Meech, who has lived his whole life in La Mesa, went unchallenged the entire distance in the Coors 125-lap contest. Only a series of yellow flags allowed runner-up Dan Holtz of Los Angeles to finish only twenty lengths back. A trio of Central California drivers rounded out the top five. Steve Belletto of Modesto ran third ahead of Eric Holmes of Escalon and Jim Pettit of Prunedale. The two San Diego racers who had so-so nights ran sixth and eighth. Point leader Auggie Vidovich II of Lakeside struggled all the night but came home sixth. Jeff Seifert, making his series debut, ran on Vidovich's tail nearly the entire race, but slipped a spot to eighth in the final rounds. Greg Voigt of Goleta was seventh.
The top eight were the only cars on the lead lap. Twenty-two of the 24 starters were still on the track at the checkered.
Two other area racers, Joe Herold of Poway and Brandon Whitt of El Cajon, made the field. Herold had suspension problems on the pace lap and pitted. He was scored in last. Whitt, who was third quick in qualifying, was running a steady fifth when he was involved in a three-car shunt with the third and fourth place machines of Eddy McKean and fast qualifier Craig Raudman in turn two on 35. Whitt ended up 21st. Todd McLauchlan and Don Kerr of Alpine and Randy Nelson of El Cajon failed to qualify for the feature and started the 20-lap semi final. Nelson and Dennis Dyer both slammed hard into the turn two wall on lap 2 after locking horns. McLauchlan was caught up in the melee. Kerr ended up third in the event in his first series start. But only the top two finishers transferred to the Coors finale.
Meech, the eighth fastest qualifier, ended up on the pole and simply ran away from the field in the feature. At times he was more than a quarter-lap in front of Holtz, the most recent series victor at Bakersfield two weeks ago. Holtz gained second on lap 28. Four lengthy caution periods allowed Holtz to close ground on Meech. But on each restart Meech would pull away.
The first slowdown came on only the second of the 125-rounds. Caught up in that turn four tangle were Doug McCoun, Mike Ledbetter, David Gilliland, and Thomas Martin. Then on lap 35 McKean, Raudman, and Whitt ended up parked in turn two. All lost many laps in the pits making repairs. The race ran green until lap 85 when J.R. Patton, Ledbetter, and Scott Busby spun in turn three. The final yellow flag was required when Patton looped it on the front stretch and sat sideways on the track. In all the four caution periods consumed just over one-third of the race (43 of the 125-laps).
This marked the first time in 22 Southwest Series contests at Cajon that a San Diego driver had come home in front of the field. In 1987, inaugural series champ Ron Esau ran second to Dyer. Vidovich ran second to Jon Nelson in 2000.
Meech was obviously pleased with his second series victory. The first came back in October 1991 at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino. He led all the way from the pole that night as well. Meech has captured a pair of track championships at Cajon over the years. He was the 1984 super stock champ and took honors in the Grand American modifieds nine years later.
"We had a really good car tonight," Meech told the appreciative audience after climbing from the cockpit of his white BTI Trucking Chevrolet Monte Carlo. "I'd like to thank Terry Henry, Chris (his brother and crew chief), and Ron and Karen (Gibson) and everyone else who works on the car. The Bill Marapolous engine ran 180 degrees all night long. We had great power off the corners."
"At the beginning I was driving it in a little too hard and starting to cook the brakes. But my brother was yelling at me 'ease in, ease in'. It was a perfect car."
"In the modified days, you didn't have a whole lot of tire to run with," Meech continued. "There was a lot of power to weight. Just before the main event (tonight), my brother made a call. He and Ron decided to put some pretty drastic rear-weight in the car. That is really what hooked it up off the corners. It wasn't so much getting in that was the key to winning; it was how hard you could come off. That made a big difference."
PIT NOTES: Rob Overman of San Diego and Steve Narvaev of Spring Valley won the pair of Yerf Dog Fun Karts. About $1500 was raised in the auction. The moneys will be split between Racing for the Missing and the Center for Neurologic Study in La Jolla.