SWS: Mesa Marin II: Race notes

Gilliland Scores Second Southwest Series Win of Season DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (October 18, 2004) David Gilliland from Riverside, Calif. may not be contending for the 2004 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series title, but that has not ...

Gilliland Scores Second Southwest Series Win of Season

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (October 18, 2004) David Gilliland from Riverside, Calif. may not be contending for the 2004 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series title, but that has not stopped the second generation driver from claiming his second victory of the season. Gilliland "inherited" the lead of the race when title contenders Craig Raudman and Jim Pettit II tangled late in the race. Gilliland then held off 2002 series champion Eddy McKean by .880 seconds in the Ford Motorcraft Parts "150" at Mesa Marin Raceway Saturday night. M.K. Kanke finished third in his new car with local favorite Dan Holtz and occasional driver Eric Schmidt rounding out the top five.

Kanke proved to be strong in his new Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet as he led all drivers in both afternoon practice sessions and topped the speed charts in qualifying with a quick lap of 18.324 seconds/98.232 mph around the half-mile paved oval. Points leader Pettit followed Kanke with Holtz, Gilliland, and rookie Rip Michels rounding out the top five qualifiers. Northwest Series runner-up Travis Bennett claimed the victory in the 10-lap non-qualifiers race that also saw Stan Silva Jr., Todd Burns, and Dustin Jones make the transfer to the main event sending Kevin Para, Eddie Bryans, and Scott Calvin home.

Kanke drew a 10-car invert putting Burney Lamar of Bakersfield, Calif. on the pole to start the 150-lap event. Lamar quickly set the pace over McKean, with Eric Holmes, Nick Lynch, and Holtz falling into single file. McKean briefly stole the lead from Lamar when the duo entered lapped traffic with McKean finding the better line leading laps 48-52. Lamar took the lead back on lap 59 and paced the field through the first caution which flew on lap 64 for contact between Brett Thompson and Darrell LaMoure. Both cars were able to continue.

Lamar led the field on the lap 69 restart followed by McKean, Craig Raudman who had worked his way up from his 12th starting position, Holtz, and Pettit. Kanke followed in the sixth position, with Lynch, Auggie Vidovich, Michels, and Gilliland rounding out the top ten in the running order.

The second of five cautions came out when the car driven by Thompson lost power. Thompson retired with engine problems. Lamar again paced the field on the lap 75 restart with the same top ten in tow. The action slowed on lap 86 when Lynch looped his Chevrolet in turn four. Lynch was lost a lap in the process dropping him from contention and ultimately a 12th place finish.

By the lap 100 mark, Lamar extended his lead on teammate Raudman who got around McKean. McKean stayed within striking distance of the pair with Pettit in hot pursuit. Kanke and Holtz maintained their respective positions in the top five. Lamar's day turned sour when smoke started bellowing from beneath his car on lap 108. Lamar pitted on lap 110 to service a busted oil line relegating the fourth year series driver to a disappointing 24th place finish.

Raudman jumped at his chance to carry the HPS colors to victory lane and set a blistering late race pace. Pettit did not loose site of Raudman as the pair distanced themselves from third place McKean. McKean saw his top three finish start to go away when Gilliland and Vidovich were able to get around his ill-handling car on lap 140. Vidovich scooted by Gilliland on lap 143.

Raudman looked to have the race in hand when the car of Thomas Martin slowed on the front stretch and failed to enter pit road coming to a rest in turn three. When the caution flew, Martin then drove his car to the pits. That caution set up a finish that no one could predict.

The race restarted on lap 157 with Raudman taking the green at a very deliberate pace. Pettit made a run on the 2001 series champion and stuck his nose under Raudman's Chevrolet as the pair exited turn two. Both cars slipped sideways but both managed to keep their cars pointed in the right direction. While Raudman and Pettit allowed each other to gather their mounts, Gilliland ducked low and Vidovich went high. Meanwhile, Raudman lost power and Pettit checked up and bounced off Raudman's right rear catching Vidovich and send both cars into the turn three wall. Vidovich's night was over while Pettit was able to continue. Raudman's tank ran dry as the race went extra distance beyond the 150 lap mark.

Gilliland assumed the lead and went on to score the victory over McKean with a green, white, and checkered finish. Kanke finished third in his Perricone Juices sponsored Chevrolet, with Holtz and Schmidt rounding out the top five.

Gilliland was thrilled to find himself in victory lane with new crew chief Mike Naake. "In these Tour races you have to take what it gives you," Gilliland said. "Fortunately it worked out for us tonight. I was just riding around looking for a strong top ten run and all of a sudden I'm in the lead. Mike Naake and the whole crew did an outstanding job preparing the car and I am happy for the whole team."

McKean scored his third straight top three finish with his second place performance. "We had a great car tonight," McKean said. "I used up the right rear early and it cost us in the end, but I am very happy to have this kind of run here at Mesa Marin. I know this helped us in the points with Burney (Lamar) and Eric (Holmes) having trouble."

It has been a while since M.K. Kanke has had a podium finish on the series' short tracks, and Mesa Marin is a track where he has seen much success over his career. "It is great to being running this competitive again," Kanke said. "This new car worked really good and I am ready for more."

Despite the late race tangle with Raudman, Pettit increased his point lead to 39 over Raudman. Lamar maintains third with McKean moving past Holmes for fourth dropping Holmes to fifth. Joe Herold moved up to sixth with Todd Souza, Greg Voigt, Rip Michels, and Doug McCoun rounding out the top ten with only two races left on the schedule.

The race took 53 minutes and 25 seconds with five caution periods for 34 laps. There were four lead changes among four with Lamar leading the most laps (106). Kanke claimed his 28th career Bud Pole Award and the $350 bonus with Northwest runner-up Travis Bennett winning the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the event (14). Gilliland also claimed the Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous event (27) and the $300 bonus. Michels was the top finishing rookie with his seventh place effort.

The next race for the Southwest Series is this coming Sunday, October 24 at Tucson Raceway Park. The event was originally slated for September 18 but inclement weather forced the event to be rescheduled. A full racing card will be on tap at TRP with the NASCAR Late Models and Factory Stocks joining the Southwest Series. For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Brett Thompson , Eric Holmes , Stan Silva Jr. , David Gilliland , Joe Herold , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Rip Michels