SWS: Mesa Marin II: Round four preview

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Heads to Mesa Marin Raceway for Round Four * Vidovich on a Roll * Lewis Looking for Southern Exposure * Alumni Spotlight * Sunoco Rookie Ryan Foster * Raudman Returns DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (May...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Heads to Mesa Marin Raceway for Round Four

* Vidovich on a Roll
* Lewis Looking for Southern Exposure
* Alumni Spotlight
* Sunoco Rookie Ryan Foster
* Raudman Returns

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (May 11, 2005) Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., has been the cornerstone of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series for the past twenty years and will host the series for the 61st time in the running of the Rialto Concrete Products "100" this Saturday night.

2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. dominated the action when the series was at Mesa Marin Raceway just one month ago as he scored his seventh career triumph. He then claimed the victory two weeks ago at Stockton 99 speedway to take over the series point lead after three races.

"We just want to continue to win races," Vidovich said. "Mike Harvick has meant a lot to this team and has put great cars under me. We have been able to take advantage of track position and stay out front. I always look forward to racing at Mesa and maybe we can make it three in a row."

For 2004 series champion Jim Pettit II, who resides in Prunedale, Calif., to win at Mesa Marin holds special meaning. "This track has been 'the track' on the series for years," Pettit said. "This is a track a driver needs to win at when you run on the Southwest Series. The racing here is so good and just when you think you are going to tame the place, it bites you. I have been close here before and this weekend I am confident about our chances."

A good qualifying lap will be at a premium for one of 30 starting positions in Saturday's 100-lap race as drivers vie for their share of $46,644 in posted awards in race four of the 14-race championship series.

Leading a contingent of racers from the Northwest Series is former Northwest Series champion Gary Lewis from Bothell, Wash. Lewis finished fourth April 9 and looks to claim another victory on the high-banked half mile paved oval. Lewis scored his first Southwest Series win at Mesa Marin Raceway in 1999.

"I am running a few Southwest races this year to prepare for the [NASCAR Toyota All-Star] Showdown," Lewis said. "I like running at Mesa and have had some success here in the past."

Two-time and defending Northwest series champion Jeff Jefferson is attempting to become only the second driver to win two NASCAR regional titles in the same year. Rhode Island's Mike Stefanik accomplished that feat twice in 1997-98. "The Southwest Series runs at some real great racetracks," Jefferson said. "I really wanted to do something different this year and with the support of my wife, my crew chief Chuck Carruthers, car owner Tony Finley, and my sponsor The Lemay Museum, we are going to go out and win races and hopefully we'll be in contention down the stretch."

For the Sunoco rookie contenders, a trip to Mesa Marin Raceway could be daunting, but this group has not phased in the least. Ryan Foster has made two starts this season and has scored two top ten finishes. He finished seventh at MMR April 9 and is confident a top five run is possible. "I am having a lot of fun running with the Southwest Series guys," Foster said. "The series welcomed me and the caliber of drivers makes the racing great."

Making his first appearance of the season will be 2001 Southwest Series champion Craig Raudman of Redding, Calif. Raudman will be driving a Chevrolet owned by local businessman Ted Davidson in a one-race deal. "I love this series and to not be racing has been tough," Raudman said. "I will run a few races this year and I plan to be back full-time next season. The racing at Mesa Marin is always tough and a track that I really like."

The Rialto Concrete Products "100" is set to take the green flag at 9:00 pm this Saturday night where M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. leads all active drivers with four victories. Kanke finished sixth at MMR back on April 9.

* Alumni Spotlight: Kurt Busch (1999 Southwest Series champion) is currently 4th in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings while Kevin Harvick (1994 Southwest Series ROTY) sits 11th. Ron Hornaday (1992-1993 Southwest Series champion) is 6th in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings with Matt Crafton (2000 Southwest Series champion) residing in 10th place after five races.

* There have been 33 different winners in 61 Southwest Series races at MMR. Frank Adamo is the series track holder with a quick lap of 17.839 seconds setback on October 16, 1998. Loran Kelly holds the race record for the 100-lap distance at 36 minutes, 44 seconds set on June 30, 1990. Mike Chase is the all-time win leader at MMR with nine trips to victory lane. Current Southwest Series point leader Auggie Vidovich has three victories at MMR.

* Joe Herold and Jim Pettit II will partner with Racing for the Missing, a division of the Nation's Missing Children Organization (NMCO) for the 2005 racing season.

* 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion Greg Pursley returns to the Southwest Series full-time in 2005 driving for Craig Keough's Star Nursery Motorsports team. Pursley finished 12th at Phoenix and has two runner-up finishes at MMR.

* Southwest Series Drivers Greg Voigt and Nick Lynch will be at the AutoZone store located at 1615 Brundage Lane in Bakersfield on Friday, May 13 from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm signing autographs and displaying their racecars.

FAST FACTS

The race: Rialto concrete Products "100". (Race No. 4 of the 2005 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series season.)

The track: Mesa Marin Raceway, Bakersfield, Calif. (Half-mile paved oval.)

The date/time: Saturday, May 14, 9:00 p.m. (PT).
Race length: 50 miles, 1o0 laps.

2004 winner: Event not held

2005 Top 10: 1. Auggie Vidovich 481, 2. Jim Pettit II 480, 3. M.K. Kanke 462, 4. Burney Lamar 447, 5. Jeff Jefferson 412, 6. Greg Voigt 410, 7. Eddy McKean 397, 8. Thomas Martin 374, 9. Joe Herold 366, 10. Nick Lynch 361.

2005 Top 5 Sunoco Rookies: 1. Dustin Jones 26, 2. Don Campbell 25, 3. Stephan Sadler 21, 4. Ryan Foster 20, 5. David Mayhew 19.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Jeff Jefferson , Greg Pursley , Don Campbell , Joe Herold , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Ryan Foster , Gary Lewis , David Mayhew