SWS: Mesa Marin: Race report

Woodside wins wild Mesa Marin clash. Bakersfield, Calif. (April 8, 2002) Sean Woodside, the 1999 NASCAR Winston West Series champion, made the most of his limited 2002 Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring schedule by winning the Rialto...

Woodside wins wild Mesa Marin clash.

Bakersfield, Calif. (April 8, 2002) Sean Woodside, the 1999 NASCAR Winston West Series champion, made the most of his limited 2002 Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring schedule by winning the Rialto Concrete Products "125" Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. Featherlite Southwest Series veteran M.K. Kanke followed Woodside to finish second and vault into fourth place in the season standings. Second year competitor Eddy McKean finished third, with Rookie Steve Belletto in fourth, and Scott Brandt rounding out the top-five.

The event on the high-banked half-mile paved oval was the third of 14 events on the Featherlite Southwest Series schedule and boasted a field of 45 cars vying for one of thirty starting spots. M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. led all qualifiers with a quick lap of 18.415/97.746 MPH to secure his first Bud Pole Award of the season and 26th of his career. Following Kanke in qualifying were Eddy McKean, Joe Herold, Frank Maronski Jr., and John Baker rounding out the top five qualifiers.

The 30-car field was set after Todd Souza and Steve Belletto made the grid after finishing in the top two spots in the Non-Qualifiers race. Souza led all 25-laps, but it was Belletto who benefited from a last lap crash involving Jason Allen and Jimmy White. Allen had got around White on lap 22 for the second position, but White made one last attempt to get back by Allen in turn two on the final lap. White drove his car hard into the corner and made contact with Allen sending him careening into the wall. With White and Allen left against the fence, Belletto found himself in the second and final transfer spot as the checkered waved.

Woodside also found that luck was on his side as he would start the 125-lap sprint on the pole position. An eight invert was drawn after qualifying placing Kanke back to the eighth starting spot and Woodside in the cat birds seat. Nick Joanides joined Woodside on the front row for his best starting position of the season.

Woodside led lap one, but it was Joanides who had his car on a rail leading through lap 57. The only thing to slow Joanides was a flat right side tire. Joanides would pit but loose four laps in the process dropping the Woodland Hills, Calif. resident to 13th in the final run down. The race was red-flagged at lap 48 for a incident involving Scott Lynch, Frank Deiny Jr., Kenny Shepherd, and Jon Nelson. Nelson and Lynch touched coming out of turn two and the resulting contact sent Nelson over the hood of Lynch's Yerf-Dog Chevrolet collecting Deiny and Shepherd. All the drivers were ok but the cars all left on the hook.

Once the race resumed, Woodside took control and never looked back. The best battle on the track was for second and third. Kanke held the second spot but faced a fierce challenge from 1985 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion Doug McCoun of Prunedale, Calif. in his Wynn's sponsored Chevrolet. McCoun looked to have the set up and the track was coming too him, only to have his advance slowed by a slow leak in the right rear tire. McCoun would finish in the 8th position.

While Kanke tried to reel in Woodside, Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho made his way into third from his seventh starting position. McKean, searching for his first series win could only move up as close as third place before his car equalized and maintained his position on the track. The best rides of the night were put on by Scott Brandt and Steve Belletto.

Brandt was only able to complete a few laps during practice earlier in the day before he was sidelined with a broken cam shaft. Brandt and his crew changed engines just in time to qualify. Brandt was only able to lay down a lap of 18.945 seconds good for 36th fastest. Fortunately for Brandt he was able to use provisional to make the starting field and he made the most of it by finishing fifth in his first race of the 2002 season.

"All I wanted to do is finish the race," Brandt said. "Starting in the back you have to have a lot of patience, and here at Mesa Marin it seems like the guys really want to go for it early. The caution laps hurt us, we were so much better on long green runs. I am thrilled to finish in fifth, it makes it a lot easier for us since we are only running about six races."

Steve Belletto of Modesto, Calif. had to use luck to get into the race, but displayed shear driving talent as worked through the field from the rear of the grid. Belletto drove to a solid fourth place finish and won Rookie-of-the-Race honors for the first time this season.

"It was a long road to hoe," Belletto said. "Someone was really looking out for me tonight. We dodged several wrecks and just made it through. My car was really good in the center of the corner and was the difference for me. I can't wait to go back to Stockton."

Finishing in second for his second top five of the season was Eddy McKean. "It took my car a while to get going," McKean said. "It was hard to pass, but at the end we pretty well used the car up, but so did everyone else. This is a great finish for our HPS Mechanical team. We are real focused and determined to keep racking up top fives."

Mike Kanke rallied to finish second for his second top five in as many races. "Our (Woodside)cars were pretty equal at the end," Kanke said. "The sealer helped the bottom of the track, but we were not able to run up high like we have in the past. The track was fine, just running 125 flat out will wear the tires out. I am real happy for the whole Community Recycling, anytime you can finish up front it is a good race."

Sean Woodside won for the second time in Featherlite Southwest Series competition and said tire management was the key. "I have learned to save tires here, and that is what won us the race tonight," said Woodside. "I should have won more races for the Walkers, but I am real happy to win here at Mesa Marin, this place has a lot of history. To win in the Featherlite Southwest Series is no easy feat, everyone out here is tough, we just had a great car, and with Mike Harvick coming onboard, it was just a great night."

The race ran 53 minutes, 39 seconds with six caution periods for 27 laps. Joanides led 57 laps with Woodside leading 68 laps in route to the win and the Gatorade Front Runner Award. Steve Belletto was the Rookie-of-the-Race with M.K. Kanke picking up his 26th career Bud Pole Award. The Margin of victory was .981 seconds. Woodside collected $4,775 for the victory.

By virtue of his third place finish, Eddy McKean tops the point standings by three markers over Burney Lamar who finished sixth. Woodside maintains third with Kanke jumping into fourth. Second year driver Joe Herold rounds out the top five.

The Featherlite Southwest Series take two weeks off before returning to the quarter-mile of Stockton 99 Speedway after a six year hiatus. 2001 Featherlite Southwest Series champion Craig Raudman won the last time the series visited the central California oval. Local star Steve Johnson holds the one-lap qualifying record.

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of eight NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge local 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, Hills Brothers Coffee, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.


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Drivers Scott Lynch , Joe Herold , Burney Lamar , Doug McCoun , Craig Raudman , Steve Belletto , Kenny Shepherd , Todd Souza , Jason Allen , Steve Johnson , John Baker , Nick Joanides