LaMoure Saves Best for Last! Bakersfield, Calif. Darrell LaMoure of Phoenix, Ariz. has waited a long time to win on the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division, but Saturday night the wait was over as LaMoure made a last lap pass...
LaMoure Saves Best for Last!
Bakersfield, Calif. Darrell LaMoure of Phoenix, Ariz. has waited a long time to win on the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division, but Saturday night the wait was over as LaMoure made a last lap pass of then race leader Craig Raudman to record his first career victory on the series. The high banks of Mesa Marin can prove to be tricky for drivers, but LaMoure was determined to capitalize on his experience from the race in June where he finished second. Following LaMoure to the line was Craig Raudman who led 147 of the 150 laps. Rounding out the top five were Rookie point leader Scott Brandt in third, Nick Joanides in fourth, and Bob Lyon in fifth.
Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. started the evening off with his eighth Bud Pole award of the season driving the Yerf-Dog/ITPS/Victory Circle Chevrolet to quick lap of 18.481/97.397 mph. Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Rookie Burney Lamar with second quick, Rookie Scott Brandt, Jon Nelson, and three-time Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series Champion Ron Eaton. The top four went to the four-lap Trophy Dash which was won by Jon Nelson of Hemet, Calif.
Making their first starts in the series were Kristi Schmidt, grand daughter of three-time NASCAR Winston West Champion Bill Schmidt, and Adam Andretti, nephew to Mario and brother to John Andretti. Andretti will run for Rookie-of-the-Year honors on the FSWS in 2002. Schmidt finished 18th one lap down, while Andretti finished 19th three laps off the pace.
Raudman started the Big O Tires "150" from the pole but faced stiff competition from Rookie Burney Lamar at the start. The rookie dogged Raudman and made a lap pass on the 2001 Gatorade Front Runner to lead lap two. Raudman then applied pressure on Lamar and took the point back on lap three. Raudman would then go on to lead the next 147 laps. The early part of the event was plagued by an unusual high number of cautions, not for wrecks, but for fluid on the track.
Scott Busby of Martinez, Calif. continued to have bad luck as his motor gave up and sidelined the Modified ace. Busby has won several hundred Modified features on dirt and asphalt but has failed to find the combination to win on the FSWS. Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. received heavy front end damage after contact on lap 10. The multi-time Central California track champion was forced to pit several times to remove the front body work and managed to stay on the lead lap and finish 14th.
Raudman maintained his lead on the field and used the cautions to cool his tires and establish as much as a 3 second lead on the field. Mike Ledbetter and Kristi Schmidt were involved in a spin that brought out the caution for oil on the track that was apparently dropped by veteran racer Frank Maronski Jr. Maronski took the Terry Lumber Chevrolet to the pits to repair a leaking rear end. By lap 61, Maronski's rear end gave up and he retired to finish 27th.
By Lap 68 Ron Eaton, the veteran three-time champ from up North made his way into the top ten after starting at the rear of the field due to missing the drivers meeting. Eaton would challenge but was only able to maintain a ninth finishing position. Joining Eaton at the rear to start the event was Rookie point leader Scott Brandt of Tucson, Ariz. Brandt also missed the drivers meeting, but that did not deter the Patrick's Carpet Chevrolet driver from a steady march to the front as he found himself solidly in the top ten by lap 70.
Several more cautions slowed the action but allowed the drivers to save their tires for the shootout the fans came to see. The action would not disappoint. By lap 110, Raudman was able to extend his lead on Lamar to as much as 20 car lengths, but lapped traffic and an ill-handling racecar began to slow the title hopeful. Lamar closed the gap on Raudman and by lap 135, the Rookie was all over Raudman's deck lid. Lamar lead a fierce charge of hopefuls that included Darrell LaMoure, Nick Joanides, and Scott Brandt, and Auggie Vidovich Jr. Vidovich had his victory hopes dashed when he got loose trying to make a pass for third and got tagged by Mike Ledbetter. Ledbetter went to the pits while Vidovich stayed on the track but the car was not the same and he finished sixth.
As Raudman was slowing due to an increasing loose car, Lamar driving the Waveshield Pontiac was applying pressure and on lap 145 made his move on the inside of Raudman coming out of turn two. As the two battled down the back stretch, Lamar lost the handle on his mount and spun to the inside. Lamar was able to refire and join the rear of the field where he finished 17th. Raudman continued to face challenge from the train that followed as LaMoure took up where Lamar left off and drove his NAPA Chevrolet hard into turn one taking the inside away from Raudman. The two raced side by side through turn two and into turn three where LaMoure took the advantage and edged Raudman for the win by .185 seconds at the line. Brandt finished third with a hard-charging Nick Joanides coming home fourth, and series Ironman Bob Lyon rounding out the top five.
"My brother Steve kept me calm," said LaMoure from victory lane. "We just worked in a rhythm all night so as not to abuse the tires. I paid off as I was there at the end. I noticed that my car was better on entry then Craig and Burney's so I knew it was just a matter of time. On the last lap Craig pushed up real hard and I just got a better run coming out of two. We bumped and rubbed all the way down the back stretch and I just had a better car coming out of four."
"Burney and Darrell were real strong on the restarts and it was all I could do to keep them behind me," said Raudman. "My stagger just got way out of whack and it was hard getting in the corner. I think it is awesome that Darrell got the win, it has been a long time coming for him. I'm happy to finish second tonight."
Third place finisher Scott Brandt was surprised he moved to the front so quickly. "This is like a win for us," Brandt said. "Patience was key for me tonight, we just had a really good car. I am thrilled to come from the back and finish in third place and keep the car in one piece. After losing our primary car in Vegas, we need to have some luck to finish out the season."
Finishing fourth to record his second top five of the season was Nick Joanides. "I found a line that the car really worked on tonight," said Joanides. "The low groove was really tough, so I searched until the track came to me. I broke the rear end on the final lap, so who knows what might have happened. Tonight was kind of frustrating because of the cautions. Our car was really good on the long runs, there just was not enough of them. To come home fourth and race with those guys for the win was a lot of fun."
"My Waveshield Pontiac was a first place car tonight," Lamar said. "The Southwest Series is so competitive, so all I can say is that a Tour win would have been a lot better than finishing second. So I had to go for it and I just came up short. If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing.
The race took 1 hour, 17 minutes, and 55 seconds to complete at an average speed of 57.754 mph. The action was slowed nine times for 55 laps of caution. There were Three lead changes among three drivers. Craig Raudman won the his eighth Bud Pole Award of the season and looks to break Lance Hooper's mark of nine in a season. Raudman also picked up the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (147). Scott Brandt was the Rookie of the race for the third time this season and extends his Rookie point lead to four over Lamar.
The next event on the Featherlite Southwest Series is the Phoenix "125" on the one-mile Phoenix Int'l. Raceway Thursday, October 25, 2001. This will make a short week for the competitors with little time to change their cars over. The season will conclude on Saturday, November 3, 2001 on the 3/8-mile multi-groove track at Tucson Raceway Park.
The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series 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, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.