Raudman Returns to Winings Ways at Mesa Marin DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (March 29, 2004) Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. perfected the daily double at Mesa Marin (CA) Raceway Sunday afternoon by claiming his 27th career Bud Pole Award in NASCAR ...
Raudman Returns to Winings Ways at Mesa Marin
DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (March 29, 2004) Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. perfected the daily double at Mesa Marin (CA) Raceway Sunday afternoon by claiming his 27th career Bud Pole Award in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series competition in the running of the Star Nursery.Com "150". Raudman completed the sweep after starting the 150-lap race in the tenth position when he drew a ten-car invert, but quickly moved to the front and waged a spirited battle with current Southwest Series point leader Jim Pettit II. Raudman made the pass for the lead on lap 104 and held on to win his 19th career AutoZone Southwest Series victory by a mere .032 seconds over Pettit. Long-time series veteran Doug McCoun had a strong run and finished third, while two former series champions, Auggie Vidovich (2003) and Eddy McKean (2002) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Raudman was the 19th of 30 qualifiers to take time and posted a lap of 18.496 seconds/97.318 mph to top the speed charts, while teammate Burney Lamar settle for second quick. Nick Joanides, Vidovich, and McCoun rounded out the top five qualifiers. Scott Calvin withdrew his entry prior to qualifying after losing a motor in practice.
Eric Holmes, the 2003 AutoZone Southwest Series runner-up, started the race on the pole after Raudman drew an invert of ten. Current Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year contender Rip Michels started alongside of Holmes, with Pettit, M.K. Kanke, and David Gilliland rounding out the top five starters.
Michels got the jump on Holmes at the drop of the green flag and quickly asserted his Stock Building Supply Chevrolet at the front of the field to led his first laps of 2004. Michels has found the AutoZone Southwest Series a tough challenge after winning multiple track championships and a NASCAR regional title in 2003. "This series really humbles you," Michels said. "Everyone here is a champion and you have to have everything in place to even make the show. This is by far the most competitive racing I have ever been involved in."
Michels held the point for the first 17 laps but gave way to a hard-charging Pettit. Pettit took the point on lap 18 and further established his championship form leading the next 65 circuits. Pettit faced pressure form Burney Lamar and David Gilliland, but manage to slam the door each time both drivers took a look underneath the California Hot Wood Ford.
During Pettit's reign at the front, he held the advantage through three caution periods accounting for 12 laps. On each restart, Pettit was able to lengthen his advantage over Lamar and Gilliland. Lamar's day ended on lap 26 when his motor gave up.
2003 defending AutoZone Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich, who is only running selected races this season, made his move to the front and took over second from Gilliland and lap 52. Pettit, Vidovich, Gilliland, and Raudman raced under a blanket as the foursome each took aim for the lead. By lap 80 the front four were going three wide into each corner looking for the lead.
While the Pettit held the point over Vidovich and Raudman, Gilliland looked to make it a clean sweep for the weekend. Gilliland claimed the victory in the NASCAR Grand National West Series event the night before, and looked to put his Pontiac in the winner's circle for the second straight day. Gilliland's shot at the weekend double unraveled on lap 107 after he made contact with the car of Greg Voigt. Gilliland's Pontiac careened of the backstretch inside retaining wall suffering major damage to the front end. Gilliland was unhurt, but the accident dropped him to a 25th place finish and 13th in the overall standings.
Raudman inherited the lead under caution and held off a determine challenge from Pettit over the final 46 laps to claim his first victory at Mesa Marin Raceway since 1996. Pettit finished second and maintains the series point lead, while Doug McCoun had another strong finish in the third position. Vidovich and McKean rounded out the top five in the Star Nursery.Com "150".
"I did not think we were going to win again," Raudman said. "I just want to thank Les (Denherder) for all he has done and it is great that we could deliver his first win as a car owner in the Southwest Series. Pettit was better than I was on restarts but we were able to hold on today."
Finishing second and maintaining the series point lead, Pettit smiled when he exited the car. "My hats off to Craig (Raudman) for the race he ran," Pettit said. "Craig and I have had some pretty exciting races already this season. I'm sure the fans got their monies worth today. We bounced off the wall about mid-way through the race, but the car stayed under me. We have had a great start to the season and we hope to carry this momentum into Cajon next weekend.
Planning on only running a partial schedule this season, series veteran Doug McCoun showed what has made him a perennial top ten points finishers and one of the fan favorites of the series. "It is a lot of fun when you are running up front," McCoun said. "The track was a bit slick this afternoon, but we were able to hold our own. I thought I had a few shots at Raudman and Pettit, but they were holding the groove."
When the teams loaded their cars in the trailer and the fans emptied the pits, Pettit saw his point lead increase to 30 markers over McKean. Raudman jumped into third place just four points behind McKean. Eric Holmes holds down the fourth spot, with former Mesa Marin track champion Dan Holtz moving into the fifth spot. McCoun, Ben Walker, Lamar, Bob Lyon, and Todd Souza round out the top ten in the standings after three of 14 series events.
The race took one hour, 6 minutes, and 39 seconds to complete at an average speed of 67.516 mph. The action was slowed seven times totaling 36 of caution. There were four lead changes among five drivers with Pettit leading the most laps (65). Raudman won the $350 Bud Pole Award and ties M.K. Kanke with 27 career fast time awards for first on the all-time list. Bob McCoun won the $750 PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race for improving the most positions in the event (14 positions). Rip Michels took home the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions over the previous event. Michels was also the top finishing Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year finishers and lengthens his lead in the rookie standings to nine points over Todd Burns.
The next event on the AutoZone Southwest Series schedule is next Saturday, April 3 at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif. The AutoZone Southwest Series has competed at the 3/8-mile oval for the past 19 years and will stage the series' 23rd event. Kanke and Raudman both have two victories at Cajon while Raudman has scored five Bud Pole Awards on the tricky flat paved oval.
For all the latest news and information regarding the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series please log onto www.nascartouring.com .
Mesa Marin Raceway, Bakersfield, Calif., March 28, 2003
150-Laps/75-Miles on a 1/2-Mile Paved Oval, Purse: $47,465
Failed to Qualify: Scott Calvin (Engine)
TIME OF RACE: 1 hour, 6 minutes, 39 seconds
AVERAGE SPEED: 67.516
MARGIN OF VICTORY: .032seconds
BUD POLE AWARD: Craig Raudman, GHPS Mechanical/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet 18.469 seconds/97.318 mph
POWERADE POWER MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: Bob McCoun, Dick's Valero Chevrolet
FEATHERLITE AWARD: Rip Michels, Stock Building Supply Chevrolet
AUTOMETER ROOKIE-OF-THE-RACE AWARD: Rip Michels, Stock Building Supply Chevrolet
CAUTION FLAGS: Seven cautions for 36 laps (10-13, 29-34, 53-57, 107-112, 122-127, 132-136, 140-143)
LAP LEADERS: Four lead changes among fivedrivers.Eric Holmes (start), Rip Michels 1-17, Jim Pettit II 18-83, David Gilliland 84-105, Craig Raudman 106-150.