The Riehl Deal DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (June 7, 2005) A trip through the Rocky Mountains can be thrilling and memorable and memories are what Brandon Riehl of Boring, Ore. will have. Riehl claimed his second NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division race in...
The Riehl Deal
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (June 7, 2005) A trip through the Rocky Mountains can be thrilling and memorable and memories are what Brandon Riehl of Boring, Ore. will have. Riehl claimed his second NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division race in the span of eight days by out driving the top driver's of the Southwest and Midwest Series' in a special combination event at Colorado National Speedway. Riehl took the lead from defending Midwest Series champion Justin Diercks with six laps to go in the 150-lap contest and claimed the victory by 1.690 seconds over Diercks. Burney Lamar, Eddie Hoffman, and nine-time Midwest Series champion Steve Carlson rounded out the top five finishers.
Riehl was on a roll going into the event at CNS. He had just won his first NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series event a week previously and was one of the fastest cars in practice at Colorado. Riehl backed up his practice time by claiming the Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 16.371 seconds/81.363 mph around the wide 3/8-mile paved oval. Diercks, Nick Lynch, Greg Voigt, and Lamar were the top five of 38 driver's after qualifying was completed. The top twenty drivers were locked into the event through qualifying and the remaining drivers would have to race their way into the race through a 20-lap qualifying race.
Both Jeff Jefferson and Rip Michels withdrew from the event after mechanical difficulties sidelined their efforts, leaving sixteen drivers to battle for twelve spots in the feature event. Even though six provisional starting positions were handed out, all drivers had to compete in the qualifying race in order to use the provision. Eddy McKean was one of those drivers and used the qualifying race as a test session in order to make changes to his car before the feature.
Midwest competitor Andrew Morrissey started on the pole after Riehl drew a sic car invert to start the race. Lamar started outside the front row and took advantage of his starting spot and led the first lap. Before the field could get sorted out the first of eight caution flew for an incident in turn four involving two-time Southwest Series winner Auggie Vidovich and local Colorado competitor Trevor Morrical. The accident also involved Sunoco rookie Dustin Jones and Mark Kraus. Morrical and Kraus ended their day on the hook while Vidovich and Jones were able to continue though many laps down.
By lap 15 Lamar held the advantage over Morrissey with Nick Lynch, Diercks, and Riehl in tow. Greg Voigt, Doug McCoun, M.K. Kanke, Roger Avants, and Thomas Martin made up the second five. Voigt's day in the top ten ended after his mount started to slow and gave up several spots before settling into the twelfth position.
Lynch had a fast car on was pressuring Lamar for several laps when he saw an opening as the pair drove into turn one. Lynch pulled his Chevrolet alongside and looked to have the pass completed when the pair exited turn two, but Lynch's car lost traction and he spun to the inside with contact. Lynch was able to stay on the lead lap but at the rear of the field.
After a caution for the stalled car of Bob Lyon, Lamar led the field to green on the lap 50 restart, but Lamar's time at the head of the pack came to an end when Diercks drove under #1 machine in turn four. Lamar dropped back to second with Riehl up to third, followed by Morrissey and Steve Carlson.
Two more caution periods over the next twenty-five laps keep the field close with twenty-eight cars still on the lead lap. Diercks, Lamar and Riehl were holding court at the front of the field while Kanke, McCoun and Brent Kirchner battled for the seventh spot throughout the first half of the race. Meanwhile, Eddy McKean and Josh Vadnais had made their way in to the top fifteen after starting 28th and 26th respectively.
Riehl started to make a concentrated effort on the top top spot by lap 100. First he got by Lamar and began to pressure Diercks. The way Riehl took the measure of Diercks was like lion moving in for a kill. Before Riehl could pounce, the final caution dropped on lap 116 for an incident involving on-track and off-track friends Eddy McKean and Jim Pettit II. McKean looked under the Ford of Pettit as the two entered turn three and both found the same real estate undesirable. McKean lost four laps in the pits for repairs while Pettit dropped one lap to the leaders.
With 25-laps to go it looked to be a three horse race involving Diercks, Riehl, and Lamar as the trio distanced themselves from fourth place Eddie Hoffman. Diercks held the point but Riehl was looking low and high for a way around the young phenom. After several laps of placing his nose underneath and getting the door slammed shut, Riehl took to the high-side and sailed around Diercks going into turn three. Riehl completed the pass as the pair exited turn four and began to drive away from last year's event winner. Riehl distanced himself from Diercks at the strip to record his second victory in eight days by 1.690 seconds. Diercks finished second with Lamar holding on for third. Hoffman and Carlson followed in fourth and fifth respectively.
Leading the second five were Morrissey, Kanke, McCoun, local star Bruce Yackey, and Midwest star Tim Schendel. Vadnais, Kirchner, Greg Fowler, Greg Pursley Russ Blakely, Lynch, Kraus, Martin, Voigt, and Nick Joanides rounded out the top twenty and all were on the lead lap.
Riehl proved he was the real deal and was thrilled to beat an all-star cast for his second career win. "I had to work my butt off today," Riehl said. "I am exhausted and wiped but it sure feels good. After wining last week I had so much confidence going into this race all I could think about was winning. It was a lot of fun to race against Burney (Lamar) and Justin(Diercks), those guys raced me clean and fought hard."
Happy to finish second and maintain his Midwest Series point lead was Justin Diercks. "When Brandon drove to the outside and passed I knew it was over," Diercks said. "That was a great move, one I really did not expect because he kept looking underneath. He had a strong car and it really showed at the end."
After leading the first third of the race, Burney Lamar settled for third and closed the gap in the Southwest Series point standings by moving into second place. "I lost radio communication with my spotter about twenty laps in," Lamar said. "With no spotter helping out it made it difficult out there, but my hats off to Brandon. He has been very competitive and tough all season and he really showed that today."
Echoing sentiments of a lot of the competitors, Midwest Star Tim Schendel said," That was the toughest tenth place finish I ever had. All these guys were tough and every position was tougher to get."
With the special race-in-a-race format the results yielded a shake up in the Southwest Series point standings after five events. Pettit holds a slim 12-point advantage over Lamar with Vidovich just four points back in third. Kanke and Voigt round out the top five followed by McKean, Jefferson, Martin, Pursley, and Riehl all within 193 points of Pettit.
Meanwhile, Diercks extends his point lead in the Midwest Series by 25-points over Hoffman. Josh Vadnais holds down the third spot with Steve Carlson and Tim Schendel rounding out the top five. Morrissey, Kirchner, Josh Bauer, Blakely, and Fowler are in the top ten after two events.
The race took just over one hour to complete and was slowed eight times for 40 laps of caution. Riehl collected the $400 Bud Pole Award and the $300 Featherlite Award. Josh Vadnais claimed the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the race (15) while Don Campbell was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year competitor with a 21st place effort.
The next event for the Southwest Series is at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway June 18 while the Midwest Series will see action on July 15 at Raceway Park in Minnesota. For all the latest news and information regarding the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.