SWS Phoenix: Race notes

McKean master of Phoenix mile. DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (January 26, 2003) Eddy McKean hails from Jerome, Idaho but should call Phoenix home as he scored his second consecutive victory Sunday afternoon on the one-mile paved oval of Phoenix Int'l ...

McKean master of Phoenix mile.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (January 26, 2003) Eddy McKean hails from Jerome, Idaho but should call Phoenix home as he scored his second consecutive victory Sunday afternoon on the one-mile paved oval of Phoenix Int'l Raceway. McKean's victory was his fourth career triumph and inaugural win under the new sponsorship from AutoZone in the newly named NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. Tim Schendel, Jim Pettit II, Jeff Jefferson, and Craig Raudman rounded out the top five finishers.

McKean started the Winter Heat "100" on the outside front row after Burney Lamar from W. Sacramento, Calif. blistered the field in qualifying Saturday with a quick lap of 27.414 seconds/131.320 mph. McKean clocked in second, with Ken Schrader laying down the third best lap. Tim Schendel and Greg Pursley rounded out the top five qualifiers.

After qualifying was completed, 14 cars were relegated to a 20-lap non-qualifiers race which would have four cars transferring into the Winter Heat "100" to round out the 42-car field. Keith Spangler, Todd Souza, Darrell LaMoure, and Rip Michels made the transfer sending Greg Fowler, Johnny Antonino, Nick Joanides, Craig Smith, Jeff Seifert, Tommy Fry, Stan Silva, Roger Avants, Scott Busby, Richard Johnson, and Eddie Bryans home.

The field of 42 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division cars fired engines shortly after 12 noon Sunday under threatening skies as unusually cool wet weather blew through the Phoenix area all weekend. However, the weather did not dampen the spirits of the drivers, crew, and AutoZone Elite Division race fans for the first event of the new season.

Lamar led the field to the green but jumped the initial start and received a stop and go penalty for the infraction. Lamar served his penalty and roared back into the race on the tail end of the lead lap. Lamar would have his worked cut out for him if he were to get back to the front.

McKean assumed the lead on lap 2 and set a torrid pace as the field sorted itself out. The first of four cautions came out on lap 4 for the cars of JR Patton and Jeff Bailey who tangled in turn three with no where to go after Rookie contender Todd Burns looped his Chevrolet. Burns was able to continue but both Patton and Bailey had an early end to their day.

McKean continued to control the pace on the lap 10 restart followed by Schendel, Pursley, Ken Schrader, and Jim Pettit II. David Gilliland's shot a win with his new team ended when he pitted on lap 16 for a flat left front tire losing two laps in the process. Defending 2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich had his day end on lap 23 with electrical problems where he would finish in the 40th position.

The action stayed green over the next 61 laps where McKean would build his lead to as much as eight seconds over Schendel. The only time Schendel was able to close the gap was when he and McKean encountered lapped traffic. Several times during the race, lapped cars inhibited McKean's march through the field. By the half way point in the race, McKean held a straight away advantage over Schendel. Schrader maintained third, with Rookie Nick Lynch in fourth and Pettit rounding out the top five. Eric Holmes held down the sixth position with Jeff Jefferson, Chris Hines, Dan Holtz, and Joey Miller rounding out the top ten in the running order.

The second caution of the race flew on lap 71 for the car of Ray Skillman as his Ford spun in turn one. Skillman was able to re-fire the car and join the tail of the field. With lapped cars restarting on the inside line, the pack would be bunched together which forced the lead lap cars to the outside lane.

The third caution came out on lap 78 as several cars fought for the same piece of real estate causing 2003 Midwest Series champion Steve Carlson from W. Salem, Wisc. to have contact with Hines sending both drivers into the turn three fence. The accident also collected Kevin Clark who was running in the 13th position. All three ended their day on the hook.

The race restarted on lap 87 with McKean still at the point, followed by Schendel, Schrader, Pettit, Lynch and Eddy Hoffman. Lynch and Hoffman made contact on lap 89 in turn four causing Lynch's Chevrolet to spin into the infield grass where it got stuck in the mud caused by earlier rain showers. Hoffman was assessed a stop and go penalty for the contact and rejoined the race at the tail end of the lead lap in the 10th position. Lynch lost four laps waiting to get a tow out of the mud.

That final caution set up a five lap dash to the finish with McKean still out front. Schendel looked to have the measure of McKean as the duo raced into turn one, however, McKean was hard on the gas exiting turn two and built a three car length lead going into turn three.

Schrader, running in third did not have a good restart and started to back peddle as Pettit, Jefferson, Craig Raudman, and Lamar all got by the thirteen time Phoenix winner. Schrader dropped to seventh where he would finish.

McKean took the white flag with a five car length advantage on Schendel. As the leaders exited turn two, several cars exiting turn four made contact after Ben Walker's tank ran dry causing him to slow dramatically in front of a dozen cars. As the cars of Burns, Joe Herold, M.K. Kanke and Skillman careened off one another the track became littered debris and wrecked race cars, McKean, Schendel and the rest of the lead pack snaked their way through the wreckage to the checkered flag.

"We just really run good here," said McKean. "It doesn't hurt that I have great horsepower supplied by Brad Peters. I know I had the best car today. Phoenix is an important race for all of us and this starts the season out a great note. I think this was a great race for AutoZone and we look forward to their long-term involvement"

"Eddy McKean had a pretty fast car," runner-up Tim Schendel said. "Our car seemed better on long green runs, The lapped cars let Eddy go every time, but it seemed when I got up to them, they kind of forgot I was running second, but I still don't think I could have gotten by Eddy at the end. It would have been a crap shoot."

"This is the best we have ever finished at Phoenix," said a happy Jim Pettit II. "We always struggle here, but today it finally worked out for us. After losing one last October, we really wanted to show what our team is made of. My hats off to Eddy, he just has this place figured out."

Lamar, Schrader, Holmes, Holtz and Hoffman rounded out the top ten finishers. McKean is in his quest for a second series title and will lead the series regulars into race #2 at Madera Speedway in March.

The race took one hour, 11 minutes, and 17 seconds to complete at an average speed of 84.171 mph. The action was slowed four times for 28 laps of caution. There was one lead change between two drivers with Eddy McKean leading 99 laps in route to the victory. Burney Lamar won the $350 Bud Pole Award, with Todd Souza picking up $750 from PowerAde for the PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race for starting in the 40th position and finishing 16th. Randy Nelson collected $300 from Featherlite for improving the most positions at the finish over the previous race. Mike Price was the top finishing Rookie-of-the-Year competitor with a 17th place effort.

The next event for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series is Saturday, March 13 at Madera Speedway in Madera, Calif. For event and ticket information you can log on to www.maderspeedway.com or call (559)266-7223. For all the latest news and information regarding the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series log on to www.nascartouring.com .


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Drivers Ken Schrader , Jeff Jefferson , Greg Pursley , Eric Holmes , Jeff Bailey , Scott Busby , Joe Herold , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich , Ben Walker , Todd Souza , Tim Schendel , Joey Miller , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , Steve Carlson , Nick Joanides