SWS: Phoenix: Race report

Phoenix, Arizona. (February 2, 2002) Ken Schrader again showed his mastery of the Phoenix Int'l Raceway by leading the final 48 laps of the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring portion of the "Winter Heat" presented by Bosch Saturday ...

Phoenix, Arizona. (February 2, 2002) Ken Schrader again showed his mastery of the Phoenix Int'l Raceway by leading the final 48 laps of the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring portion of the "Winter Heat" presented by Bosch Saturday afternoon. Schrader started the 100-lap duel in the desert from fourth starting position and had to avoid a lap one meylay that consumed no less than twelve cars, including Rookie Pole sitter Dan Holtz, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring 2001 champion Kevin Hamlin, FSWS title contender Auggie Vidovich Jr., and returning after seven months on the sideline, M.K. Kanke.

Dan Holtz of Pacific Palisades, Calif. shattered Schrader's two year old qualifying mark with a new track record run of 27.091/132.885mph to lead 49 qualifiers. Ed Hoffman of Wheaton, Ill., also eclipsed Schrader's record to take the second spot. Eddy McKean qualified third, with Schrader clocking in with the fourth best time.

The 42-car field was set after four drivers transferred from the non-qualifiers race, in which Ryan Hemphill led all 20-laps. Also transferring were Rookie-of-the-Year contender David Gilliland, Sean Woodside, and Brandon Whitt.

Holtz led the field of 42-cars to the green but his time at the point quickly vanished in turn two as he got loose exiting the corner. Holtz's car made contact with the turn two wall and several cars were left without any racetrack as the smoke and spinning cars blocked every exit. The race was red-flagged for 20 minutes while track clean up was performed and cars removed. Those that left on the hook included Hamlin, Kanke, Holtz, John Baker, Tim Schendel, and Auggie Vidovich Jr.

Holtz was air lifted to Good Samaritan Hospital for precautionary reasons as he complained of neck and shoulder soreness. Holtz was kept overnight for observation as he suffered an apparent concussion.

Ed Hoffman driving his Lisa Thomas Salon Chevrolet took control of the race on the lap nine restart and headed the field until a determined Eddy Mckean took the point on lap 23. McKean finished second at PIR last fall and looked to better his finishing position by one. McKean led the next 13-laps, but would give way to RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring rising star Paul Menard.

The second caution flew on lap 33 for the spinning car of Eric Holmes. Holmes car lay in the middle of the front stretch which made it difficult to negotiate. The cars of Thomas Martin, Jason Allen, and Brandon Whitt were also collected and left on the hook. Menard, Kurt Busch, Sean Monroe, and John Dillon did not pit when the leaders did on lap 33. Menard, son of John Menard, had the car to beat in the middle laps of the race and extended his lead to as much as 2 seconds.

While the race started to sort itself out and everyone found their racing groove, Winston Cup Star Ken Schrader, showed why he is the winningest driver at PIR. Schrader laid back and saw what every other driver had over the opening laps, and on lap 57 decided it was time to take control. Schrader pitted on lap 33 for tires and fuel and beat McKean, Hoffman, Scott Lynch, Jeff Jefferson, and Burney Lamar out of the pits. The pit stop would be the difference in the race.

Schrader led McKean, Hoffman, Jefferson, and Menard at lap 60. McKean was glued to Schrader's bumper of the determined to not let him slip away. While the leaders were battling, John Dillon, the 1990 RBNWS champion was working his way back to the front after several pit stops forced him to the rear of the field. Dillon made his charge from the back twice and would end up the day finishing in the seventh position.

Schrader continued to lead Mckean at lap 90, with Lynch, Hoffman, and Jefferson in tow. Making an impressive showing in his Rookie year was Adam Andretti who stayed around the top ten all day and was working on the sixth position when he lost the handle on his US Bank Chevrolet coming out of turn four. Andretti made contact with the pit road water barrier ending his chances for a top five finish.

The caution for Andretti's spin set up a green, white, checkered finish. Schrader was like a horse out the gate on the restart and quickly built a five car length lead by the first corner. Schrader crossed the finish line 2.1 seconds ahead of McKean who finished second for the second time in as many races at PIR. Scott Lynch rallied for third, with Hoffman in fourth, and Jefferson in fifth. Burney Lamar finished sixth, followed by Dillon, Stanley Smith, Paul Menard, and Rick Suran.

"We got a good jump," said Schrader. "We probably didn't play the restart by the rules but with two to go, you're just thinking about the win. The car was a little loose early and we pitted around lap thirty and our tire 'princess' changed the rear stagger and fixed. When asked about the lap one crash Schrader offered. "That Holtz boy was fast, but during the parade lap and the initial start you could tell he had an awful lot of enthusiasm, and I kind of expected things to get ugly down there."

"He (Schrader) kind of snookered us on the restart," McKean said. "My car was not right on the second set of tires, and Schrader just made a better adjustment on the pit stop. My left front started to go flat with about ten to go so I started to push real bad at the end and had nothing for Schrader."

Planning on only running a limited schedule in 2002, Scott Lynch made the most of his start by coming home third. "It was just an awesome race," Lynch said. "It was really an awesome race out there on the track with several really good battles. I tried to get underneath McKean on the last lap, but just could not make it stick coming out of two. I had to do some defensive driving in three and four as Hoffman was all over me."

The race took 1 hour, 12 minutes, 28 seconds to complete and the action was slowed five times for 25-laps for caution. The average speed of the event was 86.106 mph, with Schrader taking the victory by 2.1 seconds over McKean. Holtz picked up the Bud Pole Award with a new track record time of 27.091/132.885 mph, while Ken Schrader collected the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (48). Adam Andretti won Rookie-of-the-Race honors with his 24th place finish. There were four lead changes among five drivers. This event will be televised tape delayed on the SPEED Channel Monday, March 25, 2002.

The next event for the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division will Saturday, March 23, 2002 at the Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif.

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 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, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., Hills Brothers Coffee, and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Kurt Busch , Paul Menard , Ryan Hemphill , Jeff Jefferson , Adam Andretti , Brandon Whitt , Scott Lynch , Eric Holmes , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Jason Allen , Tim Schendel , Kevin Hamlin