Pettit on Rocky Mountain High After Pikes Peak Victory DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 25, 2005) Having mastered both the dirt and asphalt short tracks of the Western United States over the past twenty-five years, Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif.
Pettit on Rocky Mountain High After Pikes Peak Victory
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 25, 2005) Having mastered both the dirt and asphalt short tracks of the Western United States over the past twenty-five years, Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. wanted to add a superspeedway win to his resume'. His resume' is no padded with that feat after he claimed the victory at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway this past Saturday in a special NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest and Midwest Series combination event. It was Pettit's third win of the season and eighth of his career. The win also extended his point lead to 108 markers going into the final five races.
Pettit edged Eric Holmes by .713 seconds in the 150-lap contest that pitted the best of the Midwest Series against the best of the Southwest Series. Eddy McKean, Greg Pursley, and Dan Holtz made it a Southwest sweep in the top five positions.
Greg Pursley, the 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion cruised to his fifth career Bud Pole Award after being the fastest car in practice on Friday. Pursley toured the one-mile paved oval in 27.270 seconds/132.013 mph to lead all forty drivers. Todd Hansen, Jim Pettit II, Eric Holmes, and Midwest Series standout Tim Schendel rounded out the top qualifiers for the King Soopers sponsored event.
Pursley grabbed the early lead but faced an immediate challenge from Pettit. Pettit, debuting a brand new car, put his ford alongside Pursley on lap three and took the point on lap four. Pursley moved back by Pettit the next lap. a scene that would reply itself several times over the course of the race.
The first of caution flags waved on lap on lap 10 when Sunoco Rookie leader Don Campbell spun in turn two after contact with another car. Campbell was able to continue.
Pursley continued to head the field at the lap 20 mark followed by Pettit, Holmes, Schendel, Hansen, Dave Finely, and Steve Carlson. Stan Silva Jr., Justin Diercks, and Thomas Martin rounded out the top ten.
The second caution came out on lap 25 for the car of Danny Mientka who looped his Chevrolet in turn four. The caution came at an opportune time for Eddy McKean and Burney Lamar who were struggling with their set up. McKean changed right side tires and added fuel, while Lamar's team changed tires and made major chassis adjustment to get the car to turn better. McKean dropped back to 30th in the running order while Lamar lost one lap to the leader.
The front of the field stayed the same on the lap 30 restart with Pursley out front and Pettit in pursuit. The third caution came out just three laps later when front runner Hansen made contact with the turn two wall and retired from the race on the hook. During that caution Eddie Hoffman made several stops in the pits to correct a toe out problem. Hoffman would lose one lap but battle back to finish 11th.
The lap 42 restart had Pursley in front of Pettit with Holmes in tow. Schendel was riding in fourth and Finely having a great run in the fifth position. Green flag racing ensued over the next sixty laps setting up pit strategies that would determine the outcome of the race.
2004 Southwest Series Rookie-of-the-Year Rip Michels had his hopes of a top five run dashed when his Chevrolet slowed and was lapped on lap 51. Michels would finish 29th, seven laps off the pace. Both Richard Johnson and Don Campbell ended their day around the same with ill-handling racecar's.
By lap 75 teams were gearing up for pit stops. Silva, the first of the leaders, pitted on lap 82 for right side tires and fuel. M.K. Kanke was the next to pit on lap 84. Schendel's bad luck continued when he broke a wheel on lap 89 and was forced to pit. Schendel would make several stops losing five laps and finishing 25th.
As the field closed in on lap 100, fuel worries started to mount. With a long green flag run in the books, the leaders were playing possum as to who would pit first. 2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich pitted on lap 96 and Dan Holtz made his way to the pits on lap 101. Thomas Martin, who had the fastest car on the racetrack took the lead from Pursley on 105. but Martin's time at the front was over before it started as he ran out of fuel entering turn one. Martin coasted to the turn two access road bringing out the caution the leaders needed.
With all the front runners pitting for fuel and two tires, the race was no in the hands of the pit crews. Southwest and Midwest Series team rarely have pit stop events, but it was Eric Holmes' team who beat everyone off pit road. Pursley dropped back to second, with Pettit in third followed by Carlson, and McKean. Nick Lynch moved his way into the top six with Kevin Clark the only other cars on the lead lap.
Holmes held his advantage over Pettit and Pursley through lap 130. The fifth caution came out when Darren Crocker spun his Chevrolet through the front stretch grass on lap 134. that caution bunched up the field erasing the two second lead Holmes had on Pettit.
Holmes stay at the front ended when Pettit made his pass for the lead on lap 139. With only seven cars on the lead lap it looked to be an old fashioned shootout to the end. Pettit held the advantage over Holmes, with McKean moving by Pursley on lap 144 for third. Martins day went from bad to worse when he lost a tire and slapped the turn two wall ended his day on the hook with a badly damage racecar. Mark Kraus also made contact with the turn three wall in a separate incident.
The sixth caution set up a green, white, and checkered finish. It also put Holtz back on the lead lap as he was able to get by Pettit before the caution came out. Pettit led Holmes, McKean, Pursley, and Lynch on the lap 153 restart. Pettit held off the late charge from Holmes to win his third race of the season and eighth of his career. Holmes finished second, followed McKean, Pursley, and Holtz who got by Lynch on the last lap.
"I am so happy for the team. This was a great win for us," Pettit said. "We had a new car it really worked well late in the race. Duane (Sharp) my crew chief made the right calls. The team was flawless. It was also a good points day for us as Burney and Auggie had a bit of trouble, so I am feeling pretty good right now."
When asked about the special combination event Pettit was thrilled to race with the Midwest Series. "The Midwest Series has some real great drivers," Pettit said. "It is great to compete head-to-head in these kind of races and I am looking forward to the Showdown in November."
Pettit went on to discuss the importance of this four race stretch as it pertains to the championship. "I said early in the year that this four race stretch would determine the champion. So far we have a second and a win. We always run well at CNS so it is looking pretty good right now."
Finishing second while only running a partial schedule this year, Eric Holmes was pleased with the result. "I never experience an aero push before," Holmes said. "When I was out front I was a rocket, but when Jim got by me on the restart I couldn't turn the car. I am happy with second but it would have been nice to win here at Pikes Peak."
McKean suffered burns to his right leg from heat in the car but managed to hold on for his 11th top three finish on a one-mile in his last twelve starts. "It was a good run for us," McKean said. "We missed the setup to start the race but made the right adjustments early in the event which allowed us to catch the lead pack. We had a really good car late in the race and wished it was a 175-lap race."
Pursley led 108 of the 155 laps to record his second top five finish of the season. "It feels great to have a dominate car and lead laps here at Pikes Peak," Pursley said. "We were good all day and Jim, Eric, and Eddy obviously got better as the race progressed. I am happy for Craig (Keough, Car Owner) and the whole team for this finish."
The Southwest Series edged the Midwest Series by taking the top six positions with the top Midwest Series competitor Steve Carlson finished seventh.
"I had a decent car but not one that was going to beat those guys," Carlson said. "The chassis are changing and the setups some of the younger guys use just don't fit my driving style. It was a good race and I know the fans saw a good show,"
Tim Schendel suffered through another difficult race after he lost five laps due to a broken wheel. "I had high hopes heading into this event," Schendel said. "I just can't seem to catch a brake with tires and wheels. We were heading for a strong top five finish but it wasn't meant to be. We move on to Mansfield and hope we can turn our luck around."
The race took one hour, 42 minutes, 15 seconds to complete at an average speed of 90.954 mph. The action was slowed six times for 36 laps of caution. Pursley led the most laps (108) that saw ten lead changes involving four drivers. Pursley claimed the $400 Bud Pole Award while Dan Holtz earned the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous event (14). Eddy McKean collected the $750 PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race improving 17 positions in the event. Andrew Morrissey was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie competitor with a 19th place effort.
With the win, Pettit extended his point advantage to 108 points over Lamar, while Justin Diercks maintains his advantage in the Midwest Series with a tenth place finish.
The Midwest Series next travels to Mansfield (Ohio) Motor Speedway this weekend while the Southwest Series teams head North to Erie, Colo. for a 150-lap event this Saturday.
For all the latest news and information regarding the Midwest or the Southwest Series', log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.