SWS: Pikes Peak race report

Fountain, Colo. Craig Raudman continued his impressive climb in the point standings with a dominating victory in the Sunstate Equipment Company "100" at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway Sunday afternoon. The win was Raudman's second in a row and was worth...

Fountain, Colo. Craig Raudman continued his impressive climb in the point standings with a dominating victory in the Sunstate Equipment Company "100" at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway Sunday afternoon. The win was Raudman's second in a row and was worth more than $10,000, as well as vaulting him into second place in the season point standings behind second place finisher M.K. Kanke.

Raudman won his forth consecutive Bud Pole Award Saturday afternoon, with a new track record of 26.870/133.978 mph, tying the mark set by Lance Hooper back in 1995. Following Raudman in qualifying was Ed Hoffman, a regular on the REMAX Series, with Greg Pursley, Kanke, and local Colorado driver Mike Pratt rounding out the top five.

The green flag flew forty-five minutes early Sunday as series officials were trying to beat a weather front that was moving in. The field of 38 cars took the green, but momentum was slowed when Mike Pratt was unable to get up to speed, involving no less than twelve cars in the lap one incident. The crash ended Rookie-of-the-Year point leader Scott Brandt's day, as he was relegated to hook and a 37th place finish. On the Restart, Ed Hoffman got the early jump on pole sitter Raudman and lead the first 36 laps until an ignition problem short circuited the REMAX drivers day. Raudman assumed the lead on lap 37 and would hold off challenges from Auggie Vidovich Jr. and Kanke throughout the rest of the 100-lap contest.

As Raudman was assured a victory, debris on the track from an early incident brought out the yellow with 3-laps to go. This set up a three lap showdown between 2000 series runner-up, Vidovich, series veteran Kanke, REMAX regular Ron Breese, and Raudman. With victory in sight, Raudman deliberately slowed the start and was able to jump out on second place runner Vidovich. The slow start allowed Kanke to get back by Vidovich as the two battled into turn two. Raudman lead Kanke by less than a second on the final lap, but able to hold off the point leader by .415 seconds at the checkered flag. Kanke finished second, with Vidovich holding on to third, while Breese, and Colorado native Roger Avants rounded out the top five.

"Hoffman was bad fast at the beginning," Raudman stated. " I didn't think I had a car to catch him. He is well known and always a good runner. I noticed he was starting to slow, I think he had a motor problem. My car kept getting looser and looser as the race wore on, and you always have to be worried about Kanke." Raudman went on to give credit to his crew and team for all their dedication and support. "We have been fast everywhere we have gone this year. We just had some trouble at Phoenix and Cajon with little things that never break. We're on track, focused and dedicated."

"I was glad to see the yellow with three to go", Kanke said. "My tires were used up. I thought I might have a chance to catch Craig, but he was smooth on the restart. I finished third here last year, second today, maybe I'll win it next year."

Third place finisher Vidovich lost second on the last restart, but managed to hold on for third place. This finish propelled Vidovich back into the top five in the season point standings. "I lost my confidence at the beginning of the race because I was going backwards," Vidovich said. "My crew kept me calm and told to hang on and I would make it back to the front. That last caution cost me in the end. My car was much better on the long green runs."

The race was slowed five times for 36 laps and took 1 hour, 13 minutes, and 31 seconds to complete. Raudman picked up the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps, with Rookie Burney Lamar taking home Rookie of the race honors with his tenth place finish. Raudman averaged 81.614 mph over the 100 lap distance. The series moves next to the half-mile high banked oval at Mesa Marin, in Bakersfield, Calif. for the COORS LIGHT "150" Saturday, Jun 2. The Mesa Marin event was postponed earlier in the year due to inclement weather.

The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine 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, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-Derrick Shannon

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Drivers Lance Hooper , Greg Pursley , Burney Lamar , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich