Vidovich Continues Championship Run with Stockton Victory STOCKTON, CALIF. (July 18, 2005) Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. continued his pursuit of a second NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series title by claiming his third...
Vidovich Continues Championship Run with Stockton Victory
STOCKTON, CALIF. (July 18, 2005) Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. continued his pursuit of a second NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series title by claiming his third victory of the season and ninth of his five year Southwest Series career Saturday night at the tight and tricky quarter-mile oval of Stockton 99 Speedway. Vidovich edged championship rival and Southwest Series point leader Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. by one second in the 125-lap event. Nick Lynch, Greg Voigt, and Sunoco Rookie competitor Stephan Sadler rounded out the top five finishers in the AutoZone sponsored race.
Burney Lamar top the qualifying charts with a quick lap of 13.668 seconds/65.847 mph to lead twenty-two drivers in qualifying. It was Lamar's 14th career Bud Pole Award and third of the 2005 season. Lynch, Pettit, Eric Holmes, and Voigt rounded out the top five drivers in qualifying.
Jeff Belletto would start the 125-lap race on the pole alongside his brother Steve after the invert put Lamar back to eighth. Belletto's time up front would not last long as Vidovich, who started third took control of the race on lap 7.
Lamar, who is second in the point standings, had more bad luck fall his way at Stockton when he cut a tire on lap 9 while battling for the fifth spot. Lamar lost three laps in the pits, but would be a factor later in the race.
The first of five caution periods occurred on lap 17 when Lamar, who was moving back through the field after the tire change, and Dan Holtz made contact in turn. Holtz spun but was able to restart on the lead lap.
Vidovich led the field to green on the lap 20 restart with Eric Holmes, Jim Pettit II, Jeff Belletto, and Steve Belletto in tow. Greg Voigt, Thomas Martin, Nick Lynch, Ryan Foster, and Doug McCoun rounded out the top ten in the running order.
The second caution happened on lap 30 when close racing action caused Martin to loop his Chevrolet into the turn two wall. The incident also involved Bob Lyon and Eddy McKean who had no where to go and became a victim of circumstance. Both Lyon and Martin finished their night on the hook while McKean's repaired his Pontiac and would return the race twenty laps down.
During the first fifty laps Vidovich was able to make up one of his lost laps and looked to have the fastest car on the track. Lamar made up his second lap on lap 70 and needed a caution to get the third back. Meanwhile, Vidovich and Pettit waged a spirited battle for the lead for several laps by lap 75. Each time Pettit advanced Vidovich slammed the door as the pair exited the turns.
Contact between Mike Ledbetter and Eric Holmes brought out the fourth caution of the night when Holmes went spinning in turn two. Ledbetter ended his night in the garage.
By lap 100, Vidovich was able to keep Pettit at bay, while the Belletto brothers, Holmes, and Ryan foster were locked into a seesaw battle for third. that battle ended when Jeff Belletto and his brother Steve tangled in turn three collecting Holmes and Foster. Steve Belletto and Eric Holmes were able to continue and stay on the lead lap. foster lost a right front tire and lost two laps in the pits. Jeff Belletto lost nine laps making repairs to his Chevrolet.
Over the final ten laps Vidovich denied Pettit's advances and cruised to his third victory of the season. Pettit kept his point lead intact finishing second, with Nick Lynch scoring his best finish of the season in third. Greg Voigt and Sunoco Rookie competitor Stephan Sadler rounded out the top five finishers.
"I just have to give credit to me crew; they've really figured this place out," Vidovich said. "The car was awesome."
Vidovich's toughest challenge came from Lamar, who managed to get two of the laps back and finish ninth. With a few laps remaining, Lamar let Pettit by to see if he could mount a challenge to Vidovich. Pettit came up just a bit short.
"He knew his night was over with, and being the true sportsman he is, he let me go," Pettit said. "I am thrilled to finish second and keep the wheels on the car. This is the first race of a four race stretch and finishing and finishing well is going to go a long way towards the championship."
Nick Lynch, who is in his second full-time campaign on the Southwest Series had his best night to date. "We are qualifying really well and that is a key factor," Lynch said. "When you start up front you can race up front. It was tough and rough out there tonight, but this finish is a big achievement for our team."
Scoring his best career finish of fifth and leading all Sunoco Rookie competitors was Stephan Sadler. "I'm not sure how it happened, but I could not be happier," Sadler said. "We had a good car tonight and managed to stay out the mess."
Finishing sixth was local favorite Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. Holmes ran as high as second but a mid race altercation with Ceres, California's Mike Ledbetter dropped Holmes back in the running order. Front row starter Steve Belletto finished seventh with Doug McCoun, Lamar, and Sunoco Rookie Don Campbell rounding out the top ten in the running order at the conclusionof the race.
"I saw that deal coming with the Belletto's," Holmes said. "I didn't think it would really happen because they're brothers, but I saw it coming."
For his take on the lap 110 incident Steve Belletto was matter of fact. "Just a racing accident," Steve Belletto said. "It was unfortunate, but it just happened."
Fifteen of the twenty-two starters were running at the conclusion of the race that was slowed five times for 28 laps. Jeff Belletto led the first six circuits before giving way to Vidovich. The race was completed in 41 minutes and 25 seconds.
Lamar collected the $400 Bud Pole Award while Stephan Sadler secured the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the event (16). Vidovich added the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions over the previous event (34). Sadler also was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year competitor. Mike Harvick won his third LUNATI Crew Chief Award of the season turnign the wrenches on Vidovich's winning car.
With Vidovich's win, he shaved ten points off Pettit's point lead but still sits third in the standings after eight races. Lamar maintains second. M.K. Kanke finished 13th and holds down the fourth spot in the standings while Voigt holds onto the fifth spot. Eddy McKean, Nick Lynch, Greg Pursley, Thomas Martin, and Rip Michels round out the top ten in the point standings heading into the King Soopers Freedom "150" this coming weekend at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway in Fountain, Colo.
For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series, log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.