SWS: Stockton II: Race notes

Kanke Makes History with Stockton Victory DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 17, 2006) For much of his career he has gone largely unnoticed by race fans across the country but he is one of a handful of current shortrack regulars who can say that he ...

Kanke Makes History with Stockton Victory

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 17, 2006) For much of his career he has gone largely unnoticed by race fans across the country but he is one of a handful of current shortrack regulars who can say that he has competed against the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Allison and won. Headlines and awards are secondary for M.K. Kanke; racing is all about competition and beating the best. This past Saturday Kanke did just that and along the way he cemented his place in NASCAR history as the all-time winningest drive in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series after claiming the final Southwest Series race at the historic Stockton 99 Speedway.

Kanke, the Frazier Park, Calif. resident, qualified 6th fastest for the 100-lap AutoZone sponsored race but would start third after quick qualifier Rip Michels drew an 8-car invert to start the race. Michels toured the tight quarter-mile paved oval in just 13.691 seconds to lead twenty-two competitors in qualifying. Eric Homes, Joey Zampa, Eddy McKean, and Sunoco Rookie David Mayhew rounded out the top five after qualifying.

The invert put local racing star Jeff Belletto at the point but Belletto's time at the front would end early after he jumped the initial start and he received a stop and go penalty for his eagerness. Kanke took over on lap three and would remain out front for the entire race but would have to fend off several challenges for the lead following four restarts.

Kanke was firmly in control as the field settled into a racing rhythm by lap ten with 2002 Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean in close pursuit. Two-time and defending champion Jim Pettit II followed with David Mayhew, and Joey Zampa rounding out the top five in the running order.

The first of four cautions came out on lap 30 after Greg Potts and Stephan Sadler tangled in turn one. The incident also involved Jeff Belletto and series veteran Bob Lyon. All cars were able to continue. After the field was back under green, Pettit made a move on McKean and continued to pressure the former champion as the duo raced side-by side for several laps. The two made slight contact a couple of times but McKean was able to shut the door each time and maintain the second position.

While McKean and Pettit battled, Kanke extended his advantage to more than twenty car lengths negotiating traffic like a New York cab driver. The second caution came out after 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year Don Campbell looped his Chevrolet on the front stretch after an assist from Lyon.

Kanke continued to set the pace at the front of the field after the lap 54 restart with McKean in tow, followed Pettit, Eric Holmes, Mayhew, Zampa, Rip Michels, Kevin Clark, Steve Belletto, and Greg Voigt. Pettit continued to pressure McKean for the next ten laps but started to fade and eventually suspension failure forced Pettit to the pits. A rear trailing arm bracket broke ending another competitive run for the defending champion and all but dashing his hopes for a third straight title.

Eric Holmes set his sights on the top spot and moved under McKean for second place on lap 78. Kanke meanwhile used lapped traffic to distance himself from Holmes and looked to have the race locked up when the final caution flew on lap 94 when Wes Miller lost power in his Chevrolet and coasted to a stop in turn two.

The caution would set up a single file restart with a green, white, and checkered finish to end the race. Kanke got a solid restart but Holmes closed the gap heading into turn one. Upon exiting turn two McKean was able to close in on Holmes when his Chevrolet got a touch loose. McKean made contact with the rear of Holmes' car and that was all Kanke needed as Holmes had to lift in order to gather the car back in. Kanke held on to win by .330 seconds over Holmes. McKean finished third with Bud Pole Award winner Rip Michels moving up to finish fourth. Joey Zampa finished fifth in his first start of the season.

Steve Belletto finished sixth after starting 14th, while Colorado Springs. Colorado competitor Kevin Clark scored his second top ten of the season finishing seventh. David Mayhew, Eric Richardson, and Greg Voigt rounded out the top ten finishers after the race went extra distance (105-laps).

The victory was Kanke's 22nd of his career and second in as many races. The win also secured Kanke's place in history as the all-time Southwest Series win leader ahead of Rick Carelli.

"When we started the season we really wanted to win races and to win at Stockton allowed us to accomplish one of our goals," Kanke said. "My crew builds and prepares awesome racecars and I feel we can win every race. I love racing at tracks like Stockton and I am real disappointed to see it going away at the end of the year and I am real happy to have finally won here after so many years of trying."

Rebounding from a disappointing finish two weeks ago at Altamont and finishing second was Eric Holmes. "Mike (Kanke) had a fast car and I do know if I could have caught even if Eddy and I did not make contact," Holmes said. "I am real happy for Mike (Kanke) on his accomplishment. He is one of the very best that I have raced against. We are happy with second and this point's chase is wide open."

Scoring his fourth top five of the season was Eddy McKean. "We keep finishing in the top five we'll be there at the end," McKean said. "My car was a bit off at the end but we are real happy with the finish. Finishing well at Stockton was real important for us and we can breathe a little easier going into Irwindale."

"I am disappointed," Rip Michels said after the race. "These inverts are tough. Everybody is fast so moving through traffic is difficult. We really want to win but were happy with a solid finish and it keeps us on top of the points, but its close."

Michels (805) maintains his point lead but by only five points over McKean (800). Holmes (799) is one point behind McKean in third. Kanke (756) closed to within 49 points of Michels with the win while Greg Voigt is in fifth with 666 points. Mayhew, Pettit, Thomas Martin, Stephan Sadler, and Kevin Vernon round out the top ten in the standings after five races.

Kevin Clark who makes the long-tow from Colorado Springs, Colo. for every event has moved into eleventh in the standings just 14-points behind Vernon. All Southwest Series drivers are vying for a prestigious invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown that will staged in October at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. Only the top ten drivers from each series within the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division will receive an invite.

Michels collected $450 for his second career Bud Pole Award while Steve Belletto earned the $750 PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race Award for improving the most positions in the event (8). Kevin Clark earned the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions over the previous event (9). David Mayhew was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie competitor for the third time this season.

The race was slowed four times for caution totaling 36 laps and there was one lead change between two drivers. The next race for the Southwest Series is Stock Building Supply "150" Saturday, August 12 at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Rick Carelli , Bobby Allison , Don Campbell , Eric Holmes , Jim Pettit II , Steve Belletto , Thomas Martin , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , David Mayhew