SWS: Stockton II: Round eight preview

SWS: Stockton II: Round eight preview
Jul 13, 2005, 3:24 AM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 12, 2005) -- For the second time this season, the historic quarter-mile Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. will host the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Saturday, July 16. Stockton is celebrating 60 ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 12, 2005) -- For the second time this season, the historic quarter-mile Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. will host the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Saturday, July 16. Stockton is celebrating 60 years of motorsports entertainment in California's central valley and has hosted 23 Southwest Series races since the series was founded in 1986. Ron Hornaday Jr. tops the record books with three victories on the tricky quarter-mile oval, while Craig Raudman, Rick Carelli, Troy Beebe, Dan Press, and Ken Boyd have all claimed two wins apiece in Southwest Series competition. Stockton has always been stingy with victories and since the track returned to the series schedule in 2002 as there have been no repeat winners.

Burney Lamar, from nearby West Sacramento, Calif., is a local favorite at Stockton 99 Speedway, a track where he cut his stock car racing teeth. Lamar sits second in the standings after a sixth place performance at Infineon Raceway June 25. While Lamar has never won at Stockton 99 Speedway in Southwest Series competition, he has scored top three top three finishes over the past couple of seasons and is looking to continue his momentum this Saturday night July 16. A victory at Stockton is high on Lamar's priority list.

"Stockton is pretty much where it all began for me and I really like running there. Even though I've not won, we've had good finishes. Maybe this time, I'll get that first 99 win", Lamar said. "We are at the point of the season that we need solid runs if we are going to catch Jim (Pettit). He (Pettit) is a smart racer and he does not give up points easily, so we have to bring our "A" game and hope he has a little bad luck."

Stockton may owe Lamar a little good luck of his own this time around. Back in April he had a car capable of winning and had made his way underneath leader Auggie Vidovich only to suffer a mechanical failure ending his night early. "I really want to win at Stockton this weekend," Lamar said. "Last time here we felt we had the car to beat so we are really excited about our chances."

For Jim Pettit II, the defending Southwest Series champion, Stockton is considered his home track. The Prunedale, Calif. native scored his first Southwest Series victory and first Bud Pole Award there. "I have had a lot of success at Stockton over the years," Pettit said. "It is a special place to race and I have always had a lot of fans there. It is going to be hot all day while we practice, but when the sun goes down the track is going to change quite a bit. I hope my experience here is the difference. We also need to qualify well because track position will often dictate the outcome."

Pettit leads the standings over Lamar by 42 points heading into the 125-lap event at Stockton 99 Speedway and knows that margin could quickly evaporate if you are not careful. "Things happen quickly here," Pettit said. "We have a lot a great driver's in this series but you also know who you have give a lot a room to. With four races in a row this race is very important. If we can come out of Stockton with a top five finish then we can breathe a lot easier heading to Pikes Peak next week."

While track position can be a factor, it does not mean you relegated to a poor finish. Back in 2002, local Stockton ace Ron Strmiska Jr. qualified for the race by finishing second in the 20-lap non-qualifiers race and started the 125-lap feature 22nd. Strmiska took his time to work through the field and on lap 124 took the lead from eventual runner-up Lamar and claimed his only Southwest Series victory.

While Lamar and Pettit are familiar faces to the Stockton 99 faithful, Lakeside, Calif. driver Auggie Vidovich has had the car to beat several times this season scoring back to back win in April. Vidovich, the 2003 Southwest Series champion, is currently third in the point standings 96-points behind leader Pettit. In seven starts this season Vidovich has two wins and four top five finishes.

Vidovich claimed a dominating victory back in April leading all 100 laps of the race. "Stockton is a tough track to race," Vidovich said. "It will bite you when you least expect it. There is not a lot of room for mistakes, so qualifying well and getting out front is important. We had a great car last time here and we are bringing the same setup and hoping for the same result this weekend."

The AutoZone "125" presented by Havoline is race number eight of the 14-race championship series and the start of a four race stretch on consecutive weekends. Success this weekend at Stockton could well determine this year's series champion.

Southwest Series Notes:

Jim Pettit II will partner with Racing for the Missing, a division of the Nation's Missing Children Organization (NMCO) for the 2005 racing season. Pettit will feature a missing person on his car at each series event this season. At Stockton, Pettit will bring awareness about Tim Perryman. Mr. Perryman had an MBA and was a Boy Scout leader went missing on March 28, 2004. A dedicated father and career individual, he went for a drive after work one day, retuned home and has not been seen since. Mr. Perryman's family will be in attendance Saturday night. for addition information you can log onto http://www.theyaremissed.org/ncma/gallery/ncmaprofile_all.php?A200401390S.

Steve Johnson set the one lap Bud Pole qualifying record of 13.232 seconds/68.017 mph at Stockton 99 Speedway for the Southwest Series back on May 12, 1990. That mark still stands today. Troy Beebe won that race and Johnson finished a disappointing 19th. Johnson redeemed himself later in the season when the series returned in August by claiming the victory over fast qualifier M.K. Kanke.

Alumni Spotlight: Kevin Harvick claimed the NASCAR Busch Series victory this past weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Former Southwest Series Rookie-of-the-Year Brandon Whitt scored his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series top ten finish with a sixth place performance at Kentucky Speedway. 1999 Southwest Series champion Kurt Busch finished 8th at Chicago to remain solidly in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series top 10.

M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. is second on the all-time Bud Pole Award list with 28 career fast times. His last Bud Pole Award came last season at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. Kanke also sits second on the all-time win list with 19 career triumphs dating back to 1987. Kanke has 82 top five and 121 career top ten finishes to claim the series records in those categories.

Bob Lyon of Aqua Dulce, Calif. has started 279 career Southwest series races dating back to 1987. Lyon will make career start 280 this weekend. Lyon has four career victories and 43 top five and 89 top ten finishes over the years. Lyons last victory came in 2000.

Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Standings: Don Campbell holds a one point advantage over Dustin Jones in the Sunoco Rookie standings after seven races. The Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year title will count the best eight finishes of the season for each rookie and will also take into account on and off track performance to determine the ROTY.

Lunati to honor top crew chief: Lunati, a subsidiary of Kentucky-based Holley Performance Products, will award a gift certificate valued at $50 off a purchase of $250 or more, or a $100 off a purchase of $500 or more, to the winning crew chief at each NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race in 2005.

Fast Facts

What: AutoZone "125" presented by Havoline, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Race #8 of 14

Where: Stockton 99 Speedway, Stockton, Calif.
When: Saturday, July 16 at 9:00 p.m. (approx.).

Posted awards: $ 49,394

Race length: 125 laps, 31.25 miles
Track layout: Quarter-mile paved oval.

2004 Race Winner: Craig Raudman
2004 Race Bud Pole Winner: Burney Lamar

Pre-Race Schedule: Registration begins 10:00 a.m., Practice 2:00 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m., Bud Pole qualifying 5:30 p.m., AutoZone "125" 9:00 p.m.

Top 10 Drivers: 1. Jim Pettit II 1092, 2. Burney Lamar 1050, 3. Auggie Vidovich 996, 4. M.K. Kanke 987, 5. Greg Voigt 936, 6. Eddy McKean 927, 7. Greg Pursley 905, 8. Thomas Martin 874, 9. Nick Lynch 851, 10. Rip Michels 841.


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