SWS: Stockton: Post-race notes

Vidovich Shows Force at Stockton DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.. (May 2, 2005) There is domination, and there is total domination. Auggie Vidovich of Lakeside, Calf.. totally dominated the 100-lap event this past Saturday at Stockton 99 (Calif.) Speedway...

Vidovich Shows Force at Stockton

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.. (May 2, 2005) There is domination, and there is total domination. Auggie Vidovich of Lakeside, Calf.. totally dominated the 100-lap event this past Saturday at Stockton 99 (Calif.) Speedway in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series action to claim his second consecutive victory and set the stage for a very interesting championship run that is only three races old.

"I am not ready to think about the championship," Vidovich said. "But we have the team that can do it. Mike Harvick knows these cars and I am just fortunate to drive it."

While Vidovich counts good fortune with Harvick turning the wrenches, he has also been the recipient of a little luck in the form of the invert that sets the grid after qualifying for each. Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. topped the qualifying list with a quick lap of 13.692 seconds/65.732 mph around the tricky quarter-mile paved oval but drew a 6-car invert putting Vidovich on the outside front row. Local hero Burney Lamar from W. Sacramento, Calf.. qualified second quick with Boring, Oregon's Brandon Riehl clocking in with he third fast time. both would be a factor in the race.

Vidovich was determined to get the jump on pole sitter Rip Michels as the field took the green flag. Vidovich and Michels raced side-by-side into turn one, but Vidovich was able to claim the top spot as the duo exited turn two. Michels held on to second place over the next several laps but his car developed a loose condition almost immediately and he started to faded giving way to Riehl on lap 14.

Riehl dogged Vidovich and closed the gap on the front runner keeping pace with Vidovich. While Riehl reeled in Vidovich, 2004 Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II steadily moved through the field from his tenth starting position moving into the top five by lap 35.

Riehl continued to work on Vidovich, catching him on lap 35. Riehl ducked under the 2003 Southwest Series champion several times, racing door handle to door handle for the next couple of laps. With each advance, Vidovich would slam the door and reassume the lead. On lap 39 Riehl got a great run as the pair exited turn four and was alongside down the frontstretch. The pair made contact in turn one causing Riehl's car to lose a valve stem and flattening his right front tire. Riehl lost three laps changing the tire and would finish 18th..

With Riehl's misfortune, Lamar entered the scene and pressured Vidovich through lap 70. Just when it looked like Lamar would make the pass for the lead his powerplant let go and he coasted to the garage with a disappointing 22nd place homecoming finish.

While bad luck sidelined the two fastest cars, Vidovich hoped good luck would prevail as Jefferson and M.K. Kanke took their turns at the 24 year old veteran. Jefferson was never able to make a solid charge at the top spot as lapped cars provided Vidovich all the cushion he needed. By lap 90 Jefferson had his hands full of Kanke and the long-time series veteran made the pass for second dropping Jefferson to third.

When the checkered flag dropped on race three of the season, Vidovich crossed the line 3.498 seconds ahead of Kanke. Jefferson finished third with Pettit and SUNOCO Rookie-of-the-Year contender Ryan Foster rounding out the top five finishers.

"This is a big win for our team," Vidovich said. "No wins are easy and to have a win like this at Stockton is pretty neat. We have a great team and I am as pumped about racing as I have ever been."

A second place finish may well signal that Kanke is back in form returning to the series full-time since 2001. "We had a great car tonight," Kanke said. "I wish the race was 125 laps."

Jefferson is attempting something that has never been done before and that is winning two series championships in the same season. He plans to defend his 2004 Northwest Series title and chase the Southwest Series crown this season. "One race at a time," Jefferson said. "We just need to be consistent and tonight was a real good points night for us and a great learning experience. We have the right team, the right cars, and the desire to win. I am thrilled to be so competitive for never being here before."

Defending Southwest Series champion Pettit is looking at the big picture. "We race one race at a time," Pettit said. "I am a little disappointed not to finish in the top three, but it is a long season and we are in good shape. Auggie (Vidovich) is certainly on a rail right now and we have our work cut out for us."

For top finishing SUNOCO Rookie-of-the-Year contender Ryan Foster, two top tens in two races makes racing exciting. "I have wanted to run the Southwest Series full-time but we have a real limited budget," Foster said. "It is a lot of fun racing with these guys and finishing well kind of makes you want more."

The race took just 35 minutes and 22 seconds to complete at an average speed of 42.423mph. The action was slowed five times for 29 laps of caution. Mike Ledbetter won the $750 PowerAde Award for improving the most positions in the event (13), while Eddy McKean collected the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous event. Jeff Jefferson claimed the $400 Bud Pole Award and Ryan Foster was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year competitor. Mike Harvick claimed the Lunati Crew Chief-of-the-Race Award for preparing the winning car. Twenty of twenty-three cars were running at the conclusion of the 100-lap event.

Vidovich assumes the series point lead after three races on the strength of his two wins. Vidovich (481) leads Pettit (480) by one point with Kanke (462) moving into third. Lamar (447) falls from the point lead to fourth with Jefferson (412) moving up five spots to fifth.

The next event for the Southwest Series is Saturday, May 14 at Mesa Marin (Calif.) Raceway for the second of three visits the series will make to the high-baked half-mile oval. Auggie Vidovich dominated the action in the series' last visit to MMR while four time MMR winner M.K. Kanke finished fourth.


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Mike Ledbetter , Jim Pettit II , Auggie Vidovich , Ryan Foster , Rip Michels