For Holmes it's Elementary at Stockton DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (May 10, 2004) Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. drew upon his experience and the education he has been given over the years to claimed his fifth career victory in NASCAR AutoZone Elite...
For Holmes it's Elementary at Stockton
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (May 10, 2004) Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. drew upon his experience and the education he has been given over the years to claimed his fifth career victory in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series competition Saturday night at Stockton (CA) 99 Speedway. The victory was Holmes' first of the season and vaulted him into fourth place in the championship standings after five events. Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. finished second after collecting his 28th career Bud Pole Award to set a new record for the series. Burney Lamar crossed the finish line in third, with Autometer Rookie-of the-Year candidate Rip Michels, and veteran Bob Lyon rounding out the top five finishers in the 125-lap contest.
Raudman again topped the speed charts when qualifying was concluded to score his third Bud Pole Award of the season and 28th pole of his career. He broke the record of long-time series standout M.K. Kanke. "This is an important record for me," Raudman said. "Every time we come to the track we feel that we have the fastest car. Stockton is a tricky racetrack and to break the record here makes it all the more special."
The top 16 cars qualified on time for the Budweiser "125", with four provisional starting positions available to drivers and owners at the top of the point standings who did not qualify on time. That relegated ten drivers to a 15-lap non-qualifiers race that would transfer the top two finishers to the feature event. Track regulars Jeff Belletto and Tracy Bolin finished first and second sending Nick Joanides, M.K. Kanke, Jason Fensler, Stan Silva Jr., Todd Burns, John Moore, Richard Johnson, and Stephan Sadler home.
Autometer ROTY leader Rip Michels started on the pole after Raudman drew a six-car invert to start the race. Michels time at the point was short lived when outside pole sitter Eddy McKean grabbed the early lead as the duo raced into turn one. McKean lengthened his advantage over Michels during the next several laps. The first of four caution flags flew on lap three for Danny Burson as he made contact with the turn one wall ending his night on the hook.
The action stayed green for the next 44 laps until race McKean slowed when his driveline failed. After the race it was discovered that the heim joint on the third link separated causing the rear end to shift and pulling the driveline from its housing. "I have never seen that happen before," McKean said. "I know this hurt us in the points, but this is just part of racing. We had a very fast car and we showed that tonight."
Eric Holmes assumed the lead after McKean's departure and held the point throughout the rest of the event. Holmes held off fierce charges by Pettit and Raudman over the next 71 laps, but slammed the door each time. Pettit got underneath Holmes on several occasions and the pair waged a spirited battle from lap 63 through lap 88. Pettit's time at the front of the field ended on lap 90 for a cut right front tire. Pettit lost a lap to the field after pitting and finished the race in the 15th position.
Holmes held off Raudman over the closing laps to claim his first victory of the season. Raudman, Lamar, Michels, and Bob Lyon were the first five to the checkered flag. Greg Voigt had his best run of the season to finish sixth, with Steve Belletto, Doug McCoun, rookie Nick Lynch, and Ben Walker rounding out the top ten finishers.
Holmes knew a victory at Stockton will go a long way in his quest for his first series championship. "This was the last time I was going to race this car," Holmes said. "I have a new car we just finished that we will use the rest of the season. This win is big for us. We needed a good finish to get us back in the points, and winning at Stockton is quite a thrill. We had some great battles on the track and I was just happy to hold off Raudman at the end."
"We had a great car tonight," Raudman said after finishing second. "We got a little roughed up early in the race, but it did not affect the handling of the car. I feel great and I am sure this puts us in the points lead. Racing at Stockton is a lot fun. You can have great side-by-side racing all night long; you just have to trust the other guys. My hat's off to Eric and also Burney. It was a good night for the Victory Circle team."
"I am so happy to have a good run," Lamar said. "To have a top three finish at Stockton is very big for our team. Marc (Lundgren) and the whole team have put great cars under me all season so far, we just have not been able close the deal. I love racing at Stockton."
After points were tallied, Raudman takes the top spot dropping Pettit to second. McKean maintains third, with Holmes moving up three spots to fourth and Holtz rounding out the top five. Lamar jumps to sixth place in the standings, with Ben Walker, Bob Lyon, Joe Herold, and Doug McCoun rounding out the NASCAR Top 10 after five events.
The race took 39 minutes and 23 seconds to complete at average speed of 47.609 mph. The action was slowed just four times for 26 laps of caution. Holmes led the most laps (71) en route a .062 seconds margin of victory of Raudman. Raudman collected $350 for winning his third Bud Pole Award of the season and 28th (record) of his career. Doug McCoun won the $750 PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race Award for improving the most positions in the event (19th to 8th). Eric Holmes won the $300 Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous race (24th to 1st). Rip Michels was the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Race with his fourth place performance.
The next event for the AutoZone Southwest Series is Saturday, May 29 at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. For all the latest news and information regarding the AutoZone Southwest Series, log onto www.nascartouring.com .