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MIKE DUNCAN BENEFITS FROM PIT STRATEGY FOR FONTANA WIN IN NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, AUTOZONE WEST SERIES FONTANA, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Pit strategy paid off for Mike Duncan as he made a late-race charge to the front...


FONTANA, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Pit strategy paid off for Mike Duncan as he made a late-race charge to the front and won a wild scramble to the finish in NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series competition at California Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 1.

Duncan, one of eight drivers who exchanged the lead 12 times, moved out front one lap from the finish to nab his seventh career series victory in the Relocate Here 200 presented by San Bernardino County.

The win marked a major milestone for Duncan, who encountered a couple of sub par finishes early this season in his campaign for a third consecutive series championship. "This makes up for a lot of failures early," said the 44-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., competitor. "This is what I've wanted to do, is win on a big track. And this is the biggest. This is pretty special, something I'll never ever forget. It's going to be even more special when I have some time to think about it. It's pretty special."

The early portion of the event was dominated by Auggie Vidovich, who won the Budweiser Pole with a qualifying lap of 172.232 mph and built a lead of more than 10 seconds in the Against Graffiti/Denbeste Ford. Although Vidovich led the first 42 laps, his race came to abrupt end after he ran out of room while trying to squeeze between a spinning car and the wall.

From there, the lead was swapped back and forth among an assortment of drivers -- most notably Eric Holmes, who ran second to Vidovich early. Meanwhile, Duncan's crew chief -- two-time series champion Bill Sedgwick -- had a special game plan. After coming to the pits during an early caution for fuel and a chassis adjustment, they waited until late in the race to put on the only two fresh tires teams were allowed for the event.

"I felt like we had a shot, if we could stay on the lead lap and get those tires late," Duncan said of the strategy. "I figured we'd probably be the only ones that had them, but I didn't know how much ground we would have to make up."

Duncan made his pit stop for fresh right side tires on his Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet with 25 laps remaining. "We were able to get those tires and make another adjustment. That was the difference," Duncan said. "When we went green, I knew we could do it."

Duncan, who was sixth soon after the pit stop, benefited from a late-race caution that set up a wild scramble to the finish. The yellow was brought out when race leader Peyton Sellers bounced off the wall after having a tire go down within eight laps of the finish. Brett Thompson led at the restart with three laps remaining -- followed by Holmes in second, Jim Inglebright in third, Duncan in fourth and Nick Lynch in fifth. The scramble was on when the green flag flew, with Holmes and Thompson exchanging the lead back and forth. Duncan charged by both, meanwhile, to lead the final two circuits and grab the win.

Duncan won by .856 of a second, at an average speed of 94.687 mph. He netted $14,500 in prize money and posted awards. Inglebright of Fairfield, Calif., had a season-best runner-up finish in the Jelly Belly Chevrolet -- with Holmes of Escalon, Calif., taking third in the Sunoco Race Fuels/Paul Oil Chevrolet. Lynch of Burley, Idaho, had a career-best finish of fourth in the Rockstar Energy Drink Dodge -- while Thompson of Jerome, Idaho, was fifth in the VaCom Technology/Thompson Motorsports Chevrolet. Rounding out the top 10 were Steve Portenga, Brian Ickler, Scott Gaylord, Mike David and Charles Price.

Among the eight drivers who shuffled the lead 12 times were Duncan, Holmes, Thompson, Sellers, Vidovich, Andrew Myers, Matt Kobyluck and Austin Cameron. The pace of the event was slowed by seven cautions for 33 laps.

His third-place finish was enough to move Holmes ahead of David in the tight championship standings, unofficially. Holmes leads with 1,539 over David with 1,512. Duncan jumped to third in the standings with 1,474 -- followed by Sellers with 1,447 and Portenga with 1,440. Inglebright at 1,380, Gaylord at 1,353, Cameron at 1,281, Ickler at 1,279 and Justin Lofton at 1,276 round out the top 10.

Despite Sellers' misfortune and subsequent 21st-place finish, he retained his lead in this year's battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. He tops the list with 86 points, followed by Lofton at 79, Brian Ickler with 76 and Eric Hardin with 67. Others include Daniel DiGiacomo at 29, James Bruncati at 20, Eric Humphries at 16, Brian Pannone at 16, Spencer Clark at 14, Justin Fisher at eight, Travis Powell at six and Ed Watson at two.

The next event on the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series schedule will be at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on Sept. 30.

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Matt Kobyluck , Steve Portenga , Scott Gaylord , Brett Thompson , Mike David , Eric Holmes , Austin Cameron , Peyton Sellers , Andrew Myers , Brian Ickler