SOUZA DODGES LATE TROUBLE TO NOTCH FIRST CAREER SERIES WIN TOOELE, Utah (Aug. 2, 2008) - Todd Souza won a wild scramble to the finish on the road course at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday to capture his first career victory in the NASCAR...
SOUZA DODGES LATE TROUBLE TO NOTCH FIRST CAREER SERIES WIN
TOOELE, Utah (Aug. 2, 2008) - Todd Souza won a wild scramble to the finish on the road course at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday to capture his first career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
Souza took the lead on the final lap from Jim Inglebright, who suddenly ran out of fuel and slowed going around the back portion of the winding 3.06-mile course.
Inglebright had stopped early for fuel, but his plan of making it to the finish came up short as a late-race caution led to the race distance being extended for a green-white-checkered finish. Inglebright was not the only leader to suffer misfortune late in the race, however, as the first and second-place cars of Jason Bowles and David Mayhew both had to pit with flat tires just a few laps from the finish. The final lap also featured several cars spinning off track and a couple of drivers limping to the finish line with flat tires.
"With the green-white-checkered there at the end, I had a couple of cars in front of me and a fast car behind me," Souza said. "It could have gone any way. That first turn was huge, getting in there and trying to get track position."
Souza's crew had cautioned him, meanwhile, that Inglebright might run out of gas. "I knew Jim was going to be low on fuel," Souza said. "My pit crew said he came in on lap 10. They said 'watch out for it.' He wasn't as fast as the three of us. His tires were pretty much gone and he was just throwing a lot of blocks and trying to hold us off."
While some leaders had trouble late in the race, Souza had encountered a problem earlier with a flat tire on his No. 13 Central Coast Cabinets Chevrolet. "After we came in for our fuel stop - we came in with the leaders, got our fuel and came back out - and within a lap or so we cut a right rear (tire) down," he said. "It was fading quick. I gave up probably 10 spots on the track. Finally, I decided to come in. We came in under green and then ran around the back there for a while, just waiting for a yellow. I came back up there and we got to the back of the pack and kind of worked our way up slowly. We got through a few wrecks. We were just in the right place at the right time. There were so many rocks on that track, I'm surprised we didn't cut another tire down."
His flat tire may have ended up benefiting him, according to Souza. "I think it was a blessing that we got that right rear flat," he said. "The guys I was running with that didn't do any tires, you could tell. On the left-handers . I was able to get a run. I think it helped us out."
Souza - making only his 10th start in the NASCAR Camping World Series West - has run only select events since first competing in the series in 2004, focusing primarily on road course races.
Running a limited schedule makes it tough to gain respect from some of the other drivers, according to Souza. "They don't know me," he pointed out. "I've seen them on TV the first half of the year. I watched pretty much every race. I kind of knew who drove a little bit rough, who didn't and who didn't respect other drivers. But they didn't know me. So, I got run off the track a couple of times out there by a few cars."
Souza crossed the finish line with a margin of victory of 1.460 seconds, at an average speed of 71.364 mph, to net $15,050 in prize money and posted awards. "This feels awesome," the 43-year-old driver from Aromas, Calif., said of his first win. "We've been waiting a long time. You start thinking it's never going to come. We've been working so hard the last year or so. I haven't raced a whole lot, but I've had a crew working on the cars to maintain them and get them ready to go."
Mike David of Modesto, Calif., was able to avoid trouble late in the race to take the runner-up spot in his No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford, followed by Austin Cameron of El Cajon, Calif., in the No. 18 NAPA Auto Care Toyota. Cameron's teammate, Moses Smith of Tempe, Ariz., had a career-best fourth-place finish in the HASA Pool Products/White Flyer Toyota - with Daryl Harr of St. Albert, Alberta, coming home fifth in the WestWorld Computers Chevrolet. Rounding out the top 10 were Jeff Jefferson, Jim Warn, Mayhew, Tony Toste and Bowles.
The race featured 10 lead changes among five drivers - Inglebright, Mayhew, Bowles, Harr, and Souza. The pace of the event was slow by five cautions for 12 laps.
Eric Holmes, who leads the championship standings, tried to battle back throughout the race after encountering early trouble. After pitting with a flat tire, he ended up losing a lap while serving a pit road penalty. The Escalon, Calif., driver worked his way back onto the lead lap, but then limped to a 16th-place finish with another flat on the final lap.
Nevertheless, he was able to hold onto his lead in the point standings with 1,621 markers. Bowles remains second with 1,564, while David moved to third with 1,511. Jeff Barkshire is fourth at 1,502, followed by Inglebright with 1,458. Sixth through 10th include Cameron at 1,419, Smith at 1,390, Johnny Borneman at 1,290, Warn at 1,270 and Mayhew at 1,261.
Souza's victory marked the second straight race with a first-time winner, coming on the heels of Barkshire's win a week ago. Souza became the fifth driver in the NASCAR Camping World Series West this year to secure a spot in the prestigious post-season NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Barkshire, meanwhile, continues to lead the chase for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. He leads with 94 points, followed by Warn with 86, Jason Patison with 79 and Jamie Dick with 75. They are trailed by Wes Banks at 39, Lloyd Mack at 22 and Ryan Philpott at 15.
The next event on the schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Series West is the Pipe Careers 200 presented by Pipe Trades at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) on Aug. 16.