Griffin posts third straight SMS victory. SANTA MARIA, CA, JULY 20, 2002 - Three-time NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA Champion Richard Griffin continued his Santa Maria Speedway domination Saturday night. Having now won the last ...
Griffin posts third straight SMS victory.
SANTA MARIA, CA, JULY 20, 2002 - Three-time NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA Champion Richard Griffin continued his Santa Maria Speedway domination Saturday night. Having now won the last three SMS races, Griffin also set the Sander Engineering Fast Time in qualifying and won his heat race. His clean sweep of the program added the maximum 80 points that were possible to his rapidly increasing SCRA point lead.
"It's nice to catch all 80 of 'em, but it's still early in the year and we'll just keep plugging away," Griffin said after collecting his fifth victory in his last seven SMS starts. "I really don't know what it is about coming here. Some guys are more comfortable at different race tracks, and I guess we're just comfortable here. My car was good, and once we got into the lead I knew we were pretty fast and it would be tough to pass us."
Driving the Ron Chaffin owned Arizona Race Mart No. 50 Jon Boy, Griffin started the 30-lap main event on the inside of the second row behind JE Pistons Dash winner Steve Ostling and Rip Williams. Williams took the lead at the end of the opening lap, but it was Rodney Argo in the Venolia Forged Pistons No. 19 TCR that immediately showed the strength of his Ford engine. After starting fourth, Argo passed Williams along the back straight on lap three.
Before everyone had a chance to complete the lap, Tom Downing slid up the race track in turn three and flipped after contact with the wall. Downing emerged from his battered car, without injury shortly, after the red flag appeared. Sixth place John Scott suffered a similar fate on the restart, and not only flipped after clipping the turn three wall, but was hit hard in the rollcage area by Damion Gardner. Amazingly, both cars were able to return to action with Gardner eventually finishing ninth and Scott 12th.
Ostling moved the Stress Relief Engineering No. 29 Okie ahead of Williams for second place on the restart. With fourth place Griffin now applying heavy pressure, Williams became turn three's third victim in five laps after he skated into the wall and flipped. Griffin narrowly missed Williams, who was not hurt during the tumble, and spoke of his close call after the race.
"I was just following Rip (into turn three), and we both actually got in there a little hotter than we should have, and he got into the fence and started flipping. We were pretty lucky to have not gotten involved in that."
Griffin smoothly squeezed between Argo and Ostling exiting turn two on the restart. After taking a couple of stabs at the lead during the laps that followed, Griffin was able to make a pass stick on lap 14, after he bravely drove around the outside of Argo exiting turn two.
Once out front, Griffin instantly pulled away from the rest of the field. In fact, Griffin's victory was only briefly in doubt on the 23rd lap after he made hard enough contact with Mike Knopf that both cars were sent sliding sideways into the infield. Knopf's car came to a stop near the inside retaining wall. With only inches to spare, Griffin somehow avoided the wall and Knopf, while keeping his car from stalling even though his wheels were barely turning.
"I kind of got hung up there in lapped cars a couple laps before that all transpired," Griffin recalled. "I went down to the bottom of (turn) one and I saw that guy and thought I was just going to come underneath him on the bottom, but he was already broke down and heading to the bottom and we made contact that turned the car sideways. We were just lucky that we didn't get hooked up with him and that the motor kept running."
Argo took a shot at Griffin on a lap 24 restart, but that would be as close as anyone would get to preventing "The Gasman" from posting his fourth win of the year. Ostling overcame a two-car penalty that was enforced six laps from the finish for hitting the restart cone and aggressively went on to register his second consecutive runner-up finish.
Rickie Gaunt occupied the final spot on the podium after he drove the Alexander Trucking No. 4 Stinger to a hard-fought third place finish. The Ferreira Dairy No. 87 Avenger, driven by Tony Jones, came across the finish line only a few feet behind fourth place Argo. Jones' 18th to fifth place drive earned him the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award. Casey Shuman, son of SCRA President Ron Shuman, enjoyed his best career SCRA finish after he drove the Bill Pratt entry to a sixth place finish.