CHICO, CA (September 7) - Stevie Smith took a giant step toward his second Gold Cup Race of Champions title Friday. The 1993 champion put together a perfect score in the second preliminary program to earn the pole position in Saturday's main ...
CHICO, CA (September 7) - Stevie Smith took a giant step toward his second Gold Cup Race of Champions title Friday. The 1993 champion put together a perfect score in the second preliminary program to earn the pole position in Saturday's main event.
Smith was flawless, setting quick time, winning the First O'Reilly Heat Race and racing to victory in the evening's main event from inside the fourth row. Stevie steered his #19 Ingersoll-Rand Maxim to the lowest point in turn four late in the 22nd lap to pass defending Gold Cup champion Danny Lasoski for his third Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series Preliminary Feature victory of the season.
"The race car was perfect tonight," Smith told the capacity crowd from victory lane. "I'm really proud of my guys. It's always hard to tell what's going to happen here. This is an exciting place, but it's all just part of racing at Chico. I'm glad to have the perfect score and be able to start up front tomorrow night."
The $5,000 victory kept Smith in a tie with opening-night Preliminary Feature winner Jeff Shepard for sixth place in the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series point standings. His 11.481-second qualifying lap - his fourth quick time of the year - was only .004 seconds off the single-lap record Shepard set Thursday.
Smith's problems in the Channellock Dash made his feature victory even more impressive. He collided with Third O'Reilly Heat Race winner Kasey Kahne, then dropped out of the 10-lap race to give his crew time to replace his RPM engine. Stevie also survived a collision with Tim Shaffer 14 laps into the feature.
Brent Kaeding burst into the lead from the pole as the green flag fell in the 30-lap Preliminary Feature, only to have Toni Lutar, Todd Carmichael and Sean Fenn collide in the fourth corner. Damien Gardner brought back the restart when he spun in the same spot.
Lasoski, who started next to Kaeding on the front row, beat the field down the front straightaway on the third start. Second O'Reilly Heat Race winner Donny Schatz steered the #15 Parker Stores J&J low in the second corner to pass Lasoski for the lead, but Dave Lindt, Jr., spun in the first corner and collected Fenn, Gardner and "B" Feature winner Destiny Hays. Brian Coelho flipped into Tommy Tarlton on the front straightaway as the field slowed for the caution.
Kaeding raced wheel-to-wheel with "The Dude" through turn four, then surged ahead in the low groove between the first and second corners as the green flag replaced the red.
Schatz won a back-stretch drag race with Lasoski midway through the opening lap, but "The Dude" regained the runner-up spot with an inside move between turns three and four the next time around.
Smith started making his move toward the front early in the third lap, passing Brad Furr for fourth place deep in the second corner. After Steven Tiner and Jeff Hodgson crashed into the front-straightaway retaining wall, Smith and Schatz exchanged third place during laps five and six.
"The Dude" challenged Kaeding for two laps before steering NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart's #20L J.D. Byrider Eagle around him high in the fourth corner late in the ninth lap. Lasoski was three car-lengths ahead of "BK" when he entered lapped traffic the next time around.
Kaeding was challenging Lasoski for the lead early in lap 14 when Shaffer collided with Smith and spun in the second corner.
Schatz rode the rim around "BK" in turn four three laps later. Kaeding forced Schatz off the racing surface in the fourth corner while regaining second place late in lap 18, allowing Smith to also pass Schatz. Smith took the low line through turns one and two to pass Kaeding one lap later.
Lasoski was six car-lengths ahead of Smith when he caught the back-markers again during the 20th lap. Smith caught him within a lap, and passed him for the lead deep in the fourth corner late in lap 22.
"The Dude" battled Smith through every corner throughout the final three laps, but was one car-length behind when they took the checkered flag.
"I just saw an opening and went for it," Smith said of the winning pass. "I wasn't sure if it was somebody trying to get by me or just another lapped car inside at the end, but I was just doing my best to hang on."
Kaeding held off the hard-charging Kahne for third place. Schatz finished fifth, ahead of Furr, Craig Dollansky, Paul McMahan, 17th-starting Dale Blaney and Shawna Wilskey.