Mesa Marin Master

Defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. continued his quest for a second series title by winning the Rialto Concrete Products “100” Saturday night at Mesa Marin (Calif.) Raceway. Pettit held off a persistent charge from Auggie Vidovich throughout the race to take the victory by a mere .003 seconds ahead of Vidovich. Burney Lamar, Dan Holtz, and Bud Pole Award winner Jeff Jefferson rounded out the top five finishers.

Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. has won the season ending Bud Pole Award for the past four consecutive seasons on the Northwest Series and he hopes he can continue that streak in his first full-time Southwest Series campaign. Jefferson toured the high-banked half-mile paved oval with a quick lap of 18.552 seconds/97.025 mph to top the speed charts in qualifying. Nick Lynch, M.K. Kanke, Greg Pursley, and Vidovich rounding out the fast five after qualifying concluded. Jefferson in his Lemay Auto Museum/Tri-County Parts Dodge drew a six-car invert to the 100-lap race and would start sixth putting Pettit on the pole with Vidovich outside front row for the third consecutive race.

After seeing Vidovich take the lead on the opening lap in the past two Southwest Series races, Pettit was ready to pounce as the field of 27 cars took the green flag. Pettit motored his Racing for the Missing Ford into turn one beating Vidovich at his own game. Vidovich settled into second. The field quickly sorted out behind the lead duo, but with only 100 laps in which to race, everybody was determined to take advantage of any miscues.

Long-time series veteran M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. asserted his Perricone Juices Chevrolet under Vidovich on lap three letting the former champ know his was on his game. Vidovich prevailed and the Kanke fell in line in third position. Greg Pursley and Nick Lynch rounded out the top five at lap 10 with Jefferson, Burney Lamar, Eddy McKean, Dan Holtz, and Brandon Riehl completing the top ten in the running order.

Pettit held the point at lap 26 when he started lapping cars. Pettit was able to move effortlessly through the lap traffic and build a small lead on Vidovich. During this green flag run Doug McCoun suffered mechanical troubles ending his night with a disappointing 27th place finish.

Jefferson asserted his Dodge into the mix by passing Lynch on lap 28 for sixth and setting up a race long battle with Lamar and Pursley. The first caution came out on lap 40 for Nick Lynch as he cut a right front tire and slammed the outside turn one wall. Lynch and his crew would return to the race and finish 25th. The quick yellow saw the field restart on lap 43 with Pettit out front followed by Vidovich, Kanke, Pursley, and Jefferson. But as quickly as the green flew, the caution came our again as Sunoco Rookie leader Dustin Jones careened off the inside backstretch wall after contact with another car on the restart. Jones was uninjured but his car was heavily damaged.

The race restarted again on lap 50 with Pettit holding the point with Vidovich in pursuit followed by a determined Kanke who was looking for his fifth Mesa Marin victory. That victory would elude Kanke as he cut a tire and had to pit dropping him two laps down under green. As Kanke pitted, Jefferson got underneath Pursley for third while Lamar and McKean battled side-by-side for several laps. Pursley took third back on lap 53 with McKean passing Jefferson for fourth on the outside in turn four on lap 56.

The third caution came out on lap 59 for Sunoco Rookie David Mayhew when his Chevrolet made contact with the turn two wall. Mayhew’s night was over. While under caution Brandon Riehl suffered ignition trouble ending his night early. Riehl has been one of the fastest cars at each Southwest Series events this season but bad luck has sidelined his efforts so far. Pettit continued his domination on the lap 64 restart.

The final caution came out when Keith Spangler was sent spinning down the back stretch after contact with another car. Spangler was able to rejoin the field and would finish 14th.

By lap 85, Pettit and Vidovich broke away from the rest of the field and put lapped cars between them and the rest of the top ten. Lamar was in third with Jefferson in fourth, with McKean rounding out the top five. McKean was looking for a way around Jefferson when his Pontiac got loose in turn four dropping him back to ninth with only ten laps to go.

At the lap 90 mark, Pettit was still in control of the race but Vidovich was asserting himself pressuring Pettit at each turn. Lamar held down the third position with Holtz moving by Jefferson for fourth. Eric Holmes was running sixth while Sunoco rookie Ryan Foster had moved up to seventh from his 22nd starting position. McKean was back to eighth followed by Greg Voigt and Stan Silva Jr.

Eddy McKean made a late race charge passing both Foster and Holmes over the final three laps to move back to the sixth position. As the checkered flag flew Pettit was able to hold off Vidovich by a mere .003 seconds to claim his first victory of the year and regain the series point lead after four races.

“These Southwest Series races are hard to win,” Pettit said. “Auggie was better than I was in turns one and two, but I had the advantage in turns three and four. It was great racing with Auggie and I know he wanted to win a third straight race, but I felt this placed owed me one and finishing second was not an option.”

“I really can’t be disappointed to finish second,” Vidovich said. “We had a great car and we had another great finish.”

Lamar was excited to finish third with a car that was not quite right. “We struggled all day trying to make the car turn,” Lamar said. “We are happy with the finish as it feels like a win after the day we have had. A top three finish gives us a lot of momentum heading to Colorado.”

Back luck has plagued Dan Holtz all season, but a forth place finish is just what the doctor ordered. “I just love racing here at Mesa Marin,” Holtz said. “Just when I get down on myself, we have a solid finish. It was fun racing the guys tonight and bring the car home in one piece. My hat’s of to Jim and his crew for the win.”

Bud Pole Award winner Jeff Jefferson started sixth and finished fifth to record his second top five finish of the season. “The car was fast, but so were a bunch of others and we just missed it a bit,” Jefferson said. “This series is tough and you have to be right every lap and we just got tight loose and could make it any further forward.”

Jefferson claimed his second consecutive Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 18.552 seconds/97.025 mph to lead 27 drivers in qualifying. The race took just 40 minutes and 26 seconds to complete at an average speed of 74.196 mph. The action was slowed four times for 18 laps of caution. Ryan Foster claimed the PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race Award for improving the most positions in the 100-lap event (14). Burney Lamar received the Featherlite Award for improving the most positions from the previous race. (22nd to 3rd). Ryan Foster was also the top finishing Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year candidate for the third straight race with an eighth place finish.

The Southwest Series will return to Mesa Marin Raceway in October for a special 300-lap event sponsored by Star Nursery.Com. The event will feature live pit stops drawing the top drivers from all over the western United States.

The next event for the Southwest Series will be Saturday, June 4 at Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo. The race is a combination event with the Midwest Series featuring the best drivers from two series’ of NASCAR’s AutoZone Elite Division.


**NASCAR PR

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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