Bakersfield, Calif. Auggie Vidovich Jr. of Lakeside, Calif. regained his winning ways Saturday night by dominating the Community Recycling "150" at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. in Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring competition. The four-time winner in 2000 has been searching for the right combination through the first eight races that would put the 20 year old back in the winners circle. Vidovich Jr. collected $5500 for the victory and earned the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps. Vidovich held off a determined Darrell LaMoure of Phoenix, Ariz. who recorded a career best FSWS finish of second.
Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. set the pace in qualifying with a lap of 18.422/97.709 mph to record his sixth Bud Pole Award of the season, and with seven races to go on the 2001 schedule, Raudman could break Lance Hooper's record of eight Bud Pole Awards in a season. Vidovich Jr. qualified second with a lap of 18.478, with local hot shoe Dan Holtz in third at 18.663 and Bob Lyon of Aqua Dulce, Calif. rounding out the top four.
The 150-lap started off with a bang as the staff at Mesa Marin light up the night sky with a spectacular fireworks show prior to the start of the race. The field of 31 drivers fired their engines and paraded around the half-mile circuit to the enthusiastic crowd. Raudman got the jump at the green flag but Vidovich Jr. drove the PG Series Chevrolet hard into turn one and the two raced side by side for the first lap until Raudman was able to take the advantage as the pair crossed the start/finish line.
Raudman extended his lead until the caution was brought out on lap 10 for the spinning car of Milan Garrett. there was no contact and the field was stretched out single file. The restart on lap found Steve Smith of Escondido, Calif. unable to get up to speed as his transmission apparently broke. Smith finished the event in 31st position. By lap 16 several cars who started towards the back were beginning to make their moves, including Dan Holtz from Pacific Palisades, Calif. as he started at the back of the grid because he missed the drivers meeting. That inconvenience did not seem to hamper the Rialto Concrete Products Ford from commencing an all out blitz on the field as the Holtz found himself in ninth place by lap 30.
Holtz continued his move up in the field as well as the Pontiac of Hemet, California's Jon Nelson. Nelson has been on a roll recently with top five finishes in the last two events. By lap 31 Vidovich Jr. was able to catch and pass Raudman for the lead. Vidovich Jr. was able to extend his lead as the he and the team have figured out the new Goodyear tires and put the perfect setup under the car. Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. Started the event in a borrowed car from Bob McCoun. Pettit managed a sixth qualifying position in the rented mount and maintained his position in the top ten until the car pushed severely going into turn four dropping the championship contender out of the top ten.
Working his way into the top five by lap 52 was the Chevrolet of Darrell LaMoure from Phoenix, Ariz. LaMoure drove the car like he was late for his anniversary. His car worked well no matter where on the track he needed to go and became faster as the race went green. John baker of Tucson, Ariz. has found his share of bad luck in recent weeks as his Chevrolet got loose coming out of turn four and found the inside wall. Baker was unable to continue due to front suspension damage.
Just past halfway the Brett Thompson of Jerome, Idaho began to show his muscle as the as the occasional FSWS competitor held onto his top ten starting position and maintained his sight on the front of the field. Thompson would finish the event in the seventh position, his best finish of the season. By lap 80 Holtz was able to make it to the top five and the crowd was rallying behind their local competitor. But Holtz's ascension to the top was halted when his Ford began to overheat and was forced to the pits on lap 105.
Over the closing laps Raudman's car started to fade and Nelson and LaMoure were making a run on Vidovich Jr. Vidovich Jr. was able to negotiate the lapped traffic quicker than LaMoure and Nelson. Vidovich Jr. continued to set a blistering pace that left the entire filed a lap down except for the top five. the final caution came out on lap 128 for the spinning cars of Todd Mumma and Clint Curry. Vidovich Jr. got a big jump on the restart but a determined LaMoure first got around Nelson and then set his sites on the leader. LaMoure drove the wheels off his ride trying to catch and pass Vidovich Jr. but each time LaMoure pressured the youngster, Vidovich Jr. maintained his line and held on to win by less than .200 of a second. LaMoure finished second, with Nelson, Raudman, and Rookie Ben Walker rounding out the top five.
The rest of the top ten were Nick Joanides, Brett Thompson, Bob Lyon, Doug McCoun, and rounding out the top ten was Joe Herold. Raudman assumes the point lead by 97 over M.K. Kanke who missed the event due to a broken leg suffered at Sears Point Raceway last week. Vidovich Jr. maintains third position, with Nelson in fourth and Darrell LaMoure moving up to fifth.
The race took 1 hour and 7 seconds to complete at an average speed of 74.854 mph. Raudman in the Yerf Dog Chevrolet won the Bud Pole Award, with Vidovich Jr. taking home the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading the most laps (118). Walker was the Rookie-of-the-Race. There were four caution periods for 20 laps and the lap leaders were Raudman (1-31) and Vidovich Jr. (31-150) the FSWS will have a month off before traveling to the tight third-mile bullring of Madera Speedway in Madera, Calif. Saturday, July 28.
The Featherlite Southwest Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses.
NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks.
Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Goody's Headache Powders, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, RE/MAX International, Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.