Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif., finally won his first Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring victory of the season in the FOODS CO. 125 at Madera (Calif.) Speedway. Holmes took the lead from point leader Craig Raudman on lap 108 after working his way up from the ninth starting position. Mark Reed battled back from and early race penalty to finish in second, with Spokane (Wash.) native Marc Groskreutz finishing a season best third. Bob McCoun and Raudman rounded out the top five.
Jason Fensler of Wilton, Calif. debuted his new car in spectacular fashion by winning the Bud Pole award with a time of 14.185/84.596 mph just missing the six year old record held by Lance Hooper by a tenth of a second. The field drew a sic invert which put 200- Gatorade Front Runner Auggie Vidovich Jr. of Lakeside Calif. on the pole looking for victory number two of the season. Six-time Bud Pole winner Raudman settled for second quick and would start the 125-lap feature from the fifth position.
Vidovich Jr. out gassed the field on the initial green and pulled out to a four car-length lead over Darrell LaMoure. The Madera oval has two distinct grooves as the field began to utilize the low and high. Momentum was slowed on lap three when the cars of Eddy McKean, Doug McCoun, and Ken Boyd tried to occupy the same piece of real estate in turn 3. Boyd and McCoun were able to continued but McKean had his Rookie-of-the-Year hopes dashed as he had to pit to repair right front damage. He would lose 23 laps and finish in the 20th position.
Vidovich Jr. would control the point until a hard-charging Fensler took the point after Vidovich spun the car coming out of turn 4. Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. showed his prowess for Madera as used the high groove to make it to the front by lap 34. The defending 2000 Late Model champion received tremendous cheers from the crowd as he took the lead for the first time.
Pettit and Raudman then waged a battle for the lead that lasted nearly twenty laps with the pair exchanged the point four times. Raudman was finally able to take control of the race on lap 47 and would lead the next 60 laps. By lap 72 Raudman had a straightaway lead on the field as the leap lap cars negotiated heavy traffic.
Defending race champion Bob Lyon of Agua Dulce, Calif. lost his bid to repeat as he was forced to pit to change a flat right front tire. Lyon would finish in 18th. The bad luck continued for ROTY candidate Burney Lamar as the rising star was forced out of the race with suspension problems.
Raudman set a torrid pace, a pace that took it's toll on his tires and the Yerf Dog Chevrolet started to loose grip and the field lead by Holmes started to reel him in. By lap 108, Holmes drove underneath of Raudman and began to extend his lead. Raudman's car continued to slid back and would eventually finish fifth. Holmes saved the best for last as the race reached the 120 lap mark. A final caution for the stalled car of Nick Joanides set up a green, white, checkered finish. Holmes saved his tires and went on to win his first career FSWS race ahead of Mark Reed, Marc Groskreutz, Bob McCoun, and Craig Raudman.
"I just watched the guys up front battle and I knew it was going to come down to tires," Holmes said. "I have experience here and I just wanted to win after finishing two or three times before. This is a great win for this new team. I can't tell you how excited I am!"
Raudman reflected on his performance after the event, "It is disappointing to have the dominate car again and loose the race," Raudman said. " We have a great team and I guess we need to get back to basics. We qualify fast, but the set up for the long run is not working as the car continues to get loose late in the race."
Third place finisher Marc Groskreutz was pleased with his performance. "I been trying to find a way to quit over the last two months," Groskreutz said. "We have had some good runs but bad luck continues to sideline us. This series is tough, the competition is fantastic, and it is a long haul for us each race from Spokane (Wash.). I am loading up tonight and heading back to Spokane for a 200 lap race on Tomorrow (Sunday) at State Line Speedway in Post Falls, Idaho."
Greg Pursley lead the next five finishers that included Vidovich rallying from the early spin to finish in sixth, followed by Rookie Ben Walker, Vince Little, and Rookie Mike Ledbetter.
Raudman maintains his point lead over Vidovich by 123 markers, followed by Jon Nelson, Darrell LaMoure, and Greg Pursley.
The FOODS CO. "125" took just 40 minutes and 11 seconds to complete at an average speed of 63.210 mph. Holmes margin of victory of Reed was .750 seconds. The Gatorade Front Runner Award went to Raudman in the Yerf Dog Chevrolet and Rookie-of-the-Race honors went to Ben Walker for the second race in a row. Jason Fensler picked up the Bud Pole Award in his Moore & Grider Co Chevrolet with a time of 14.185/84.596 mph. there were four caution flags for 27 laps and seven lead changes among five drivers.
The Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division takes three weeks off before heading to Colorado National Speedway, in Erie, Colorado August 18, 2001.
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.