(July 30, 2001) Jason Fensler was excited about the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a racecar last Saturday night at Madera Speedway. It was to be his first start of the 2001 season in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series. Fensler, who competed in the Shell Tri-Track Challenge Series and ran a few Southwest Series races last year, had been forced to the sidelines this year due to a lack of sponsorship. His return last Saturday in the FOODS CO 125 was a one-race deal in a borrowed car, which was campaigned by Gary Matranga last year.
Fensler was the 32nd and final driver to make a qualifying attempt. Burney Lamar set the early pace with a time of 14.345 seconds. Mark Reed, who has won 4 Bud Pole awards in the Winston West Series this season, bumped Lamar off the pole with a 14.340 second lap. Craig Raudman, who has 6 Bud Pole awards in the Featherlite Southwest Series this year, was one of the last drivers scheduled to qualify. He posted a 14.221 second lap, but it was Fensler who grabbed the Bud Pole with a lap of 14.185 seconds (84.596 MPH). It was his first career Bud Pole award in the Featherlite Southwest Series. His best previous qualifying effort in the series came at Phoenix International Raceway in 1999 when he was 3rd fastest. “It was a great effort by the team”, said Fensler after his fast lap. “There were 32 cars trying to make the race and only 16 of us were going to get in based on our time. We weren’t going to qualify for a provisional and I sure didn’t want to run the B-main”.
Due to a six-car invert, Fensler started the race from the outside of the 3rd row. He was still running 6th when the cars of Reed and Darrell LaMoure made contact between turns 1 and 2 around lap-23. Lamoure was forced to the pits for repairs and NASCAR officials made Reed go to the end of the lead lap for what they determined to be rough driving. When green flag racing resumed, Fensler was in 4th place behind Auggie Vidovich, Raudman, and Lamar. Fensler took the lead on lap-30 when Raudman and Vidovich made contact in turn-4 spinning the #59 car of Vidovich into the infield grass. Fensler held the lead for a few laps, but was eventually passed by Jim Pettit II and Raudman. “At that point in the race, those guys were racing too hard, and we were just trying to save our tires and brakes for a charge later in the race”, said Fensler. The late charge never materialized as Fensler detected a problem with the engine around lap-80 while maintaining a straightaway lead on the 4th place car. What has now been determined as a fuel filter clogged with debris from the fuel cell spoiled Fensler’s chances for a top-5 finish. When Pettit hit the wall between turns 1 and 2 to bring out the yellow flag around lap-100, Fensler radioed the crew telling them of the problem. As green flag racing resumed on lap-105, Fensler was forced to pull the #75 Moore Grider & Co. Chevrolet into the pits.
“I really want to thank Denise Hurst of Moore Grider & Co. and Rick Gonzales of Apex Financial for the sponsorship that allowed us to come here tonight”, said Fensler after the race. “Hopefully our strong run will attract the attention of a potential sponsor for next season”.