MONROE, Wash. (August 4, 2001) – Kevin Hamlin won his third event of the 2001 season and extended his points lead to 96 over Pete Harding as the American Dream Motorsports Chevrolet team captured the Parts Plus 125, held at Evergreen Speedway. Gary Lewis was second followed by Harding. Zach Niessner and Jeff Jefferson rounded out the top-5.
Hamlin got the evening off to a flying start by capturing the Bud Pole Award, his second of the season, with a lap of 22.91 seconds at 101.510 mph around the .646-mile paved oval in Monroe.
With a four-car invert, Gary Lewis started on the pole and led the field to the green flag. Lewis held his ground for 88 laps as he collected the Gatorade Front Runner Award to move atop the hard charger standings.
Hamlin credits Lewis for showing him a good racing line around Evergreen Speedway. The Snohomish, Wash. native kept Lewis in his sights throughout the evening, never falling lower than third place in the running order.
On lap 33 Hamlin was slowed by a lapped car on a restart, which allowed Pete Harding to move into the second place position. It would be short lived as Harding slid up the track in turn No. 3, opening the door for Hamlin to get back to second place.
Hamlin reeled Lewis in by lap 85 and began to apply pressure to the 1998 series champion. Lewis took a high line entering turn No. 1 on lap 87, Hamlin ducked to the inside groove and battled door-to-door for the lead as the pair approached turn No. 3. Hamlin called upon the horsepower of his Nutter Racing Engine and powered pass Lewis exiting turn No. 4 to take the lead.
Hamlin, the series current points leader moved out to a five-car lead over Lewis, and worked lapped traffic to perfection in route to his fourth career victory on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
“That was awesome. I’ve got to thank this American Dream Motorsports team, they did an awesome job. Goodyear had a good tire here, the car was the exact same throughout the race,” Hamlin said.
According to Hamlin, his fourth victory may not have happened due to a mechanical problem late in the race.
“After the second caution, my MSD box went out and I freaked. I switched boxes and luckily everything was fine,” Hamlin said.
Lewis and Hamlin work together at Longacre Racing Products and have developed a close friendship through the years. Hamlin thanked Lewis for showing him some tricks to conquering Evergreen Speedway.
“I’ve got to credit Gary Lewis who taught me a line around this place and told me some secrets that maybe he shouldn’t have. It’s really helped with our shock program and our driving style and everything just jelled tonight,” Hamlin said.
With the second place finish, Lewis moved 43 points ahead of John Bender for fifth place in the points standings. Lewis and Hamlin use Nutter Racing motors and similar set-ups and both have put several top-5 finishes in recent weeks to make the points battle interesting down the stretch.
“Our cars are real close, he was a little faster through the middle, and I was slower but had a little bit more bite coming off the corner. Kevin and I are good friends and I haven’t kept any secrets back. I’ve told him a lot of things and he has a chance to make it in racing and I’ve wanted to help him out, but now he’s beating me and we’re points racing, so he’s on his own now,” Lewis said.
Harding, a native of Surrey, British Columbia, grabbed his second straight top-5 finish and moved to second in the battle for the 2001 championship. He admitted to points racing at the end of the Parts Plus 125 in favor of the bigger picture.
“Right now we’re points racing. We’re concentrating on Kevin who put us down a little bit here tonight, the wins are nice but we’re going to points race all the way down to the end and try and give Kevin a run for his money. I don’t think we have any advantage, we’re just going to have to out race him the rest of the way,” Harding said.
NOTES OF INTEREST:
Zach Niessner posted his best Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series career finish with a fourth place run in the Parts Plus 125. Niessner qualified in the 10th position, raced well in the top-10 before moving to fifth by lap 107. Niessner steered the Leap Batteries Chevrolet passed John Zaretzke for fourth place on lap 108.
The battle for the Totem Travel Rookie of the Year award tightened with Troy Conrad’s eighth place finish. Conrad sits three points behind leader, John Bender, who broke a driveline on the parade lap and was unable to take the green flag.
Rick Suran equaled his best career finish on the series with a sixth place effort in the Parts Plus 125. Suran was the biggest mover of the race as he began the night in 22nd place on the field. The top-10 finish moved Suran to 13th place in the points standings.
Jeff Jefferson seems to have found a home on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. The Naches, Wash. native drove Rick Allison’s Chevrolet for the third time this season and came home with another outstanding run. Jefferson put the D&G Bodyworks Monte Carlo in the front of the qualifying order and racked up his second top-5 finish in three starts for Allison. Jefferson runs a limited schedule on the Winston West circuit in his own Ford Taurus, but has been filling in for Allison who is taking some time off from driving to concentrate on car ownership.