BAKERSFIELD, California -- Nick Joanides took another step forward in his pursuit for a top 10 finish in the Southwest Series standings. Just six races ago, Joanides was 20th in the point standings. After his 9th place finish on Saturday night at Mesa Marin Raceway, he has moved into the 12th position, just 32 points out of 11th and 116 points out of 10th. The 9th place finish however was a disappointment for the team as they felt had it not been for lapped traffic, they would have easily finished in the top 5.
The team struggled a little bit in practice and qualifying, trying to free up the car in the center of the corner and Joanides posted only the 21st fastest lap in qualifying. At the start of the race, Joanides quickly began moving through the field and by lap 40 was up to the 11th position and running lap times faster than the leaders. By the time Joanides had cleared much of the traffic at the rear of the field, the top 10 cars had pulled out a straight away ahead. Joanides ran down the top 10 cars before the first caution flew at lap 64. Following the restart, Joanides improved to the 9th position, when what appeared to be a clean race with a lot of green flag racing started to turn ugly as there were four cautions over the remaining portion of the race.
Due to double file restarts, lapped cars are lined up on the inside lane, with lead lap cars in the outside line. As many drivers complained after the race to NASCAR officials, there were three to four lapped cars that would not give any racing room to the lead lap cars and this proved costly for Joanides as around lap 130, Joanides had gotten to the outside of a lapped car when it came up into Joanides, sending him high up the race track and nearly into the wall. While Joanides gathered up the car in the marbles at the top of the race track, he lost significant ground on the race track and was lapped by the leader just two laps prior to the next caution. With just 8 cars left on the lead lap, Joanides held his position and finished in the 9th position, the first car one lap down.
“I can’t believe the lapped traffic tonight, they were just knocking the lead lap cars all over the place” commented Joanides. “They cost us a top 5 finish which really hurts when we are trying to gain ground in the points” “I know a lot of guys were pretty upset with about three or four cars that were a lap down and since no one did anything about it, I think the drivers are going to take it into their own hands and you’re probably going to see a lot of lapped cars get taken out at the next race”. “These guys need to learn that when you’re lap down, it’s not your day and you don’t need to mess up everyone else’s race”. “Just get to the finish and take it home and make it better for the next race”.
This weekend, Joanides will head to Irwindale Speedway on Saturday for the final West Series race of the season and then immediately hit the road for the nine to ten hour drive for Sunday’s Southwest Series race in Tucson, where he hopes to continue gaining ground on the top 10 in his effort to qualify for the All Star Showdown at the end of the season.