Jim Pettit II took his fans on an emotional roller coaster Saturday night at the Ford Motorcraft 150. In one of the most exciting finishes of the season, the HotWood 03 looked to be passing for the lead at one minute and done for the night the next. In the end, the heavily damaged HotWood 03 finished 6th and extended the point lead to thirty-nine over Raudman.
The HotWood/Foodmax 03 showed up to Mesa Marin with one thing in mind--maintaining the teams lead in the points chase. Hopefully this included winning the Motorcraft 150. Pettit was fast in practice, he and qualified 2nd fast behind series veteran M.K. Kanke. After a ten-car invert, the Prunedale native started the main event in the 9th position.
On a cool, windy night in Bakersfield Lamar and Mckean led the 30-car field to the green flag for the 12th race of the 2004 season. The inside line was the slow way around the racetrack in the early going, and Pettit quickly found himself outside the top-ten in the 12th position. On lap 4 Pettit started his charge towards the front passing the #88 of Gilliland. On lap 10 series veteran Bob Lyons watched as the 03 moved to the 10th position. On alternate laps Pettit made quick work of Greg Voight and Rip Michaels to move into the 8th position.
With only 15 laps in the books, Duane Sharpe relayed to Pettit to take it easy and let the leaders come to him. Eric Holmes in the #62 began to have trouble on lap 33, and Pettit moved to 7th. Twenty laps later Pettit used lap traffic to get by the #33 of Kanke and the #29 of Lynch to move into the 5th position. Pettit would ride in the 5th position until lap #75 when he dove under the #23 of Dan Holtz. Lamar was now in the lead with Raudman and Mckean right in front of Pettit. Lamar began to smoke on lap 107, and Pettit made his way around him on lap 111. Pettit moved into the 2nd position on lap 117, and it looked like déjà vu with the #2 and #03 leading the way. The yellow flag flew on lap 147, and the 03 was confident he could make the pass when the green flag fell for the green, white, checkered. On lap 156 the field restarted, and Pettit dove under Raudman coming out of turn two. The two leaders touched, and Pettit checked up to right the car. The #88 of Gilliland, seizing his opportunity, went high to pass Pettit and Raudman. Vidovich in the #11 car had nowhere to go and ended up making contact with Pettit pushing him sideways down the backstretch. The caution flag flew, and the 03 faithful watched as Pettit was able to drive away. Riding in the 7th position Pettit had heavy damage to the right side of his HotWood 03. The team took a chance and did not bring the 03 into the pits to check on the car. Craig Raudman, now in the second position, slowed and came to a stop in turn three. The word on the radio was that he was out of fuel. This moved Pettit to the 6th position. When the green flag dropped for the last time Pettit was able to maintain his position despite a lot of tire rub on the right front.
When the night was over, Pettit had driven to his 10th top ten finish in twelve races and had extended his lead in the points to thirty-nine. The next stop for the AutoZone Southwest series is this Sunday the 24th at Tucson Raceway. This will be a make-up event for the series, and the 13th race of the fourteen-race season.
The Jim Pettit Racing team would like to recognize California HotWood/ DPI/ LRP, and Top of the Hill Performance for their continued support. A special thanks also goes out to all the friends, families, and fans of the #03.