Mechanical problems spoil Escalon driver's plans

SCOTT LINESBURGH
Record Staff Writer
Published Sunday, Jun 25, 2006

SONOMA - Brian Vickers didn't lead every lap of the NASCAR Grand National West race on Saturday afternoon at Infineon Raceway.

But he came close.

Vickers, a Nextel Cup driver looking for some extra practice, led 61 of 64 laps and easily won the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200.

Vickers started on the pole and stayed in front, but two local drivers struggled on a hot afternoon. Eric Holmes of Escalon started next to Vickers, but suffered through a series of car problems and finished 25th. GNW points leader Mike David of Modesto crashed on the first lap and was 29th.

 


It was Vickers' first GNW race, and he will start in 42nd in today's Nextel Cup race. He'll have a hard time emulating Saturday's performance.

"We had a great car all day long," Vickers said, who earned $11,000 for the win. "We didn't even have to make any adjustments to it on pit stops. I mean, it was really spot on."

Vickers held off a challenge from fellow Nextel Cup competitor Boris Said through the second half of the race. Holmes hoped to battle Vickers one-on- one for the lead in the early laps, he never had the chance.

After David's crash on the opening lap, the battery in Holmes' car began to fail. Several laps later, a bracket in the rear end of the vehicle broke, and Holmes fell off the pace.

Holmes was driving for a team out of Vermont.

"The car was fast, but things started to go wrong," Holmes said. "After Mike's incident, we wanted another yellow so we could work on the car, but it didn't happen for a while. By then, we were down a lap and decided to just pull in and try to fix it."

David was racing on a road course for the first time, and he had qualified a respectable 12th. But he got into trouble in the second turn when his car went into the dirt and slid back on to the track. Scott Gaylord smacked into the front of David's car.

David was on and off the track the entire race and finished 24 laps down.

"It got tight in there, and I allowed myself to get squeezed off the track," David said. "That was the last thing we wanted to happen."

Altamont Motorsports president Kenny Shepherd raced for the first time this season, finishing 19th. Shepherd stopped racing to operate Altamont.

"It was good to get out there," Shepherd said. "We only got the car three weeks ago, so we worked hard to get it together."

Despite his accident, David retained the GNW points lead. He has 712, followed by Peyton Sellers (707) and Holmes (696).

Practice makes perfect
Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon showed their strength on the course during Saturday's final practice session.

Stewart, who won the race last year, led all drivers with a average lap speed of 92.691 mph in the late morning "Happy Hour" practice, and Gordon was second at 92.418. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is not usually strong at Infineon, had a good session and averaged 92.418.

Drivers Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick did not practice. They flew to Milwaukee to compete in the Busch Series race at the Milwaukee Mile.

Local anthem
Stockton's Chris Isaak will sing the national anthem before today's Nextel Cup race. He also will perform a 20-minute "mini concert" at 11:05 a.m. on a stage set up on the track's front straightaway. Isaak performed at the Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton on Friday night

 

Eric Holmes Beats Heat and is in the Front Row!!

Turlock Journal Sports/ Infineon Raceway article for June 24, 2006 by Dale J Bosowski
Photo Credit: Donnie Yee

Escalon's #85, Eric Holmes qualifies second for Saturday's Grand National AutoZone West Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 race at Infineon Raceway.
 

Escalonís Eric Holmes was able to beat the excruciating heat and everyone entered in the 35 car field, except Nextel Cup regular Brian Vickers, to earn the number two starting spot on the outside of the front row for Saturdayís Grand National AutoZone West Series Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 race at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma.

With the temperature hovering around the century mark, Vickers negotiated the slick 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course with a fast

time of 78.836 seconds, to beat Holmes best lap of 78.847 seconds by just over 1/100 of second.

"Iím disappointed that Vickers beat me. We were the fastest in practice so I was anticipating getting on the pole," said Holmes, who sits third overall in the West Series point standings. "I think I am still the guy to beat. I hope he and I can check out on the rest of the field and have a race between ourselves for the win."

Vickers, along with Ken Schrader and Boris Said was one of three Nextel Cup veterans to make the starting grid for the West Series race. He did not feel that his Cup status would be an advantage on Saturday.

"Being a Cup guy means nothing. These guys have so much experience and these cars are so different in weight and horsepower than the Cup cars that it makes no difference," explained Vickers. "A lot of these guys have more road course experience than I do."

Other local notables in the field include West Series points leader Mike David of Modesto who qualified 12th and Mercedís Kenny Shepherd who will start in the 26th spot.

"The car was better than the driver today. I made a mistake on every lap," said David of his qualifying effort. "Our goals on Saturday are simple. Keep the car on the track, finish in the top ten, have a good points day and head to the next race."

Kurt Busch put his Miller Lite Dodge on the pole for Sundayís Dodge/Save Mart 350 Nextel Cup feature with a time of 78.008 seconds/91.837 mph. Jamie McMurray will join him on the front row of the 43 car starting field.

Despite a brief excursion off into the dirt, four time Infineon winner Jeff Gordon managed to qualify in the 11th spot, along side of defending race champion Tony Stewart.

 

The Stockton 99 Speedway is located just off Highway 99 at 4105 North Wilson Way. If you are traveling south on Highway 99 take the Wilson Way exit. If you are heading north on Highway 99 take the Cherokee Road exit, loop over the freeway, turn right onto Newton Road and then turn left on Wilson Way.

For additional Stockton 99 Speedway information call the 99 Race Line at (209) 466-9999 or visit www.stockton99speedway.com on the web.

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