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Topic: Flashback: 2002 Western World
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November 08, 2006 at 11:15:18 AM
Joined: 11/22/2004
Posts: 25467

By: Robert Mayson

PHOENIX, AZ, NOVEMBER 9, 2002 - Bud Kaeding entered the week favored by many to win the 35th running of the NAPA Auto Parts / Budweiser Western World Championships at Manzanita Speedway. With a commanding Non-Winged World Championship (NWWC) point lead, Richard Griffin was favored to walk away with his third straight NWWC title. When it was all said and done, both men had fulfilled their pre-race expectations. Albeit, in more difficult fashion than either had hoped.

Determined to erase a year's worth of disappointment, Kaeding overcame an ill-handling car and somehow managed to keep his High Five Pizza No. 29K Maxim ahead of defending Western World Champion Jeremy Sherman, who started in the 17th position.

"Sherman got by me towards the end of the race, and I wasn't about to let this race get away again this year," Kaeding said, referencing last year's final lap accident while leading. "I kept hearing a noise since about the last half of the race. As it turned out, I had broken a right rear radius rod from the birdcage. I was so tight that I couldn't get the car turned, so I had to run through the slick stuff. We were fortunate that our car was still good enough that I could work around all that."

Even though he had ambitions of winning the race, Griffin entered the NWWC finale knowing that a ninth place finish would give him the championship over J.J. Yeley. Kaeding lined up for the $12,500-to-win race with NWWC title hopes, as well. Granted, they were slim hopes since it would take the combination of Griffin finishing 15th or worse, and Yeley finishing outside the top-five, for Kaeding to steal the crown on a track where both drivers have enjoyed much success during their careers.

By virtue of his preliminary win on Thursday, Kaeding started on the pole for the 40-lap championship race. Bolting into the lead at the start, Kaeding was followed by Troy Rutherford, Dave Darland, Bob Ream, Jr., Tony Elliott, Griffin and Yeley at the end of the first lap.

Former "Western" Champ Jay Drake halted the action on the second lap after he rode out a turn-two flip. Drake was not the first driver on this night to get upside-down, but he would be the last. The two races leading up to the A-Main saw flips by Damion Gardner, Travis Rilat, Brain Stanfill and NWWC Rookie of the Year Bobby Cody. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

With Kaeding leading after the restart, Ream was the story early. Moving into the second position on the sixth lap, Ream pinned his ears back and pulled to within striking distance of the leader shortly after Kaeding had reached lapped traffic on lap 17. Trapping Kaeding behind two slower cars, Ream took the lead one lap later.

The scariest moment of the weekend occurred directly in front of Kaeding on lap 21, after a loose fuel line caused the car driven by Jerry Coons, Jr. to burst into flames. As the red flag waved, Coons was able to bail out of the car without injury. During the stoppage, Ream's crew noticed that his left rear tire was too blistered to send him out without a tire change. By SCRA rule, Ream was sent to the rear of the lead lap after the tire change, giving the lead back to Kaeding. Ream eventually battled his way back for an eighth
place finish.

Steadily working his way forward, Yeley had his ABC Sand & Rock No. 76 Twister up to second place for the restart. Driving the Ellis Race Cars No. 21, Sherman passed third-place Griffin when the green flag waved to resume racing. Continuing his charge forward, Sherman gave Yeley a rarely seen turn-two slide-job on lap 23.

Ten laps from the finish, Sherman showed signs that he was going to be able to catch Kaeding. Sherman was aided further on lap 37, after Kaeding muffed a pass attempt on a slower car. Kaeding bobbled slightly in turn two with less than two laps to go giving Sherman an opportunity to set up for a turn-three slide-job. Sherman executed the slider to take the lead, only to have Kaeding launch off the bottom of turn four as the leader, with the white
flag in sight.

Hoping for some last lap heroics, Sherman dove to the bottom of turn one and, by inches, narrowly avoided contact with Kaeding. Darting off the second corner, Sherman was positioned perfectly to try another slide-job in turn three. Unfortunately for Sherman, a few lapped cars were blocking the low line, denying him a chance to be the first driver in 20 years to score back-to-back Western World wins.

Yeley came home in third ahead of the Arizona Race Mart No. 94 driven by Charlie Davis Jr., who started in eleventh. Griffin finished fifth giving him the NWWC title over Yeley by 25 points.

"We knew where we had to finish tonight, we were just hoping that we would have a car that was capable of winning the race. We knew with 20 laps to go that we weren't that good, so we focused on winning the championship," Griffin said, after officially earning a $10,000 bonus for winning the NWWC title.

Date of Race: 11/9/02

C-MAIN (10 Laps)
1. Damion Gardner, 2. Cory Kruseman, 3. Levi Jones, 4. Steve Cushman, 5. Marty Wilcox, 6. Josh Ford, 7. Dennis Rodriguez, 8. Allan Ballard, 9. A.J. Felker, 10. Mike Rux, Jr., 11. Ronnie Clark, 12. Travis Rilat, 13. Matt Westfall.

B-MAIN (20 Laps)
1. Jeremy Sherman, 2. Levi Jones, 3. John Scott, 4. Steve Ostling, 5. Brian Tyler, 6. Casey Shuman, 7. Jerry Coons, Jr., 8. Mike Spencer, 9. Cory Kruseman, 10. Tim Crawley, 11. J.D. Vance, 12. Marty Wilcox, 13. Steve Cushman, 14. Verne Sweeney, 15. Brian Stanfill, 16. Bobby Cody, 17. Dan Hillberg, 18. Tom Downing, 19. Jordan Hermansader, 20. Damion Gardner.

WESTERN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (40 Laps - $12,500 to win)
1. Bud Kaeding, 2. Jeremy Sherman, 3. J.J. Yeley, 4. Charles Davis, Jr., 5. Richard Griffin, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Rickie Gaunt, 8. Bob Ream, Jr. 9. John Scott, 10. Troy Rutherford, 11. Tony Jones, 12. Mike English, 13. Levi Jones, 14. Steve Ostling, 15. Brian Tyler, 16. Rip Williams, 17. Danny Sheridan, 18. Rick Ziehl, 19. Tony Elliott, 20. Mike Spencer, 21. Casey Shuman, 22. Jerry Coons, Jr., 23. Tracy Hines, 24. Jay Drake.
Laps Led: Kaeding 1-17, Ream 18-20, Kaeding 21-40

1 Richard Griffin 760
2 J.J. Yeley 735
3 Bud Kaeding 727
4 Cory Kruseman 630
5 Damion Gardner 600
6 Troy Rutherford 562
7 Rickie Gaunt 544
8 Rip Williams 540
9 Mike English 521
10 Tony Elliott 491
11 Tony Jones 473
12 Levi Jones 420
13 Mike Kirby 402
14 John Scott 376
15 Bobby Graham 295
16 Mike Spencer 290
17 Charles Davis, Jr. 284
18 Adam Mitchell 192
19 Bobby Cody 177
20 Rodney Argo 158
21 Tracy Hines 134
22 Jack DeArmond, Jr. 82
23 Lance Gremett 75
24 Billy Pauch 68
25 Mike Lauterborn 53
26 Jay Drake 49
27 Brian Venard 33

SCRA DRIVER Point Standings as of: 11/09/02
1. 50 Richard Griffin Silver City NM 41 2302
2. 87 Tony Jones Garden Grove CA 41 1865
3. 20 Damion Gardner Concord CA 39 1820
4. 3 Rip Williams Yorba Linda CA 41 1795
5. 1 Cory Kruseman Ventura CA 37 1776
6. 4 Rickie Gaunt Torrance CA 41 1688
7. 29 Steve Ostling Corona CA 33 1612
8. 6 Mike English Norwalk CA 41 1600
9. 83 John Scott Hesperia CA 38 1577
10. 5 Mike Kirby Torrance CA 36 1564
11. 7 Troy Rutherford Ojai CA 30 1154
12. 21 Jeremy Sherman Phoenix AZ 24 1144
13. 57 Bobby Graham Riverside CA 31 1103
14. 94 Charles Davis, Jr Buckeye AZ 34 1020
15. 44 Mike Spencer Temecula CA 40 858
16. 38 Levi Jones Olney IL 24 821
17. 19 Rodney Argo Gardena CA 28 748
18. 99 Adam Mitchell Escondido CA 32 707
19. 76 J.J. Yeley Phoenix AZ 15 686
20. 25 Gary W. Howard Fontana CA 22 679

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