Although Scott Speed picked up a season’s best 25th place finish in last Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, it was a bittersweet weekend for the Manteca native as he left his home track thinking that it could have been much better.
Speed was just settling in on the second lap of the 110-lap race when he noticed something was terribly wrong with his Leavine Family Racing #95 Ford. He headed for the pits on the third lap and the team discovered a spark plug wire had come off. It was a quick fix but it left him a lap down in the 41st spot by the time he was able to rejoin the race.
"It was incredibly disappointing because we were among the leaders in practice and we had such a solid qualifying run," Speed said. "We felt like Sonoma was a chance for our best finish. We did well, but it should have been a lot better."
There are several ways a plug wire can come loose, according to crew chief Wally Rogers. The 1.99-mile road course has a lot of curbing and bumps, and any one of them could have jarred the wire off the spark plug.
"The good thing is we were able to fix the issue and get back into the race," Rogers said. "We're glad it wasn't a terminal issue. But we lost a lap early and never got it back."
As it turns out, a spark plug wire was the difference between finishing a lap down and a possible Top 10 for Speed.
"When we got back on the track we were as fast as the leaders," Speed said. "But there weren't a lot of cautions, especially in the first half of the race, so it was really hard for us to get one of the lucky dog spots. The leaders were putting other cars a lap down and that kept dropping us down the lucky dog list."
Speed was 19th on the charts during the first practice session and he followed that up by qualifying 22nd.
"The car had really good balance," Speed said. "We looked forward to this race all year because Sonoma is my home track. Wally built a great car for that track."
Although the Leavine team is running a limited schedule in the Sprint Cup Series it will be back in action this weekend at the Kentucky Speedway.
It was also a frustrating weekend for Escalon’s Eric Holmes driver of the Bill McAnally Racing No. 20 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota.
Holmes was fastest at practice and qualified on the inside of row two for Saturday’s 64-lap NASCAR K&N Pro West Series Pick-n-Pull/Racing to Stop Hunger “200” at Sonoma. The first half of the race went well for Holmes who moved up to second and then took over the lead on lap 31.
Things went sour a few laps later when he radioed in that he was losing power on lap 43. He switched over ignition boxes with no improvement and a lap later he declared the car terminal with engine failure and pulled into the pits.
“I was babying it,” said Holmes. “We could have won this. We had a comfortable lead. I was maintaining a consistent distance between myself and David Gilliland and she just blew up. That was disappointing.”
Sprint Cup regular David Gilliland, of Riverside, went on to take the checkered flag ahead of series regulars Derek Thorn and Greg Pursley. Dylan Kwasniewski, of Las Vegas, now holds an 8 point lead on Pursley in the season standings while Holmes remains in fifth with seven races remaining on the schedule. The next race event will be the NAPA AUTO PARTS “150” on July 14 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.
The weekend was not a total loss for Holmes’ team. Owner Bill McAnally was honored by being inducted into to the 2012 class of West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame by two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip.
A full slate of racing is on tap up and down the Central Valley this weekend.
The Stockton 99 Speedway will present the NASCAR Whelen All American Series/Tri-Holiday Classic Series Race #2, presented by Financial Center Credit Union and the Western Late Model Firecracker 150, today. The Modifieds, Super Stocks and Pure Stocks will also be racing tonight and will be capped off with fireworks.
The Spears SRL Southwest Tour will be at Madera Speedway tonight for the Firecracker 125 presented by Motor Racing Outreach. The Legends of the Pacific, LunkerDaddy Late Models, Toyota Sedans, Modified Super Toyotas, Hobby Stocks and 4-Bangers will also be racing along with a spectacular fireworks show.