When you think about NASCAR racing, alongside the Camping World trucks, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup Series, it is the K&N Pro Series that brings just as much and, sometimes, even more excitement than the other two NASCAR touring series.
For those fans who follow the action in the K&N Pro Series, so far this season has had some very memorable moments, and this past Saturday night was no exception.
The series made a stop at Toyota Speedway of Irwindale in California for the King Taco 200, which is the same venue that hosts the All-Star Showdown to begin the season in January.
What began as a typical night of racing quickly turned into one of the most memorable celebrations in the lives of team owners Jim and Terri Cass, along with the rest of the members of Team Cass Racing .
When TCR announced back in April they would be running a second car while bringing back driver Chris Johnson for the July 3rd event, little did they realize that fate would deal them a winning hand when both their drivers would bring home Top Five finishes.
Auggie Vidovich, who has driven the No. 50 Chevrolet Impala so far in two races this season, switched over to the No. 59 which proved to be the winning move as he gave the team their first victory before an estimated crowd of 6,500 fans.
The 29-year-old Lakeside, California native took the lead for good on lap 59while never looking back and in dominating fashion led 155 laps of the 200 which were run for the evening’s main event.
The only trouble that plagued Vidovich throughout the night, was a single restart on lap 50, when Greg Pursley who led the first 40 laps of the race, cut a tire and slammed into the backstretch wall bringing out the second caution of the night.
“I run the SRL series, and our restart point is the center of each corner," said Vidovich about his late restart.
Vidovich also added that, “ I was thinking center of the corner and took off, then I realized that I didn’t want to get penalized, so I hit the brake and let those guys get by so we wouldn’t get penalized, and it ended up being good.”
Vidovich talked about how he learned, “From a good friend of mine Ron Hornaday on how to do restarts, and it pays to listen to people who know what they are doing.”
After the restart, Vidovich put the car in auto ilot, and from then on he had little trouble keeping the TCR Chevrolet out front.
“When you run up front it’s a lot calmer than running in the middle of the pack,” said Vidovich. "We had a good enough car that we could go straight to the point, and from then on just handled it straight on out.”
At times it was looking as though Brennan Newberry, who was making only his second start in the K&N Pro Series while driving the No. 39 Dale Jr. Sharpie/Metal Mulisha Chevrolet, would be the driver to challenge Vidovich for the victory.
Fate would deal Newberry a bad hand when with three laps to go Newberry’s Chevrolet would begin to slow when his fuel pump broke, which ultimately handed second place over to Blake Koch driver of the No. 21 Daystar-sponsored Chevrolet.
“Blake, I thought he was the one who was going to get me. I was driving my heart out,” said Vidovich in victory lane.
Vidovich also added, “Then Newberry got in position and I didn’t see much out of him, so then I just rode. When he stalled, I had a big enough lead. It really didn’t matter I don’t think.”
Vidovich who was the 2003 champion in the former NASCAR Elite Division Southwest Tour, said afterward that, “The whole crew did a great job tonight; everybody did what they had to do. Everything went smooth.”
TCR’s second entry with Chris Johnson behind the wheel, also finished in the Top Five after beginning the race tenth on the starting grid.
Johnson, who is coming off a 10 month layoff from competition, is best remembered when he won the pole as a rookie for the 2009 All-Star Showdown.
Johnson is no stranger to doing battle on this half mile oval, and in 2005 he was crowned the West Coast Pro Truck champion.
Johnson also ran a late model and a super late model for Jim and Terri Cass in 2008, before the team moved up to the K&N Pro Series in 2009.
With fifth place being Johnson’s best finish in the series, he knows all too well what the team has gone through to get both cars in the Top Five.
“This team had this coming for a long time, and it’s about time the luck has turned around,” said a very excited Johnson after the race.
Johnson also added that, “I’m glad they gave me the opportunity to run this car, and I was able to give them a Top Five finish.”
The biggest improvement in Johnson’s run was the patience and the maturity he showed throughout the race.
“I haven’t been in a car for 10 months, and I have real bad habit of not being patient,” said Johnson.
Johnson also attributed his impressive run to the 10 month layoff, and the fact that he was able to save his equipment for when he needed it the most.
“We fell back to 12th, and went up as high as fourth. We had a strong car and used it up by the end of the night.”
Johnson put the whole night into perspective when he said that, “Auggie had a stellar run, you can’t get much better than first and he was the car to beat tonight."
Johnson also added that, "It was nice for the two teams to work together and pull off two Top Five finishes for the whole team”
Being a family-orientated team does have its ups and downs, and the team has managed to ride out the rough times by keeping their costs at a minimum, especially with sponsorship hard to come by.
If this weekend’s results were any indication of which direction the team is headed, the rest of the drivers should have their hands full when TCR comes back to defend their win.
Its nights such as this that make all the hard work, along with the time consuming hours at the race shop and the frustration that has followed this team through the past few season, worth the time and effort it took to make this a night one to remember for a long time.