Mardis, one of four drivers in the race to gain 10 positions from start to finish, had moved from 12th at the green flag to fourth by lap 35 and took second away from Catania when the rookie bobbled momentarily on the backstretch on lap 62. He got his Bluewater Technologies/JAM Sportswear/K&N Filters STR Chevrolet onto Gerchman’s rear bumper quickly, but could never set up a pass.
“I wish it had been about 85 laps,” said Mardis, of Yucaipa, California. “We had the fastest car on the track from about lap 33 on. It was a fun race and I hope we put on a good show.”
Catania, from NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson’s hometown of El Cajon, California, had been sixth in his series debut in the RBK/Total Power Batteries/John’s Collision Center STR Chevrolet at Las Vegas May 11 and felt he was in a good position to win the race until the final laps.
“The first half of the race we had the fastest car and I was being patient, but the car just fell off the last part of the race.”
Some of the other fast cars didn’t last that long. Series regulars Tim Morse, BILSTEIN Trophy dash winner Shelby Stroebel and Jessica Clark all were caught up in early yellow flag incidents, local driver Mark Ith Jr. lost an engine on lap 44 after running in the top 5 until then, and the switch in series restart procedure from double file according to running order to “pick your place” cone racing resulted in strong local stars like Hale and Hardy getting caught in the shuffle.
Nineteen of the 26 starters finished on the lead lap and 23 of the 26 were running at the end of the series’ entertaining debut on the America First Credit Union Super Oval.