Jon Paques of Albuquerque might be just 23 years old, but he already drives one of the NASCAR Southwest Tour's most powerful cars. And Saturday night at Saugus Speedway, he demonstrated just how powerful his Chevrolet is.
After starting third and assuming the lead on Lap 25, Paques put a pox on the rest of the field, literally blowing away the competition to win the Miller Genuine Draft 100.
Paques, in fourth place in the points standings entering the evening, led by a half-lap over Dennis Dyer of Palmdale, who was in second, for the last 50 laps. He then lapped all but four cars in his runaway win.
Points leader Rick Carelli of Denver finished third.
In four races this year, Paques has two top-10 finishes and one top-five finish. Saturday night's win at Saugus, his third career win on the tour since 1987, was his first on an oval track. The win was worth $4,375, the biggest purse of his career.
"My car slowed down at the end," Paques said of his attempt to lap the fourth-place car. "So I just drove carefully, knowing that if I didn't stay on top of things, I would have been in trouble."
Paques wasn't the only driver who managed to avoid trouble Saturday.
Simi Valley's Craig Rayburn, the 1990 Street Stock points champion, returned to his No. 18 Street Stock ride after giving it up to concentrate on the Sportsman division.
The circumstances were less than pleasant: new driver Ken Wilson of Santa Clarita was injured in a small-plane crash and the No. 18 car was without a driver. Rayburn, no stranger to the grind of driving two cars, shrugged and agreed to add the Street Stock to his repertoire.
The reunion was a happy one. Rayburn won both the oval and figure-eight trophy dashes, then dashed to a 25-lap main-event win to announce his return to the Street Stock division with authority.
Actually, Rayburn raced in the division a week ago and was unable to finish either the oval or figure-eight main events after a broken water pump and a spin-out. This week, it seemed, the return was official.
"It's the same car," Rayburn said after the main event. "Same as last year."
Rayburn passed Steve Reynolds of Sylmar under a yellow flag on Lap 12 of the main event. Darting on the back straightaway, Rayburn squeezed past Reynolds before the start-finish line and assumed first for the restart.
In his return to Saugus Speedway, Frazier Park's Dan Press started on the pole and won a 10-lap fast-heat race.
Other fast-heat winners included Terry Custer of Northridge (Street Stock oval) and Brian Kelley of Arleta (Street Stock figure-eight).