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SPORTS WEEKEND | MOTOR RACING

Vidovich, 19, Proves to Be Worthy of Ambitious Plans

October 06, 2000|SHAV GLICK

NASCAR's Featherlite Southwest Series is a mix of fresh-faced youngsters trying to claw their way to the top, i.e., Winston Cup, and grizzled veterans who work for a living and race stock cars for fun.

The youngest, and perhaps one of the best, is Auggie Vidovich, 19, of Lakeside, a suburb of San Diego.

Vidovich has the most victories, three; the most laps led, 262, 28 more than Craig Raudman; and is second in points to another youngster, Matt Crafton, 23, of Tulare, 2,390-2,242. Veteran M.K. Kanke, 38, of Frazier Park, is also in contention with 2,120.

Three of 19 races remain, starting with Saturday night's 75-mile Irwindale Speedway main event, the Food 4 Less 150.

Vidovich drives the yellow No. 59 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The team has two cars, a 1999 model he will drive Saturday night and a 2000 model he won with in Albuquerque.

His three victories came with different scenarios. At Tucson, he led every lap, barely holding off 1999 Winston West champion Sean Woodside at the finish line. At Albuquerque, he was running third when the leaders, Crafton and Kanke, tangled and Vidovich went around them both. At Denver, he took the lead after 12 laps and when it started raining, he was declared the winner.

"My crew chief, Terry Hennry, decides which car to run and how to set it up," said the jockey-sized former kart racing champion. "I just drive it."

His father, also Auggie, bought the cars and keeps the books but won't let his son know how much his racing habit costs.

"He says he doesn't want me to get stressed out worrying about what it will cost if I bang a fender or crunch the front end," he said. "I do know, though, that one more year of the Southwest Series is about all the family can handle. If I want to go on, to Craftsman Trucks, I hope, I've got to find someone who will sponsor me."

The way he has improved since last year, when his best finish was an eighth while racing a limited schedule, should attract sponsors.

"I was pretty discouraged after last year," he said. "I felt if I couldn't do any better this year, I'd quit. I didn't want to waste money and time if I wasn't going to get any better, but I went to the Evernham-Hawley driving school at Irwindale and things really turned around this season."

Even though he is only 19, Vidovich has been racing for eight years, starting in karts at Amago Raceway, near Poway.

"I had a neighbor friend, Austin Cameron, who is driving in Winston West now, and he was into karts then. I hung around with him and started driving and my dad bought me one and I started racing at Amago. Next thing we were traveling all over Southern California and then, when I was 14 or so, all over the country."

When he was 16, Vidovich moved into stock cars, where he was named rookie of the year in the Toyota All-American Stock Car Challenge series at Willow Springs Raceway.

"I've known this young man since he was a junior in kart racing," said Bob DeFazio, Irwindale Speedway vice president. "He's always been a class kid all the way. I've been very impressed with his level of maturity in the big leagues."

MOTORCYCLES

There is nothing like competing series to confuse motor racing fans, such as the open-wheel rivalry between CART and the Indy Racing League, or the sports car confusion between the American LeMans series and Grand American Road Racing Assn.

Now it's motorcycling's turn.

The American Motorcyclist Assn. dirt-track series, which has been running since 1924 and has produced such champions as Kenny Roberts, Joe Leonard, Jay Springsteen and Scott Parker, has a 15-race schedule this year.

But it has been upstaged by the Wrenchead.com national dirt-track series, whose 10-race schedule ends this weekend at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. The new series is produced by SFX, Inc., the same group that produces Supercross.

Unlike CART and IRL, the same riders can compete in both dirt-track series. Only twice has there been a date conflict.

Chris Carr, the defending AMA champion, is expected to be the first Wrenchead.com champion. All he needs to do to win is qualify his Harley-Davidson for Sunday's main event. After winning last week in Phoenix, Carr leads Springsteen by 76 points.

"The difference is in the money," said Carr, 33, who moved from his childhood home in Valley Springs, Calif., to Reading, Pa., after marrying a Pennsylvania girl. "Last year I got $15,000 for winning the AMA series. The Wrenchead.com champion will get $50,000."

Joe Kopp, a Suzuki rider from Mica, Wash., leads the AMA series, which will conclude next weekend in DuQuoin, Ill. Kopp will also be at Del Mar. Carr, who has won three AMA and two Wrenchead.com races, is third in the AMA.

"Del Mar is an important race, not only for me to wrap up the championship, but for the entire industry," Carr said. "It usually has the largest attendance of the year and carries a lot of prestige even though it's only in its seventh year.

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