Greg Biffle Wins Winston Challenge Series Getting Fourth Straight Winter Heat Win

5 January 1998

Subject: Winter Heat

TUCSON, Ariz. - The 1998 racing season officially got underway with the
third race in the Winter Heat series, the final leg of the Winston
Challenge Series. With the first race rained out, this was the second race
of the series and would determine the winner of the series over the two
races. For Greg Biffle it was a walk in the park as he led all 400 laps of
the two races and cruised home to his second Winston Challenge Series
Championship and fourth straight Winter Heat Late Model win.

        Steve Wright started on the pole after setting the fast time in
qualifying with Greg Biffle, the winner of the previous race and series
point leader, on the outside of the front row. On the first start attempt
Sean Monroe got loose as he exited turn four and spun out and hit the wall.
Monroe’s car suffered minor body damage, but the toe-in was knocked out.
Three other cars were involved in the incident, but all were able to
continue. 

        On the restart Biffle held the high line and took the lead as the
first lap was completed with Dennis Fetter in second and Craig Raudman
third. Polesitter Wright was running in fourth spot. The first caution of
the race was brought out on the fourth lap when Scott McGrand spun and
tapped the car of Jeff Huebner which hit the wall and was forced to retire
from the event.

        The next caution came out on lap 25 when young 16 year old racer
Augie Vidovich had the front left wheel assembly break sending him into the
wall. While cleanup was going on and the cars circulating under caution,
rain hit Tucson Raceway Park and the race was red-flagged after just 34
laps. Once the red-flag period was over and the cars began to recircle the
track, Monroe headed for the pits to repair his toe-in but the green came
out before he could complete the work and he lost three laps to the field.

        Biffle continued to lead as the cars returned to speed with Fetter
running in second and not letting Biffle get away. Mike Duncan , who had
been fifth at the red flag moved past Raudman and Wright into third.
Unfortunately for Duncan a tire rub developed and he was forced to the pits
and out of the race soon after. 

        As the race progressed towards the halfway point, Biffle was
obviously the strongest car in the field and when the green flag stayed out
for any period of time he was able to open a gap between himself and
Fetter. Meanwhile Darren Shaw, Raudman and Tom Sweatman were having a
battle royal for the third spot. When Kurt Busch blew his motor a number of
cars including the third place Sweatman spun in the oil, but he was able to
quickly regain control and lined up behind Raudman on the restart.

        With Biffle leading Fetter and Raudman it was the turn of Darren
Shaw to make a move under Carl Trimmer to the rear bumper of Sweatman and
then both of these were able to slide under Raudman into third and fourth. 

        With three laps remaining to the halfway mark, Michael Obrist
touched Trimmer and Trimmer scraped the wall damaging the car’s handling.
On the final lap before the midpoint break it was John Sewell who spun and
damaged the bodywork on the car. Sewell was just able to stay on the lead
lap at the 101 lap mark as the cars headed towards their crews for service.

        Dennis Fetter seemed to find the solution to Biffle’s restarts as
the green came out for the final 99 laps, but although he was able to pull
alongside the leader he could not complete the pass and fell back into
second. Once he had settled into second, Fetter came under attack from
Sweatman who tried to drop low and make the pass. Time and again Sweatman
tried to get around, but each time Fetter was able to carry more speed off
the corners and move back in front down the straights. Sweatman finally
completed the pass and set off in pursuit of Biffle who had opened a large
lead while the two cars behind him battled. 

        On lap 124 Wright spun in turn 2 and the caution bunched the field
once again. Biffle led Sweatman, Fetter, Shaw and Obrist who had passed
Raudman. Sweatman found four lapped cars between him and the leader when
the race restarted and he spent many laps trying to get around the lapped
traffic. By the time he was able to finish passing the lapped cars Sweatman
found himself  over 6 seconds behind Biffle. This was the longest green
flag segment of the race and Sweatman was unable to gain any ground on
Biffle, even after clearing the lapped traffic. Behind the leaders Obrist
was able to get around Raudman once again as Raudman became very loose and
began to slide backwards after running in the top five all day. 

        On lap 159 caution came out for debris on the track. Sweatman was
now right on Biffle’s back bumper with no lapped cars to hinder him in his
chase, but it made no difference as Biffle had a two car length lead as the
cars entered turn one and continued to pull away steadily. Fetter pulled up
to challenge Sweatman, but was unable to make a serious attempt to pass.
The real action in the race was for the last five positions in the top ten
where Toby Butler, Raudman, Obrist, Wayne Cassidy, and Austin Cameron were
fighting through lapped traffic as they tried to gain the advantage. Two
and sometimes three wide they battled through the slower cars until the
checkered flag flew to end the fender banging action.  Biffle took the win
with Sweatman second and Fetter taking a well earned third. Shaw finished
in fourth with Toby Butler gaining fifth. Obrist, Cameron, Raudman, Charles
Utts and Aaron Newport rounded out the top ten in the race. Biffle took the
Winston Challenge title by 61 points over Fetter and 63 over Sweatman.
Sewell finished fourth and Utts was fifth in the final points.

WINSTON CHALLENGE SERIES RACE #2
TUCSON RACEWAY PARK

Pos  car  st   Driver                           Laps    Status
1.    16   2   Greg Biffle                              200     Running
2.    61   11 Tom Sweatman                      200         “
3.    14   3   Dennis Fetter                    200         “
4.    77   18  Darren Shaw                      200         “
5.    18   24  Toby Butler                      200         “
6.    54   8    Michael Obrist                  200         “
7.    12   28  Austin Cameron                   200         “
8.    2     4    Craig Raudman                  200         “
9.    66   9    Charles Utts                    200         “
10.  15   19  Aaron Newport                     199         “
11.  99   23  John Sewell                       199         “
12.  43   5    Wayne Cassidy                    199         “
13.  72   13  Marc Groskreutz                   198         “
14.  97   18  Kevin Harvick                     198         “
15.  42   17  Mike Mendenhall                   198         “
16.  1     14  Scott Brandt                     197         “
17.  64   27  Ron Dexter                                197         “
18.  74   7    Carl Trimmer                     195         “
19.  70   21  Jeff Huebner                      193         “
20.  51   25  Kevin Vernon                      176         “
21.  17   26  Terry Henry                       174         “
22.  48   12   Sean Monroe                      163         “
23.  33   1     Steve Wright                    124     Rear End
24.  38  22   Scott Gafforini                     82    Running
25.  56   16   Scott McGrand                            Mechanical
26.  9     6     Michael Duncan                         Tires
27   10   10   Kurt Busch                               Engine
28.  5   20   Augie Vidavich                            Accident

Winston Challenge Series
FINAL POINTS

1. Greg Biffle                  360
2. Dennis Fetter                299
3. Tom Sweatman                 297
4. John Sewell                  295
5. Charles Utts                 288
6. Marc Groskreutz              284
7. Sean Monroe                  267
8. Carl Trimmer                 264
9. Craig Raudman                260
10.Aaron Newport                258

 John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel 
 
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