Lynch wins Orleans 150 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway;

Norris crowned 2002 NASCAR Winston West Series champion


LAS VEGAS -- Scott Lynch won the battle, Eric Norris won the war and the sure thing finished the race in the garage.  That's how it played out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's 2002 edition of the NASCAR Winston West Series' finale, the Orleans 150. 

Scott Lynch, of Burley, Idaho, started fourth and finished first.  But the race appeared to belong to at least two other drivers before Lynch could take his rightful place in victory lane.

Hometown hero Brendan Gaughan started from the pole and led the first 21 laps.  Gaughan's Dodge had been dominant at the track, timing fastest in pre-race testing earlier this month, and again leading the parade in practice on Friday night.  But it was not to be for the two-time NASCAR Winston West Series champion.  Gaughan's woes began before the Orleans 150's green flag was thrown.  During NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series "happy hour," Gaughan -- after qualifying second -- hit the wall in Turn 4 and was forced to submit a backup truck for Sunday's Las Vegas 350.  Brendan regained the lead of the Orleans 150 on lap 47 and appeared to have victory well in hand until lap 57, when the engine expired.

With the heavily favored Gaughan out of the running, it was time for the Winston West regulars to battle for points and cash.  Championship contender Austin Cameron retired just 21 laps into the race, the victim of an oil leak.  All Eric Norris had to do was stay up front and out of trouble and the crown would be his.

Norris took the lead on lap 69 and appeared headed for victory.  Soon after Eric was informed by his crew that he had clinched the championship, Lynch made what would be the winning pass on lap 84.

"It (the car) was just awesome all night long," said Lynch.  "As long as we kept the nose clean and didn't wreck, we knew we could win this one.  I tried to save the tires for the end.  We played with strategy tonight."

Norris settled for second place and a much larger prize, the 2002 NASCAR Winston West Series title.

"It's just exciting," Eric proclaimed.  "This team has worked so hard to get us here.  Give our team the credit, because they've given us good, consistent cars all year long that don't break.  Fortunately, we stayed out of trouble and haven't gotten in wrecks.  We've always had good cars and Jerry Pitts, our crew chief, has brought this team to a new level.

"I wanted the championship.  That's what the big picture was.  Scott Lynch had a really good car.  We didn't have a winning car, but we had a second place car.  And for us to leave here in second place, and win the championship, makes for a good night.

"I wanted to see Brendan do well.  I didn't want to wish bad luck on anybody.  He's a heck of a driver and I would have liked to see how we'd done."

Time of race: 1 hr., 18 min., 8 sec.

Margin of victory: 1.275 sec.

Caution flags: Five for 20 laps (3-5, 22-25, 32-36, 59-62, 68-71).

Lap leaders: Brendan Gaughan 1-21, Eddy McKean 22-32, Scott Lynch 33-46, Gaughan 47-57, Scott Gaylord 58-59, Jason Small 60-68, Eric Norris 69-83, Lynch 84-100.

Lead changes: seven among six drivers.

Purse: $145,779 (winner's share: $11,350).


Unofficial NASCAR Winston West Series final point standings: 1. Eric Norris 1,665, 2. Kevin Richards 1,546, 3. Austin Cameron 1,542, 4. Johnny Borneman 1,459, 5. Mike Duncan 1,459, 6. Brandon Ash 1,412, 7. Mike David 1,383, 8. Scott Gaylord 1,382, 9. Greg Pursley 1,364, 10. Brett Thompson 1,339.

NASCAR WINSTON WEST SERIES ORLEANS 150 FINISH: 1. Scott Lynch, 2. Eric Norris, 3. Brett Thompson, 4. Jason Small, 5. Brandon Ash, 6. Rick Bogart, 7. Johnny Borneman, 8. Mike Duncan, 9. Scott Gaylord, 10. Kevin Richards, 11. Greg Pursley, 12. Mike Grady, 13. Clint Vahsholtz, 14. Gene Woods, 15. Mark Reed, 16. Blake Mallory, 17. Carl Harr, 18. David Gilliland, 19. Daryl Harr, 20. Jeff Davis, 21. Bobby Hills, 22. Scott Schmidt, 23. Brendan Gaughan, 24. Eddy McKean, 25. Austin Cameron, 26. Mike David, 27. Jack Sellers.