By Gary Thomas, Johns Racing photos
Petaluma, CA – May 13, 2010…Returning to his home track of Petaluma Speedway this past Saturday night, 19-year-old competitor Camron Mendes raced to his second career sprint car victory and very first at the 3/8 mile clay oval located on the Sonoma-Marin County Fairgrounds.
The triumph helped Mendes gain redemption after a tough ending in Placerville a few weeks ago, where he began the evening by setting fast-time and then led the first 12-laps in main event, until contact midway through the race while battling for the lead took his chances at victory away.
“It’s been kind of a rough start to the season so it feels really awesome to be doing good again and it’s great to get a win in Petaluma,” said Mendes, who captured his first career sprint car victory last September at the Placerville Speedway, holding off two-time Civil War 360 Series champion Mike Henry. “I owe a lot of this to my team because I couldn’t have done it without them and they gave me a great car in the feature.”
The event this most recent Saturday marked the second 360 sprint car point race of the season at the Petaluma Speedway oval and Mendes looked to rebound from the April 24 opener, in which he was running third early on in the feature, but got collected in an accident and eventually scored 10th at the finish.
The Rohnert Park, California driver proceeded to open the second point race of the year at the 3/8 mile speedway by qualifying ninth fastest with a clocking of 13.584 aboard the JMS Motorsports, RPM Photo Art, Cartwright Builders No. 29x machine. Mendes then charged to victory in the opening heat race and just when it seemed like nothing but luck has been on his side this year, a little bit of “lady luck” shined down upon him when the right pill was drawn for the inversion and put him on the pole of the feature.
The often hooked up Petaluma Speedway had become slicker than usual as the night went on and when the green flag waved in the 25-lapper Mendes jumped into the lead. The tricky track surface forced drivers to be mistake free, with one slight slip-up possibly changing the outcome of the race and with veteran Mike Benson on his tail the young driver did his best to keep his composure out front. As Benson tried to apply pressure to his rear bumper Mendes never faltered and continued to run smooth and clean laps behind the wheel of the JMS Motorsports No. 29x A.R.T. sprinter.
Lap 18 then saw Benson make a mistake by hitting the inside berm and forcing him to the tail of the field. After that it was all about Mendes up front and he would hold off Grass Valley’s Jeremy Burt over the final handful of laps to cross under the checkered flag and score his first ever Petaluma Speedway win. “The track was definitely a little different tonight and I just focused on hitting my marks and being patient out front,” Mendes commented. “I think getting out and running some different tracks has helped better prepare us for just about any type of track surface that we encounter, because the experience always helps.”
Up next for Mendes will be another night of racing at the Petaluma Speedway this Saturday for the third round of action in the battle for the 2010 track championship.
“We’re focusing on running a little more close to home this year and it would be nice if we could come back this weekend to get another win,” said Mendes, who has spent the past couple season’s running primarily at the Placerville Speedway. “I want to thank all of our sponsors including RPM Photo Art, Cartwright Builders and everyone who is supporting our team this year, but we’re always looking for more help and would welcome anyone to come on board.”
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