Jefferson's dramatic roll...
Jefferson's dramatic roll was played and re-played at the track, along with becoming a hit on the internet and a staple of weekend racing shows. Photo by June Boone
Jefferson qualified 15th and his intention was to pit by Lap 28 for fuel and to take advantage of track position. Most of the leaders pitted on Lap 18 while Jefferson stuck to the plan, eventually landing him in the second position on Lap 24. He came in for fuel on Lap 26 and returned to the track in 18th.
Finally, with only two laps to go, he was running eighth. Exiting Turn 4, two drivers in front of him tangled. Jefferson drove low and maintained his line. Kevin O'Connell, one of the road racing experts, went high. The two were side-by-side heading into Turn 7 when O'Connell drove across Jefferson's line and forced him up and over the berm.
"I raced him clean over the final laps even though he blocked and cut across my car several times," Jefferson said. "I don't know what he was thinking. You can race our regulars side-by-side all race long and never touch. You know who you can trust."
Warn had struggles of his own.
He qualified 23rd, which put him in the middle of the field and the eye of the car-wrecking storm. He was on the same pit strategy as Jefferson, but had to return several times for the crew to fix bent body panels.
The rookie was patient, and by Lap 58, he was running 11th, which gave him an up close view of Jefferson's flight in front of him.
"It was pretty spectacular," said Warn. "He was right in front of me when he went over."
It was the best seat in the house...unless the guy doing barrel rolls is a friend and mentor.
All Warn saw was the underside of Jefferson's Chevrolet flipping wildly over his head. "We were nearly taken out as well," Warn said. "After the 59 car got into Jeff, he hit us pretty good on the right side. I thought we were going to lose two cars, but we managed to survive."
Crewmembers try to create...
Crewmembers try to create some tire clearance after Jim Warn's car was involved in an on-track altercation. Photo by June Boone
For Jefferson, the Infineon aerobatics marked the beginning of a three-race stretch of good runs spoiled by bad luck.
Two weeks after the Infineon wreck, Jefferson was inside the Top 10 at Irwindale Speedway when his race ended in a pile of twisted sheetmetal.
He began the race at the center of the 31-car field, and worked his way up to seventh at the mid-race break, when the crew made a few minor adjustments.
The car was getting loose and Jefferson was barely hanging on in ninth place when the caution came out and the field restarted on Lap 183. On the next lap, Moses Smith dove to the inside and made contact with Jason Patison, who spun to the wall and collected several other cars.
Jefferson slowed to avoid the incident and was clear of the wreck but was tagged from behind by a car that never got out of the gas.
Warn was never a Top 10 contender at Irwindale, but the rookie came away with some valuable experience.
By the mid-race break, he was running 19th and the crew adjusted the car to tighten it up. By the end of the race he picked up four more spots.
"The car was a handful all night," Warn said. "I like to drive a loose car, but too loose is a problem. We just missed the right setup for the conditions but I did learn a lot about how to drive this track."
He hopes it will pay off when the series returns to Irwindale later in the season.
A week later the team unloaded at the three-eighths mile oval at Roseburg, Oregon.