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Southwell's future bright

Posted: June 18, 2009 8:34 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Todd Southwell’s resume as a stock car driver is pretty impressive. The Canyon High graduate won four races and finished fifth in the NASCAR Super Late Model standings at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in 2005. He was fifth in the Super Late Model standings at the track in 2006 and established himself as a championship contender, but he went more than three years between races at Irwindale.

Southwell made his return to racing in the Super Late Models two weeks ago driving the No. 43 car owned by Dennis Furden of Santa Clarita. It was a night of twin 40-lappers in the Super Late Model division at the track. Southwell posted an 18th-place finish in the first race and was 10th in the second.

Nothing noteworthy there, except that Southwell might have worked out a deal to race Furden’s car on a regular basis.

Southwell was brought on to Furden’s team as a driving coach and crew chief. Southwell said his goal was to make Furden a front-running driver and his team a contender for wins and ultimately championships.

But after Southwell put the car in the top 10 for the first time this year, Furden decided to make a deal with his coach and crew chief. If Furden can’t finish better than 10th on Saturday night at Irwindale, Southwell will be back in the car for the next race.

“When I talked to him20a couple days ago, he jokingly said, let’s have a little competition,” Southwell said. “You started dead last and finished 10th. Next time, if I don’t finish 10th or better, you’re in the car. We’ll go back and forth and we have to better each other’s finish. Whoever does better gets the car the next week. How serious that is, I don’t know. But he seems to really like having me in the car.”

Southwell, who lives in San Marcos, was one of the better drivers at Irwindale when he was racing full time in 2005 and 2006. But the owner of the car he was driving back then wanted to run for a championship. Southwell, because of his work obligations, could not commit to racing a full-time schedule in 2007. Andrew Phipps took over racing the car and Southwell has been on the sidelines ever since.

“I would love to get back in a car,” Southwell said. “I never really wanted to get out. I never wanted to get out of a car, but I regrettably did because he wanted to run for a championship and I couldn’t commit.”

The car Furden drives is one of the better cars at the track, or at least it should be. It was put together by Jackson Racing, the same people who put together the car for Nick Joanides, who leads the Super Late Model standings at Irwindale, and Bear Rzesnowiecky, who has four top-five finishes in nine races.

With the way Southwell handles a race car, Furden might not get another chan ce to race his own car again this season.  If the races two weeks ago are any indication, Southwell might have a winning car by the end of the season.

In the first of the twin races, Southwell said the car had a steering problem. Apparently there was a bolt in the steering column that wasn’t tightened. It was sticking out about an eighth of an inch and it was preventing the steering wheel from turning. The team spent most of their practice time trying to figure what was wrong with the steering column.

“I went out having no time on the race tires,” Southwell said. “I went into the race and it turns out we had almost no stagger in the car. The car didn’t turn. I’m used to driving a car that doesn’t turn in the center sometimes. That car wouldn’t turn in to the corner.”

Southwell went in to the first race with a car that wouldn’t turn. He quickly fell to the back of the field. Instead of fighting with an ill-handling car, Southwell nursed it through the race with the hopes that his crew would be able to fix whatever was wrong with the car.

Between races, the crew discovered that a bolt in the steering column wasn’t tightened.  After turning the bolt down on to the steering the column, the car could turn again.

“It took all of 30 seconds,” Southwell said. “I found it. It was just finding it because it was such a small thing.”

With one turn of a wrench, Southwell turned a last-place car into a 10th-place car. Imagine what he can do when he has two weeks to prepare a car for himself to race. Surely Furden and Southwell can’t wait to see the results.

Tim Haddock can be reached by e-mail at tim@haddockinthepaddock.com. Go to www.haddockinthepaddock.com for video interviews of the drivers from Irwindale, plus updates of the NHRA races at Old Bridge Township Raceway and the return of two-time ASA Speed Trucks champion Lee Hatch.

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