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Sandoval races to SRL Southwest Tour Rookie of the Year honor
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The saying goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Not when you bring home the 2011 Victory Circle Rookie of the Year title from the SRL Southwest Racing Tour.

East Union graduate Michael Sandoval Jr. entered The Bullring at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 29 trailing rookie leader Eric Benhamou of San Ramon by 8 points.

Sandoval started the Sigma Engineering Solutions 154 race in the 20th position and worked his way through the pack while passing Benhamou midway through the race.

Derek Thorn captured the winner’s trophy for his third victory of the season. Sandoval was seventh, and Benhamou 16th.

Sandoval finished ninth overall in the tour’s standings. Fellow Mantecan Jacob Gomes, the 2010 SRL Rookie of the Year — ended up 50 points shy of champion Jim Pettit II (1,597 points) and placed second.

The Sandoval racing team worked relentlessly the past two weeks after a collision with a stalled car at the All-American Speedway in Roseville resulted in extensive damage to the No. 7 car. While performing general inspection after qualifying the Sandoval crew discovered an undetected problem with the motor.

This forced car owner and crew chief Michael Sandoval Sr. to change the gearing in the car to reduce RPMs on the motor in hopes of finishing the main event.

This gamble paid off and tested Sandoval Jr.’s driving skills with reduced power coming out of the turns but he was still able to gain nine positions with a less-than-perfectly-running car.