MWS: Countdown to the Showdown 2005-09-26

COUNTDOWN TO THE SHOWDOWN: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Top 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top 10 drivers in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series. At season's end, the...

COUNTDOWN TO THE SHOWDOWN: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Top 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top 10 drivers in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series. At season's end, the top 10 drivers in the final point standings in each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) will be invited to compete in the third-annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. This special post-season event $500,000 to competitors and will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel.

The final top 10 rankings will be decided in the Oktoberfest 200 presented by Kwik Trip, on Saturday, Oct. 8 at LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway.

No. 1 -- Justin Diercks, Davenport, Iowa (No. 29 Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation Chevrolet), Points: 1,324. The reigning Midwest Series champion is still chasing his second consecutive title, but is assured a spot in the Showdown for the third year. Diercks, who finished 19th at Irwindale last November, now has more experience outside the Midwest than he's had in previous years. To get a feel for the rest of the competition in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Diercks raced with the Southeast Series at Greenville, S.C. and Houston, Tex., picking up a win at the Texas track in May.

No. 2 -- Steve Carlson, West Salem, Wis. (No. 66 XP Lubricants/Gordon Epping CPA Chevrolet), Points: 1,275 (-49). The longtime master of the Midwest Series, Carlson can still overtake Diercks to win the 2005 title with a strong performance in the season finale at LaCrosse. At the showdown, Carlson placed 24th last year -- but was still one of the main attractions at Irwindale. As a nine-time champion and winner of countless short track races in his career, the Carlson name has carried to the West coast. Drivers and fans from other series were eager to meet the man they'd read about for years.

No. 3 -- Tim Schendel, Sparta, Wis. (No. 21 Mathew's Archery/Texpar Energy Chevrolet), Points: 1,219 (-105). Schendel is on track for a career-best finish in the championship point standings, despite the fact that he hasn't won a race this year. Schendel is strong on big tracks -- he was the highest-finishing Midwest Series driver in the Midwest Series-Southeast Series combination race at Kentucky Speedway and finished second at The Milwaukee Mile last month. Although Irwindale is a short track, watch for Schendel's superspeedway skills to carry over onto the track's fast half-mile layout.

No. 4 -- Andrew Morrissey, Deforest, Wis. (No. 20 Perry Dahl Soil Testing Chevrolet), Points: 1,156 (-168). Morrissey is the leading contender for the 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the Midwest. The 21-year-old driver is also aiming for a top-five finish in the final point standings -- a feat that no rookie has accomplished since the Midwest Series came under the NASCAR banner in 1998.

No. 5 -- Brent Kirchner, LaCrosse, Wis. (No. 88 City Auto Sales / Hometown Furniture Chevrolet), Points: 1,101 (-223). Kirchner is having a solid season with two top-five and six top-10 finishes in eight starts. Kirchner is in his third year on the Midwest Series and has never gone to the Toyota All-Star Showdown. A finish of 23rd or better in the season finale at LaCrosse will mathematically guarantee him a spot in the top 10 -- and his first invitation to Irwindale.

No. 6 -- Eddie Hoffman, Wheaton, Ill. (No. 8 Lisa Thomas Salon/ M R Lee Building Chevrolet), Points: 1,093 (-231). This Midwestern short track racing veteran is known for his all-around driving talent. Hoffman has won races on both superspeedways and short tracks, won numerous Bud Pole awards and is a threat to win at every Midwest Series event. Hoffman was the second-highest finishing Midwest driver in last year's Toyota All-Star Showdown, in seventh place overall. Hoffman can lock up his third invitation to Irwindale with a finish of 20th or better at LaCrosse.

No. 7 -- Dexter Bean, Westby, Wis. (No. 46 Five Star Telecom/Badger Environmental Chevrolet), Points: 1,085 (-239). Another top-rated Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, Bean has scored five top-five finishes this season. As a rookie, Irwindale represents new territory for the 18-year-old racer, but expect him to adapt early on if he makes the trip to California. In addition to racing on the Midwest Series, Bean has already tackled major-league tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) RE/MAX Series. Bean can guarantee his first invitation to the Toyota All-Star Showdown with a 17th-place finish, or better, at LaCrosse.

No. 8 -- Josh Bauer, Random Lake, Wis. (No. 1 Akzo Nobel Chevrolet), Points: 1,041 (-283). The third Sunoco rookie to be ranked in the top 10 in points, Bauer can also join his fellow first-year drivers at the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Bauer can mathematically guarantee his Irwindale eligibility, by finishing fifth or better at LaCrosse. Bauer made his Midwest Series debut LaCrosse last season, recording a 15th-place finish at the track last October.

No. 9 -- Russ Blakeley, Whitewater, Wis. (No. 22 Loading Zone/Castle Packaging/PAC Ford), Points: 1,037 (-287). Blakeley has kept the top 10 standings tight, as he trails eighth-place Bauer by just four points -- and leads 10th-place Nick Joanides by six markers. Blakeley was in a similar spot last year; he finished ninth in the points and went to Irwindale to record a 29th-place finish. He can secure an invitation to return with a top-four finish at LaCrosse.

No. 10 -- Nick Joanides, Woodland Hills, Calif. (No. 45 E Z Lube/ Mighty Auto Parts Chevrolet), Points: 1,031 (-293). Ironically, the Midwest Series driver with the toughest outlook to maintain his ranking in the top 10, is the driver who lives closest to Irwindale, Calif. Joanides' home in Woodland Hills is just 40 miles west of Irwindale, on the Northwestern corner of Los Angeles. Joanides made 60 starts in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and also competed on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series before he decided to take a different turn in his driving career and teamed up with Dave Stammer's No. 45 team in the Midwest. If he finishes third or better at LaCrosse, he will guarantee his chance to represent the Midwest in his first Toyota All-Star Showdown appearance.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- Greg Fowler, Longmont, Colo. (No. 71 Sheds R Us/USA Performance Engines Chevrolet), Points: 1,014 (-310). The above scenarios for various drivers (who are already ranked in the top 10) to guarantee their invitations to the Toyota All-Star Showdown are all predicated on one thing: 11th place Greg Fowler gaining the maximum amount of points by winning at LaCrosse. If Fowler wins, those drivers must finish in the positions listed above to ensure a top 10 placing in the final points. That being said, there are still several scenarios by which Fowler himself could break into the top 10 and get his own invitation to Irwindale. For example, if he finishes in the top five and Blakely winds up 12th or worse at LaCrosse, Fowler could be on his way to Irwindale. Fowler will also be tough competition for Joanides, who holds the 10th spot by just 17 points over Fowler. If he wants to maintain that position, Joanides must finish in the top 15 if Fowler finishes in the top 10 next Saturday.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Steve Carlson , Nick Joanides