Midwest Series Drivers Welcome New Sponsor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 5, 2003)--Earlier this week, it was announced that AutoZone, the nations leading auto parts retailer, will become the title sponsor of the NASCAR Elite Division. The Elite Division, which will now be re-named the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, consists of four individual racing series in four regions of the country -- Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division features Late Model style cars competing on a variety of short tracks and superspeedways and serves as a feeder system to the NASCAR Grand National Division and NASCAR's three national series.
With this announcement, the four series names will change as follows: NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series becomes NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series; NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series becomes NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series; NASCAR Elite Division, Kodak Southeast Series becomes NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series; and NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series becomes NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series.
Drivers from the newly renamed NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series had this reaction to the historic announcement:
Ron Breese, Jr: "What a step for this series. When you look at sponsors like AutoZone and Toyota that have gotten involved with our series, and with the Elite Division, it just speaks volumes for how far this level of racing has come in the last few years."
Breese is fresh off one of the biggest wins of his career, November 8 in the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown at California's Irwindale Speedway. He has competed on the series since 1994 and owns four career wins.
Ryan Hanson: "I think this is exactly what our series needs. Any company can attach their name to a race car or to a series. But AutoZone sounds like they are willing to promote the series through their stores, do hospitality events at the tracks and just help create more awareness for the series. If they can do that, the teams on the Midwest Series, the tracks, the promoters, the fans and AutoZone will all benefit."
Hanson scored his best career Midwest Series championship point finish in 2003 when he finished ninth. He finished the 2003 campaign as one of the hottest series drivers after finishing second in the regular season finale and followed that up with a fourth place run in the Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Steve Carlson: "In my 20 some years in racing, I've seen a lot of sponsors come and go, but I'm really impressed with what AutoZone has planned for the Elite Division. I see this announcement as another step in helping to take this series to the next level."
Carlson was the 1988 Midwest Series Rookie of the Year and since has captured nine driving championships. The 2003 season marked his fourth consecutive point championship.
Eric Fransen: "Good sponsors are hard to come by. I think every car owner and driver on this series knows the value of a good sponsor. Now It's our job to make sure that the AutoZone folks are happy. That shouldn't be a problem though, this is a great group of guys and the product we put on the track is second to none."
Fransen led his team to the 2003 Victory Circle Chassis Midwest Series Rookie of the Year crown and an even more impressive eight place finish in the final point standings.
The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division serves as the first "tier" of NASCAR's regional racing program, which is designed to give competitors at local short tracks a path to advance their careers toward the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series or the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Once competitors have honed their skills in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, the next step is the NASCAR Grand National Division, which consists of the Busch North Series and the Winston West Series.