MWS: Pikes Peak: Round four preview

DIERCKS HOPES TO KEEP 'PERFECT' SEASON INTACT IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION COMBINATION RACE AT PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY * NASCAR Midwest and Southwest Series combine for second time July 23 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) --...

DIERCKS HOPES TO KEEP 'PERFECT' SEASON INTACT IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION COMBINATION RACE AT PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

* NASCAR Midwest and Southwest Series combine for second time July 23

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) -- When the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series visited Colorado National Speedway in June, it was a combined event with the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. Brandon Riehl, representing the Southwest, won the Auto Trader 150 while reigning Midwest Series champion Justin Diercks finished second. Diercks, however, was the highest-finishing Midwest Series driver in the event and was therefore credited with a Midwest Series victory on his driving record.

The Midwest and Southwest Series will be combined, once again, in the July 23 King Soopers Freedom 150 at the 1.0-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo. Diercks, fresh off his July 15 Midwest Series victory at Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn., says he's up for the challenge again.

"Pikes Peak is a really neat race track," said Diercks. "It's really wide, fast and has a lot of room to pass -- two or three grooves. We always put on a really good race when we go there and I'm excited to be going back -- especially about racing with the Southwest Series and seeing how we stack up against them on a bigger track."

If Diercks can score another victory -- on paper against his rival Midwest Series teams or an outright win in the race itself -- it will mark the continuation of a remarkable season for this Davenport, Iowa driver. Including his "win" at Colorado National, Diercks has opened his title defense with a perfect record: three wins in three Midwest Series starts.

In addition, Diercks ventured into the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series and recorded a victory in that series, at Houston (Tex.) Motorsports Park. (Each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division operates using identical Late Model race cars, making it possible for drivers to compete in each different series with the same race car.)

The King Soopers Freedom 150 presents a unique opportunity in Diercks' 2005 championship bid. Following the same procedures as the previous combination event, the highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will be credited with a Midwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Midwest Series championship, regardless of their overall finish in the event. The second highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will receive second-place points and so on. Likewise, the highest-finishing Southwest Series driver will be credited with a Southwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Southwest Series championship, and so on.

Drivers will be credited with championship points for their respective series, based on whichever series they have previously obtained a NASCAR license for. Drivers will not be credited with a start or championship points outside their "home" series for which they are licensed.

As Diercks experienced at Colorado National Speedway, a points-paying victory can be had even if his No. 29 Iowa-Illinois Taylor Insulation Chevrolet is not the fastest car on the track. If the Southwest Series drivers prove to be stronger and take the top positions in the race, he can still gain ground in the standings simply by staying in ahead of his fellow Midwesterners.

For a driven competitor like Diercks, however, simply coasting to the finish isn't an option.

"I'll have to see what type of situation I'm in," said Diercks. "But, I'm always going for the win. That's why we did so well last year. I just went out and tried to win as many races as I could. I'm just going out to win races and hopefully, the rest will take care of itself."

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION -- KING SOOPERS FREEDOM NOTES

* Series History at PPIR ... The Midwest Series has raced at Pikes Peak International Raceway on eight previous occasions, dating back to 1998. Midwest Series graduate Travis Kvapil, now a full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver with Penske-Jasper Motorsports, won consecutive Midwest Series events there in 1999 and 2000. Eddie Hoffman, of Wheaton, Ill., won the most recent Midwest Series event at Pikes Peak in 2004. The Southwest Series raced at the track three times from 2000-02. During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Pikes Peak proved to be a pivotal event in the Southwest Series championship battle, as Craig Raudman (2001) and Eddy McKean (2002) each won a race there en route to a championship that year. The two series have never raced at Pikes Peak in a combination format.

* Up Next ... After Pikes Peak, the Midwest Series and Southwest Series return to their proverbial corners and continue their respective schedules. The Midwest Series heads to Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway July 31 while the Southwest Series resumes July 30 at Colorado National Speedway. Stars from the two series will get a chance to face off again, at the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. This $500,000 invitational event is televised live on SPEED Channel and features the top 10 drivers from each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.

Fast Facts

What: King Soopers Freedom 150 (Race No. 4 of 8 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series & combination event with NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series).

Where: Pikes Peak International Raceway, Fountain, Colo.

When: Sat., July 23 at 10:30 a.m. (Mountain Time)

Track layout:  1.0-mile oval.

Race length: 150 laps / 150 miles.

Posted awards: $108,722.

Top 10 in Midwest Series points: 1. Justin Diercks 540, 2. Eddie Hoffman 490, 3. Steve Carlson 481, 4. Josh Vadnais 450, 5. Andrew Morrisey 444, 6. Brent Kirchner 440, 7. Tim Schendel 435, 8. Russ Blakely 400, 9. Dexter Bean 394, 10. Greg Fowler 394.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday, July 22 -- 7:00 a.m. Garage opens, 12:10-1:10 p.m. Practice, 2:00-3:00 p.m. Practice, 6:00 p.m. Time Trials. Sat., July 23 -- 7:00 a.m. Garage opens, 8:30 a.m. Driver's Meeting.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Craig Raudman , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Steve Carlson , Travis Kvapil