MWS: Pikes Peak: Round nine preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 21, 2003)--The picturesque 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway oval holds a special place in the hearts of several International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series drivers, since they got their first career...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 21, 2003)--The picturesque 1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway oval holds a special place in the hearts of several International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series drivers, since they got their first career win at the Fountain, Colorado oval.

Current series competitors Tim Schendel (Mathew's Archery Chevrolet) and Jon Lemke (K.C. Colors Chevrolet) as well as former series racers Travis Kvapil and Jim Inglebright all notched their first series wins at Pikes Peak. While Schendel and Lemke are looking to find victory lane again, youngsters Ryan Hanson (Prairie Avenue Concrete Ford) and Eric Fransen (Sonya's Rose Chevrolet) know Pikes Peak has a tradition of being the back drop for first time triumphs.

"I just love the big tracks, but especially Pikes Peak," said Hanson. "Running a lot on short tracks, a trip to Pikes Peak is a highlight of our season. I can't imagine how special it would be to get that first win at a place like that."

Hanson is coming off of a sixth place finish at Pikes Peak in 2002 while Fransen will be making his first career PPIR start.

"At the beginning of the year, this race was tentatively on our schedule," said Fransen. "But we've been running good enough on the series, and in our weekly program, that going to Pikes Peak is sort of a reward for our team and all the hard work they've put in."

Forty drivers are scheduled to fill the field for The Wright Group Event Services 150, Saturday, July 26. The fastest 36 competitors in time trials earn an automatic starting berth in the main event, with up to four additional provisional starting spots available based on current points. Qualifying is set for 11:15 a.m. (MT), Friday, July 25. The green flag is slated to fly over The Wright Group Event Services 150, Saturday, July 26, at approximately 4:15 p.m. The Midwest Series will run at Pikes Peak as a companion event to the NASCAR Busch Series and the event can be seen, on a tape delayed basis, on Fox Sports Net.

Pikes Peak International Raceway is located minutes south of Colorado Springs on I-25. Order tickets at (888) 306-7223 or visit them at www.ppir.com. <http://www.gatewayraceway.com/> .

NEWS OF NOTE

* This event marks just the seventh time that the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series has visited Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR). Jim Inglebright (1998), Rick Carelli (1998), Travis Kvapil (1999 & 2000), Jon Lemke (2001) and Tim Schendel (2002) are the former PPIR race winners.

* Of the above listed previous winners, Inglebright, Kvapil, Lemke and Schendel all recorded their first career wins at PPIR.

* This year marks the first under the series' new name: International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series. For the past five seasons, the series was known as the RE/MAX Challenge Series. Prior to that it was known throughout the Midwest as the ARTGO Challenge Series.

* Steve Carlson is the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series defending champion.

* The Midwest Series last competed on July 18 at Gateway International Raceway in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Brian Hoppe continued his strangle hold on the Gateway oval, recording his third career win at the 1.25-mile oval. Hoppe took the lead late in the running of the 100 lap affair from Steve Carlson and drove off to a 1.569-second win. Carlson settled for runner-up honors while Eddie Hoffman rounded out the top three. With his third place finish, Hoffman took over the championship point lead from Ron Breese, Jr. Rain washed out Bud Pole qualifying and set the line up by car owner points.

* The 2002 version of this event turned into a fuel mileage/pit strategy affair. With one caution period, relatively early in the event, just a handful of drivers elected to pit. One of those drivers was Tim Schendel. The pit stop mired Schendel well back in the field when the green waved, put when the amber never again flew, the remainder of the field was forced to pit under the green. When they did that, Schendel blew past all of them, had just enough fuel to spare, and went on to score his first career Midwest Series triumph. California's Auggie Vidovich made his first series start a good one, leading 94 laps and finishing second. Pennsylvania's Ryan Hemphill rounded out the top three.

* As is the case every time the NASCAR Midwest Series travels west to PPIR, the field is spiced by several Colorado natives. Among the Rocky Mountain state drivers entered in The Wright Group Event Services 150 include Kevin Clark (Kenwood Car Audio Chevrolet) of Colorado Springs, Ken Walter (Astrolite Batteries Pontiac) of Littleton, Bruce Yackey (General Air Chevrolet) of Greeley, Dave Finley (Tri-County Parts Chevrolet) of Brighton, Roger Avants (McDonald's Chevrolet) of Littleton and Michael Gallegos (Steve's Transmissions Chevrolet) of Wheat Ridge.

* Nathan Haseleu (G&M Auto & Transmission Ford) has posted four consecutive top-10 runs in Midwest Series action. Haseleu sits 11th in series points despite the fact that the team didn't travel to the first race of the year. It was Haseleu and owner Gary Schultz's intention to run in selected NASCAR Elite Division events throughout the country in 2003. But when NASCAR announced that the top-10 from all four Elite Divisions would be invited to the first ever Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway, their plans changed to focus solely on the Midwest Series.

* After starting the season with 17th and 24th place finishes in the first two events, Jon Lemke has posted six consecutive top-five runs and vaulted into fifth spot in the championship point standings.

* As he has done from week one, Eric Fransen continues to lead a very talented Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year class. For the fifth time this season, Fransen was the highest finishing rookie at Gateway and posted his seventh top-10 finish of the 2003 campaign. Jeremy Lepak (U.S. Navy Chevrolet) finished 12th at Gateway and holds down the second spot in the rookie standings. Clint Bowyer (Sonic Drive Ins Chevrolet), Mark Voigt (Bilstein Shocks Chevrolet) and Dan Bedard (Information Technology Group Chevrolet) round out the top five in the rookie standings.

* Defending race winner, Tim Schendel, has a busy week planned around The Wright Group Event Services 150. Starting Wednesday, Schendel will be in studio for live interviews at three area radio stations, sign autographs for employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette, and take part in show car appearances at two area Grocery Warehouses, an Albertson's, the Dublin House and make a stop at Fort Carson.

* POWERade Sports Drink is a welcome addition as a new contingency sponsor with the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series in 2003. POWERade will put $750 up for grabs at each event to the eligible driver who advances the most positions during the course of the race.

* Hoosier Tire returns as the tire of choice for the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series in 2003. The Indiana based company will give away over $4200 worth of their rubber at every series event. Other contingency sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Five Star Stock Car Bodies, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, JE Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Racing Gasoline, Wix Air Filters and Victory Circle Chassis.

WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?

"My Grandpa Diercks used to run the #29 back in the '30's and '40's, way back in the day when he ran stock cars. When I first started running late models, I was #23 and my dad was #29. Once he kind of backed off of racing I took over #29 and that's where I've been ever since. It's just been a family tradition.--Justin Diercks.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

July 24, 1999--Travis Kvapil leads the final 145 laps in route to winning the 150-lap race on the Pikes Peak oval. The win was Kvapil's first career triumph. Brian Hoppe was second while Steve Carlson finished third. The race was shown tape-delayed on ESPN and helped to put Kvapil on the racing map. Kvapil repeated the PPIR win in 2000. Today he leads the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship point standings.

Fast Facts

What: The Wright Group Event Services 150 (NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series, Race 9 of 12).
Where: Pikes Peak International Raceway.
When: 4:15 p.m. MT, Saturday, July 26.

Track layout: 1-mile banked asphalt oval.
Race length: 150 laps, 150 miles.

Schedule: July 24, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. (MT) Registration and Inspection; July 25, 6:00 a.m. Garage Opens; 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Practice; 11:15 a.m. Time Trials (2 Laps); 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Practice; July 26, 7:00 a.m. Garage Opens; 4:15 p.m. The Wright Group Event Services 150.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Rick Carelli , Ryan Hemphill , Jim Inglebright , Clint Bowyer , Auggie Vidovich , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Kevin Clark , Steve Carlson , Travis Kvapil