NWS: Evergreen: News of note

MONROE, Wash. (March 26, 2004) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series kicks off its 2004 racing season with the Big O Tires 125, Saturday evening at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. On Friday, teams and drivers arrived at the...

MONROE, Wash. (March 26, 2004) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series kicks off its 2004 racing season with the Big O Tires 125, Saturday evening at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. On Friday, teams and drivers arrived at the .646-mile track for an optional practice session and technical inspections.

With the first race of the season just hours away, here's a rundown of the early Northwest Series newsmakers on Friday...

* 2003 Northwest Series rookie of the year Jason Jefferson, of Yakima, Wash., returned with his No. 97 Dodge -- the only Dodge car to compete full-time in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division. Jefferson's team will be sponsored by Mike Olsen Dodge, SPE Racing Engines and Simmonson Automotive. Mike Olsen Dodge sponsored Jefferson when he won multiple Late Model events and two track championships in 2002. For 2004, Jefferson plans to run the full Northwest Series schedule along with select Late Model special events in the area.

* Tom Sweatman, of Cosmopolis, Wash, has taken over driving duties of the No. 5 Yakima Implement Chevrolet (owned by Marvin Bright) which had been driven in recent years by Chris Hart. Last season, Hart drove the No. 5 car to three wins and finished third in points.

* Several drivers will mark Northwest Series milestones at the Big O Tires 125. 1998 series champion Gary Lewis, of Bothell, Wash., will be making his 145th career start in the Northwest Series. Joe Benedetti, of Auburn, Wash., will be making his 80th career start and for Lacey, Wash. driver Wes Rhodes, Saturday's race will mark his 65th career start.

* Northwest Series drivers who didn't fare well at the 2003 season finale, at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval, have reason to be optimistic at Evergreen. Featherlite, the official trailer and luxury coach of NASCAR, is posting a $300 bonus at each NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division race, for its all-new "Most Improved Driver Award." This award goes to the driver who improves the most number of positions in the finishing order, compared to their results in the previous event. For the season-opener at Evergreen, this award will be determined by a comparison to the results of the 2003 season finale.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jason Jefferson , Gary Lewis