NWS: Evergreen: Season opener preview

Hamlin leads charge into Monroe. MONROE, Wash. (March 27, 2003) NASCAR racing returns to the Pacific Northwest with the running of the Big O Tires 125, March 29 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. Over $40,000 in posted awards await ...

Hamlin leads charge into Monroe.

MONROE, Wash. (March 27, 2003) NASCAR racing returns to the Pacific Northwest with the running of the Big O Tires 125, March 29 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. Over $40,000 in posted awards await the competitors of the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, who begin their pursuit of the series' 19th championship.

The Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is led by two-time defending champion Kevin Hamlin, of Snohomish, Wash. Hamlin, 23, returns with the same American Dream Motorsports team that carried him to nine victories, more than $100,000 in winnings and consecutive championships the last two seasons.

Gary Lewis and Kevin Hamlin are the hottest drivers of late to race at Evergreen Speedway, but Jeff Jefferson spoiled their show in July of 2002 when he won the Parts Plus 125. Hamlin won the 2002 season opener with Lewis finishing second. Lewis finished second to Jefferson in the summer event while Hamlin was fifth.

Several former Evergreen Speedway super stock champions or competitors are expected to compete in the 2003 Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. The group could include familiar names such as Shane Biles, John Bender, John Zaretke, and Wade Archer joining Hamlin and Lewis. Also returning to the series in 2003 after a limited run last season is three-time series champion Ron Eaton. Eaton welcomes the Hoosier tire and eyes another victory on the series' biggest track.

As the 2002 racing season came to a close, a familiar name was among the hottest drivers over the final three races. Garrett Evans of Ardenvoir, Washington won the Napa 150 in Twin Falls, Idaho and finished second to Chris Hart in the NW Racing Ent. 150 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval to close 2002 season. With the series switching back to Hoosier Racing Tires for the 2003 season, Evans will be a force as he seeks an unprecedented fifth series title.

The 2003 Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year race in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series features some of the top first-year drivers in any NASCAR Elite Division. Pre-season favorite Jason Jefferson has won five NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge late model championships in just over two years. Brandon Riehl has finished second to Jefferson in several of those title runs and found great success at Portland Speedway prior to its conversion to dirt. Jeff Bailey is the son of a former Northwest Series driver (Ken Bailey) and has won a track championship at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval and finished second to Jefferson in 2002 at Tri-City Raceway. A sleeper in the field may be Robb Touchette. A highly successful super stock competitor at Evergreen Speedway, Touchette has had some seat time in a Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series car and is backed by former series icon, Ron Fritzly.

Jason Jefferson debuts a Dodge Intrepid on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. The race car is one of the only Dodge late model stock car racing in a NASCAR Elite Division and has support from the Ray Evernham performance division of Evernham Motorsports and the Northwest Dodge Dealers. Jefferson was a two-track late model champion in 2002 behind the wheel of a Dodge machine. Jefferson debuted his Dodge last month at Phoenix Int'l Raceway and finished 19th in the machines first outing.

Fast Facts

Big O Tires 125 (Race 1 of 14 in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series).
Evergreen Speedway, Monroe, Wash.
8:30 p.m. (PT), Saturday, March 29

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday - Practice, 6-9:30 p.m. Saturday - Practice, 1-2 p.m. and 2:30-3 p.m., Qualifying 4:45 p.m.

Ticket prices for the Saturday, March 29 running of the Raybestos Brakes NW Series Big O Tires 125 plus NSRA Winged Sprints Cars on the 5/8 oval:
    Adults Jr/Sr Child Family
    Reserved $30.00 $30.00 $30.00
    GA $25.00 $18.50 $7.50 $57.00

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Ray Evernham , Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , Jason Jefferson , John Bender , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis