THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 21, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest ...
THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 21, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. At season's end the top ten drivers in each of the four series (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division will be invited to compete in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. This special post-season invitational event will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel and awards competitors nearly $500,000 in prize money.
No. 1 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 1257. Previous ranking: 3. Riehl posted his second win of the season and his fourth straight top-10 finish in the Aero Turbine Muffler 200 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway on September 4. With that, he took the lead in the championship point standings from Jeff Jefferson. Riehl, who won the first race of the season, also at Yakima, led the standings following the year's first two events. The final race of the 2005 campaign is the Dick's Heating and Air Conditioning 200 on September 25 at the Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval (WVSO). Riehl's best career finish there is a fourth-place finish on July 2, 2004.
No. 2 -- Jeff Jefferson, Naches, Wash. (No. 42 LeMay Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet), Team: Morgan Racing. Points: 1243 (-14). Previous ranking: 1. When it rains; it pours. Jefferson had problems for the second consecutive race. This time a blown motor was the culprit and it forced the series' two-time defending champion to rent Garrett Evans' back-up car for the Yakima race. That resulted in an 11th-place finish and a drop out of the top spot in points for the first time since early July. The last two events have cost Jefferson 100 points. He went from a lead of 86 points to a 14-point deficit. The good news for the Jefferson gang is that they have won two of the last three events at WVSO with the third being a second-place effort. Also, this is familiar ground for Jefferson, who entered the final race of last season trailing by 15 points.
No. 3 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 1227 (-30). Previous ranking: 2. Like Jefferson, Harding experienced problems of his own in Yakima allowing Riehl to leapfrog into the top spot. Ever heard the saying that good things happen in threes? Well, Harding's son, Shane, clinched the 2005 track championship at Evergreen Speedway in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series all while being blessed with his first grandchild. Harding has not fared too well of late in Wenatchee, but won there in July 2002.
No. 4 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing/Pure Power Lubricants Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 1188 (-69). Previous ranking: 4. Evans demonstrated the true spirit of sportsmanship in Yakima. He could have very easily not offered the use of his other car to Jefferson and benefited from the gain in points. It proved to be a night in which the help would have come in handy. Despite finishing ninth for his eighth straight top 10, it was not an easy night at the racetrack for the Evans bunch. It will take some extraordinary circumstances for Evans to earn that fifth series title, but he will finish in the top 10 in points for the second year in a row and for the 17th time in his 21 years as part of the Northwest Series.
No. 5 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 1179 (-78). Previous ranking: 5. Bruce and his team continue to roll along this season. They followed up their win at Magic Valley Speedway with a solid sixth-place run in Yakima. It was their fourth finish of sixth or better in the last five races. In the last visit to WVSO in July, Bruce struggled a little in finishing 12th; his second-to-worst finish of the year. If the season ended today, Bruce would be one of three drivers to make their NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown debut this season with Jeff Barkshire and John Dillon being the other two.
No. 6 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 OSO Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 1121 (-136). Previous ranking: 6. After a pair of top-five finishes, Bender finished a disappointing 13th in the Aero Turbine Muffler 200. He seems to have a solid handle on his third-straight trip to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, but racing is not the focus for this driver right now. His wife, Amy, gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, this past Sunday evening. Come this weekend, though, he will need to improve on his last three finishes at WVSO of 19th, 16th and 11th.
No. 7 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 1119 (-138). Previous ranking: 8. Barkshire, the odd-on favorite for the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Award, equaled his best career finish of second in Yakima to snap a string to two straight finished outside the top 10. The other second-place finish came in Wenatchee in July. In addition to making his Northwest Series debut this season, Barkshire also raced his NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series event this past weekend in Roseburg, Ore. If successful at staying in the top 10 in points and taking rookie honors, he will be the third consecutive Northwest Series rookie of the year to accomplish that feat following in the footsteps of Jason Jefferson and Travis Bennett.
No. 8 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 1112 (-145). Previous ranking: 7. Dillon logged a finish of 10th at Yakima Speedway for his fifth top-10 showing in six races. Dillon continues the learning process after being away from the series for the better part of the last 14 years. However, the 1990 series champion has been quite competitive this season as he looks for his first berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 9 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 1106 (-151). Previous ranking: 9. Bailey overcame some adversity to finish third at the Aero Turbine Muffler 200 after winning his second career Bud Pole Award. It was his best finish of the season, to date. More and more, the Bailey team is showing that last season's 13th-place finish in points was the fluke rather than the eighth-place effort in their rookie season of 2003. Bailey posted one of his five top 10s this season in the July Wenatchee race.
No. 10 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 World's Gym/Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 1066 (-191). Previous ranking: 11. This easily has to be the most difficult and trying season of Lewis' Northwest Series career. A streak of nine consecutive seasons with a victory is in jeopardy as is his streak of five straight top-10 finishes in points. He still persevered enough to log his fourth top-five finish in the most recent Yakima event. His problem is the three finished in 20th or worse this season.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 1052 (-205). Previous ranking: 10. Bennett's Northwest Series career has been a tale of two seasons. Last season's rookie-of-the-year campaign brought seven top fives en route to the runner-up position in points. This year, Bennett does have five top-10 finishes, but he has yet to crack the top five. On the outside looking in is not where this team is accustomed to being. Between Bennett and Kevin Hamlin at the wheel, the No. 33 car has finished in the top 10 in points in each of the last six years. Bennett posted his season-best finish of seventh in the first Wenatchee race.
New to the top 10: Gary Lewis
Dropped out of the top 10: Travis Bennett