THE TOP 10 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. The top...
THE TOP 10
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. 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 fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, October 20-21 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 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Moore-Lewis Racing. Points: 700 Previous ranking: 1. A trying 2005 season ended on a solid note for Lewis. After failing to win a race for the first time since the 1995 season, he finished a Northwest Series-best fifth in last season's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The Moore-Lewis Racing team went right to work in 2006 and built upon that momentum. In four races, they have a pair of wins and two second-place finishes. "We learned some things at the (NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown), and then learned some things at Meridian and at Magic Valley and so on. It has really begun to snowball. We're not going to rest. We're going to keep working," says Lewis. The next stop for the series is at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., where Lewis has won eight of his last 29 starts with eight other top-five finishes.
No. 2 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting/Knudson Lumber/Farmer's Insurance Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 620 (-80). Previous ranking: 2. No one knows the value of one point more than Bennett. He lost the 2004 championship to Jeff Jefferson by one point and missed out on a berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown last season by just a single tally. The team from DS Racing has moved on from those narrow misses and is focused on another run at a championship in 2006. Bennett has posted three top fives this season in four outings after having just one all of last season. He won the Bud Pole in both of the series' visits to Evergreen Speedway last season and is looking to turn that success into his first Northwest Series victory this year.
No. 3 -- Jay Sauls, Puyallup, Wash. (No. 20 Tri-State Restaurant Supply/Canyon Auto Paint Supply Chevrolet), Team: Sauls Racing. Points: 581 (-119). Previous ranking: 8. Sauls won the Holiday Inn Express 125 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in East Wenatchee, Wash. in just his fourth Northwest Series start. He became the first rookie to win a Northwest Series event since Jason Jefferson won at Tri-City Raceway on April 26, 2003. He moved from eighth to third in the championship point standings with the win. The current leader in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings has two other top-10 efforts this season to go along with his victory. Sauls is the first of four Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in this week's top 10.
No. 4 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/SPE Racing Engines Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 570 (-130). Previous ranking: 6. Last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year had victory in sight for the second time this season last weekend in Wenatchee, but found trouble navigating lapped traffic just as he did in the season opener at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway. However, to date, Barkshire has avoided anything resembling a sophomore slump with three top-five performances in four races this season.
No. 5 -- Mike Longton, Moxee, Wash. (No. 37 Key Financial/Owens Enterprises Chevrolet), Team: Longton Motorsports. Points: 550 (-150). Previous ranking: 7. Longton is having a breakout season. Last season was a myriad of blown motors and bad luck and produced just one top-10 finish in his five starts. This year, however, he has logged three top 10s in four outings. He finished a career-best sixth on June 17 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway and followed that up with a strong eighth-place finish last weekend in Wenatchee. Longton is right on the heels of Sauls in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
No. 6 -- Wilbur Bruce, Lakewood, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 545 (-155). Previous ranking: 3. This week brought a drop in points from third to sixth after encountering trouble in the early going last weekend at Wenatchee. It resulted in a finish in 18th. It was the first time Bruce had finished outside of the top 10 this season. Since rejoining the Northwest Series on a full-time basis last season, the No. 8 of Bruce has produced 10 top-10 finishes in 14 tries. The next race at Evergreen Speedway on July 15 will be his 75th career start in the Northwest Series.
No. 7 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 533 (-167). Previous ranking: 4. Riehl's 2006 season picked up right where he left off in 2005 when he finished in the runner-up position in the point standings. He won the season's first race at Meridian Speedway and notched a third-place finish in the second race at Magic Valley Speedway. The last two races haven't shown the same results. Despite displaying one of the stronger cars in practice and time trials, early race accidents have produced finishes of 27th and 19th, respectively. The No. 69 team will have to regain focus quickly to keep its championship aspirations alive.
No. 8 -- Shane Mitchell, Orondo, Wash. (No. 99 Mitchell Trucking & Paving/Coca-Cola Chevrolet), Team: Mitchell Motorsports. Points: 527 (-173). Previous ranking: 10. Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender Mitchell seemingly has reached a comfort level in a tour car. Also, racing at tracks with which he is familiar doesn't hurt either. The season's first two races were held at race tracks on which he had little or no experience. He posted finishes of 18th and 25th in those two events, but has bounced back with back-to-back third-place efforts in a pair of Washington stops. He was the fastest qualifier in Yakima and second-fastest last week in Wenatchee.
No. 9 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 518 (-182). Previous ranking: 9. The four-time Northwest Series champion posted his first top 10 of the season last weekend in Wenatchee, but, more impressively, it was the 200th of his 22-year career in the series. Evans is the epitome of consistency in the series by finishing in the top 10 in nearly 70% of the 290 Northwest Series races in which he has competed. Also last weekend, he extended his own series record by winning his 64th career Bud Pole Award. It was his first Bud Pole since May 29, 2004 at Yakima Speedway.
No. 10 -- B.J. Tidrick, Yakima, Wash. (No. 72 Winner's Choice/CBT Slotcars & Hobbies Chevrolet), Team: Tidrick Racing. Points: 499 (-201). Previous ranking: 5. Tidrick's first visit to Wenatchee for a Northwest Series event will be one he'd just as soon forget. He was forced to retire his overheating racecar after just 51 laps resulting in a finish in 25th place. It also precipitated a fall from fifth to 10th in the point standings. The unfortunate finish snapped a string of two consecutive top-10 efforts for the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year candidate. He currently holds fifth place in the rookie standings, nine points off the pace set by Sauls.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- Steven Howard, Roy, Wash. (No. 38 Great Northwest Homes Chevrolet), Team: Howard Motorsports. Points: 487 (-213). Previous ranking: 13. Howard turned in his second straight top-10 performance of the season to move to the brink of the top 10 in points. After missing the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown for the first time last season, the No. 38 team is looking to regain its top-10 form. Even though, they are off Lewis' torrid pace by over 200 points, they are just 12 points behind Tidrick in 10th and, for that matter, just 40 points behind Mitchell in eighth.
New to the top 10: None
Dropped out of the top 10: None