NWS: Wenatchee: Round four preview

JAY SAULS OFF TO FAST START IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 26, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series driver and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Jay Sauls sums up...

JAY SAULS OFF TO FAST START IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 26, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series driver and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Jay Sauls sums up his 2006 season after three events in pretty simple terms. "I haven't wrecked the car yet, so it's going pretty good."

While that is an accurate assessment it is a bit of an understatement. In actuality, Sauls, a 21 year-old racing out of Puyallup, Wash., has a pair of top-10 finishes in three outings, an eighth-place ranking in the championship point standings and a second-place ranking in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points battle. In the rookie points race he is tied with B.J. Tidrick with 21 points just behind leader Mike Longton with 22 points heading into the Holiday Inn Express 125 scheduled for July 1 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval.

Standing in the shadow of Sauls' early season success is three-time Northwest Series champion Ron Eaton. According to Sauls, the Tri-State Restaurant Supply Chevrolet team would be going no where without Eaton. "We're using his motors, so he is making us go," said the youngster.

Certainly in racing horsepower is the name of the game, but just as valuable to rookie drivers is a confidant with whom to talk things over. Eaton, a winner of 41 Northwest Series events, is as good a resource as can be found in this series.

This is an equation that has worked in recent seasons for eventual Sunoco Rookie of the Year award winners. In 2003, Jason Jefferson had his father George, a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, and older brother, Jeff, a fellow series competitor. Travis Bennett, 2004's top rookie, took the reins from Kevin Hamlin, a two-time champion. Last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Jeff Barkshire worked on four-time Northwest Series title holder Garrett Evans' crew before climbing behind the wheel of his own car.

Sauls hopes to continue that trend, but his task may be a bit more daunting than those three previous winners. This year's rookie class in the Northwest Series is 12 strong with an emphasis on strong. Four are in the top in points and eight rank in the top 20. A rookie has won two of the three Bud Pole Awards this season and two have notched podium finishes.

"It's a strong bunch of rookies, that's for sure," says Sauls. "Whoever comes out on top of this battle will have earned it. It will be a big accomplishment."

Sauls began his racing career at the age of 12 in Go-Karts and worked his way into the Late Model Challenge Series (LMCS) at 17 years of age. It was that time in the LMCS that left him with the desire to try his hand in the Northwest Series. "We had an opportunity this season to step up and change our focus from the (LMCS).

Line up every Northwest Series rookie driver this year, or any year for that matter, and the most common enlightenment is the equality of the cars leading to the high level of competition. Sauls is no exception. "I had always heard that cars in this series were pretty equal, and that is pretty true," he said. "I like it that way. Then, it is in the hands of the driver and the crews to make the proper adjustments to make the difference. The biggest thing we have learned is that you have to spend a whole lot more time working on the car to find that little edge and make sure that everything is just right."

Sauls is excited to be heading to Wenatchee this weekend. "We've always run pretty well there in Late Models, so we're looking forward to it," he stated. "It can be hard to pass sometimes, but I think that's what makes it fun and challenging."

Ticket information for the Holiday Inn Express 125 can be obtained by calling the track at (509) 884-8592 or by logging on to: www.wvso.com.

FAST FACTS

What: Holiday Inn Express 125 (Race No. 4 of 11 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series)

Where: Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval, E. Wenatchee, Wash.

When: 9:00 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, July 1, 2006

Track layout: 1/4-mile oval.
Race length: 125 laps/31.25 miles.

Posted awards: $55,913

2005 winner:  Jeff Jefferson.

2005 polesitter: John Bender.

Top 10 in points: 1. Gary Lewis -- 530; 2. Travis Bennett -- 490; 3. Wilbur Bruce -- 436; 4. Brandon Riehl -- 427; 5. B.J. Tidrick* - 411; 6. Jeff Barkshire -- 410; 7. Mike Longton* -- 408; 8. Jay Sauls* -- 401; 9. Garrett Evans -- 372; 10. Shane Mitchell* - 362

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 6/17 - 12:00 p.m. Registration opens; 3:00-4:45 p.m. Alternating Practice; 6:00 p.m. Time Trials; 7:00 p.m. Qualifying Race (if necessary); 9:00 p.m. Holiday Inn Express 125.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , John Bender , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire