NWS: Wenatchee: Round four preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 16, 2003) -- Coming off the 3/8s-mile oval at Evergreen Speedway, the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series heads for an even faster venue racing the Cellular One "125" at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 16, 2003) -- Coming off the 3/8s-mile oval at Evergreen Speedway, the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series heads for an even faster venue racing the Cellular One "125" at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval (WVSO), May 24, 2003.

Laps will click-off every fourteen seconds while the best drivers in the northwest compete for $41,272 in prize money attempting to tame the fastest ¼-mile short track on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series schedule.

The Cellular One "125" is the fourth of fourteen races on the series schedule and the first of three series races to be hosted by Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval this season.

Coming off his first NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series win at Evergreen Speedway John Bender (No. 18 Big Daddy's Bar & Grill Chevrolet ), of Monroe, Wash., rolls into Wenatchee first in the series championship point race holding a 19 point lead over Jason Jefferson (No. 97 Northwest Dodge Dealers Dodge), of Yakima, Wash..

"I look forward to racing Wenatchee. It's tight, but there is room to pass on the straights. We're racing for a top five," said Bender. "If things go our way we'll get into the top thee."

He continues, "Wenatchee is such a great place to race, the facility itself makes it worth the trip. The track management treats us so well it's something I look forward to."

With three of fourteen races in the books, and three different point leaders following each event Bender, the 2001 Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series rookie-of-the-year, thinks there will be many different point leaders this season.

"Anyone in the top ten could win each weekend. As for the series championship point race it could change from team to team every race. Competition within this series is very close, and it will be a tough deal holding on to it. I just hope to race well this season and be sitting No. 1 at the end of the last race," said Bender.

Kevin Hamlin (No. 33 D.T.G Chevrolet), of Snohomish, Wash., arrives at WVSO coming off a miracle fourth place finish at Evergreen Speedway following a final lap collision involving many of the front runners.

Hamlin won the spring race at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in 2002. With three career wins on the ¼-mile oval, Hamlin has an interest in how well the Hoosier tire will perform on Wenatchee's surface.

"We've had some great runs there in the past. I'm anxious to see how the new tire compound will work on a track with a newer surface. Wenatchee is definitely on of my favorite places to race," said Hamlin.

Gary Lewis (No. 73 Sign Factory Racing Pontiac), of Bothell, Wash., has 24 career wins and 23 Bud Pole Awards in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, finds his team off to a difficult start early in the 2003 season, with just one top-10 finish out of the three races.

Lewis, the 1998 series champion, sits No. 13 in the point chase following a 21st place performance on Evergreen Speedway's 3/8s-mile oval.

"We actually had a great car at Evergreen in practice. The problem was we blew a left rear shock on the last two laps of practice, and I blamed it on the spring package we tried," said Lewis.

He continued, "The season so far has been tough for the Lewis Racing Team. The racing gods have not been on our side. The good thing is that we have had good cars at each race; we just haven't brought home the trophy yet. As far as the rest of the season goes we need to figure out what shock package we can afford to run, then just keep plugging away. We know we can win races; we just need to get rid of those racing gremlins."

Sitting second in the championship point race, just 19 points back of John Bender, Jefferson holds on to first position in the in the Victory Circle Chassis rookie-of-the-year point race -- six points in front of Brian Saling (No. 23 Pantrol/Parts Plus Chevrolet) following the race at Evergreen Speedway.

Jefferson echoes the feeling of many drivers regarding the quality experience of Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval.

"I just love to race Wenatchee; it's such a great place. I've never won there, but ran second many times, our goal is a top-10," said Jefferson.

With one win and two top-5 finishes this season, Jefferson wrote some NASCAR Elite Division history when he took the first victory for the Dodge nameplate with his NASCAR Elite Division win at Tri-City Raceway on April 26, 2003.

"We have a great team with even better sponsors. We had planned to race the late model show at WVSO this week, but our focus is preparing the tour car and making sure it is ready to go for Wenatchee. The people with Mike Olson Dodge, SPE Racing Engines, and Energy Release Products go to great lengths so that our team can race this series. My crew chief, Sam Roebuck, and engine builder Don Simmonson put more time into this than anyone will know. All these people make this team what it is, special thanks go out to all of them," said Jefferson.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

* Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval has been hosting Northwest Series events since 1988. The Cellular One "125" will mark the 30th event at what many regard as the Northwest's most refined racing venue.

* Fourteen drivers have taken victories at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval; of that group four are active within the series. Each a prior Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series Champion including; Garrett Evans 1985, 89, 94, and 2000 series champion with four WVSO wins, Gary Lewis 1998 series champion with three wins, Kevin Hamlin 2001, 02 series champion with three WVSO wins, and Pete Harding 1999 series champion with one WVSO win.

* Kevin Hamlin (No. 33 D.T.G. Chevrolet), holds the Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval race record for a 125 lap event at 30 minutes, 36 seconds set May 26, 2001.

* Qualifying record set by Ken Kaltschmidt, August 21, 1999 at 12.577 seconds.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers John Bender , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis