Phoenix II: Season finale preview

Southwest Series Era Ends Under the Lights at Phoenix DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (November 7, 2006) The sun will set on the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series this Thursday under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway located in ...

Southwest Series Era Ends Under the Lights at Phoenix

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (November 7, 2006) The sun will set on the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series this Thursday under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway located in Avondale, Ariz. just west of downtown Phoenix. With all four of the AutoZone Elite Division championships already decided and champions crowned, the Konica Minolta "125" is all about bragging rights.

Leading the Southwest Series contingent into Phoenix is three-time race winner and 2002 Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho. Next to Ken Schrader, McKean has achieved the most consistent success at the fast one mile paved oval. To go along with his three victories, McKean has scored eight top three finishes since 2001.

"I always love racing at Phoenix," McKean said. "The track seems to really suit my driving style. With this race being the last for us I am really focused on picking up another winner's trophy."

The $111,417 event will draw more than 45 of the top regional racers from around the country who will vie for one of 42 starting positions in the 125-lap event slated for Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.

Fresh off his first Midwest Series championship and victory in the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is Tim Schendel from Sparta Wisc. Schendel has two straight fourth place finishes at Phoenix in Southwest Series competition and was the Bud Pole Award winner back in the January.

"Phoenix is just one of those racetracks that you grow up hearing about and dreaming to race at," Schendel said. "We have been coming out here for the past couple of years and have always been fast. We hope we can put it all together and score the final win out there."

Long-time series veteran M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. Is the all-time Southwest Series win leader with 22 victories but has never won at Phoenix and he is hoping to change that statistic Thursday. "We started the season wanting to win at the tracks we've never won at," Kanke said. "We crossed two off the list and all that is left is Phoenix. The competition is so tough in this series and with all the top guys from the other series here it is going to be tough."

Former Southwest Series champion (2003) Auggie Vidovich who has successfully made the transition to the NASCAR Busch Series this season will return to pilot his familiar #11 Centrifugal Technologies Chevrolet. Also returning to his former mount is Burney Lamar who has also competed this season in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Joining these former series regulars is 2001 Southwest Series champion Craig Raudman from Redding, Calif. who will make his return to the driver's seat this week after serving as crew chief for Brian Ickler on the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series this season.

"I can't wait to get to Phoenix," Raudman said. "It has been a long time and I have wanted to race all season but we just did not have time to finish the car. I have missed racing with these guys and really look forward to the race this week."

Raudman was one of the most prolific drivers in the series during the late 90's until his championship season of 2001 scoring 15 victories and 29 car Bud Pole Awards. Raudman's best finish at Phoenix was back in 2004 where he finished second.

2006 Southeast Series champion JR Norris from Hueytown, Alabama will be making his third trip to Phoenix Thursday and is definitely one of the drivers to beat.

Rounding out the regional field is a strong contingent from the Northwest Series that includes two former series champions. Returning to the driver's seat after six years is two-time Northwest Series champion Kelly Tanner from Auburn, Wash. Joining Tanner is 1990 champion John Dillon out of Eagle, Idaho. Also representing the Northwest Series is 2006 Sunoco Rookie-f-the-Year Shane Mitchell along with fellow rookie Jay Sauls along with Jeff Barkshire, Zan Sharp, and series runner-up Brandon Riehl.

"Phoenix is the biggest track that many of us will ever race on," Riehl said. "Just to race at Phoenix is a big accomplishment, but to go there and win, well. That is what it is all about."

Other notable drivers who are entered in the race include Roger Avants from Littleton, Colo. Avants is a multi-time track champion at Colorado National Speedway outside Denver and a two-time NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Regional champion. Avants holds the distinct honor of winning the very first Southwest Series race staged at the famed Saugus (CA) Speedway back in 1986.

Leilani Munter of Mooresville, NC who will be driving the Konica Minolta sponsored Chevrolet, is a recognizable face that has worked with NASCAR.Com over the past couple of season and has developed into a top racing talent.

The Southwest Series "ironman', Bob Lyon of Agua Dulce, Calif. has started more Southwest Series races (292) than any other competitor and has been a fixture on the series since 1987.

The all-time win leader at Phoenix is Ken Schrader of Fenton, MO with 25 victories; six of those coming in the Southwest Series. Schrader is the defending champion of this event.

The stage has been set for truly an all-star event that will close the books on an exciting chapter of racing for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division. While champions have been crowned and trophies mounted in places of prominence, all that is left is who will win bragging rights as the top regional racer in the country.

FAST FACTS

What: Konica Minolta "125" (Race No. 9 of 9 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series).

Where: Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.

When: 7:00 p.m. PT (approx.), Thursday, November 9, 2005.

Track layout:  One-mile paved oval.

Race length: 125 laps/125 miles.

Posted awards: $111,417

2005 winner:  Ken Schrader

2005 pole sitter: Ken Schrader

2006 Final Championship Standings: 1. Rip Michels 1325, 2. Eric Holmes 1324, 3. Eddy McKean 1228, 4. M.K. Kanke 1198, 5. David Mayhew 1113, 6. Greg Voigt 1082, 7. Jim Pettit II 1062, 8. Thomas Martin 1007, 9. Kevin Clark 960, 10. Kevin Vernon 950.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Wed. 11/8: 11:00 a.m. Haulers Enter, 11:30a.m. Registration opens, 12:00 p.m. Inspection only. Thurs. 11/9: 8:00 a.m. Garage opens, 9:30 a.m. Qualifying draw, 9:30 a.m. Rookie meeting, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Practice, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Practice, 1:30 p.m. Driver's/Crew Chief meeting, 4:00 p.m. Qualifying (2-laps), 3:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. Konica Minolta "125".

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Shane Mitchell , Eric Holmes , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Tim Schendel , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , David Mayhew , Jeff Barkshire , Leilani Munter