SWS: Altamont II: Season finale preview

THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS ON THE LINE AT ALTAMONT IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHWEST SERIES COMPETITION DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 21, 2006) -- The last time the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series visited Altamont ...

THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS ON THE LINE AT ALTAMONT IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHWEST SERIES COMPETITION

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 21, 2006) -- The last time the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series visited Altamont Motorsports Park, located outside Tracy, Calif. back in July, M.K. Kanke mastered the tricky half-mile paved oval for one of his 22 Southwest Series career leading victories. Kanke may be chasing another checkered flag but he also has an outside shot at claiming his first championship.

Embroiled in the championship battle are series point leader Rip Michels from San Fernando, Calif. who is coming off his first series victory last month at Irwindale (CA) Speedway. Michels holds a slim eleven point edge over area favorite Eric Holmes from nearby Escalon, Calif. Holmes claimed the win last month at Colorado National Speedway in a special combination event with Midwest Series.

Sitting third in the championship standings just 45 points behind Michels is 2002 Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho. McKean has six top five finishes and has finished all seven races thus far in the top ten completing 865 of 866 laps contested thus far this season.

The championship scenario is pretty simple for the top three. Michels needs to finish ahead of Holmes and McKean and he will be the champion. Holmes needs to finish ahead of both Michels and McKean by at least four positions and he is the champion. McKean needs to score 46 more points than Michels and Holmes. In order for Kanke to claim the title, well he'll have to repeat as the winner and hope all three ahead him have back luck and finish at the tail end of the field.

"Every team has worked real hard all season for this and for the championship to come down to the last race is a great way to end the season," Michels said. "I really like Altamont. It is smooth but tricky track and you really can't make any mistakes out there."

When asked about the championship, Michels was philosophical. "We just need to go out and race like we have all season. Don't get me wrong, we want to win in the worst way, but we just have to race our race."

Holmes not only is seeking his first Southwest Series title but he also leads the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series point standings heading into their final two events. With dual championships on his mind and a return to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown next month, you would think there is a lot of pressure. But Holmes is low key.

"Winning championships is always on your mind", Holmes said. "We first want to win races and if that puts us in contention then you know we are going to race for it. We have had a great year and if we were able to win at Altamont it would be a great achievement."

Altamont has been stingy with victories for Southwest Series drivers as only Doug McCoun (97, 98) has claimed more than one triumph on the half-mile paved oval. Craig Raudman, Mark Reed, Eric Holmes, and M.K. Kanke each has one victory apiece.

Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year leader David Mayhew from Atascadero, Calif. has all but locked up the rookie title for 2006. After competing in a limited number of races last season Mayhew has come out strong this season qualifying in the top ten for all seven races thus far. Mayhew finished twelfth at Altamont back in July after a late race incident damaged his car while running in the top five all race.

"I am really looking forward to going back to Altamont," Mayhew said. "I think we have a shot at the win as good as we ran there back in July. We have had a great season and a win would mean a lot to me and my team."

Mayhew is currently holding down the fifth place in the point standings after seven events with four top ten finishes this season. "I am comfortable in the car and feel real good about our chances this weekend."

Looking to close out his season on a high note is two-time and defending Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II from nearby Prunedale, Calif. Pettit has a lot of experience at Altamont and hopes to use that experience to win Saturday night. "Since our season did not go as planned all we are thinking about is winning this weekend," Pettit said. "The staff at Altamont has really created a great venue for racing and this final race will be one heck of a show."

M.K. Kanke from Frazier Park, Calif. is the track record holder at Altamont with a quick lap of 17.612 seconds set back in 2000. Kanke is also a driver to watch as he won the last time the series visited Altamont back in July and has an outside shot at claiming the series this weekend if Michels, Holmes, and McKean all have difficulties.

"I really do not think much about championships," Kanke said. "I race to win and that is what our team is focused on." Kanke is currently fourth in the standings just 122 points behind point leader Michels. Kanke has four top five finishes at Altamont Motorsports Park in Southwest Series competition.

Long-time series veteran Bob Lyon of Agua Dulce, Calif. will make his 291 career start at Altamont Saturday, the most of any Southwest Series competitor in the series' 21-year history. Lyon is coming off a seventh place finish at the combination event at Colorado National Speedway August 19.

The $56,584 event at Altamont Motorsports Park this weekend will be the final race point's race this season for the Southwest Series and the last chance for drivers to earn an invitation to the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown set for next month at Irwindale (CA) Speedway.

Ticket information for the AutoZone "150" can be obtained by calling the track at (209) 383-7671 or by logging on to: www.altamontracing.com.

FAST FACTS

What: AutoZone 150 (Race No. 8 of 8 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series)

Where: Altamont Motorsports Park, Tracy, Calif.

When: 8:15 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, September 23, 2006

Track layout: 1/2-mile oval.
Race length: 150 laps/75 miles.

Posted awards: $56,584

2005 Race Winner:  Event Not Held

2005 Bud Pole Award: Event Not Held

Top 10 in points: 1. Rip Michels -- 1155; 2. Eric Holmes -- 1144; 3. Eddy McKean -- 1110; 4. M.K. Kanke-- 1033; 5. David Mayhew* - 958; 6. Greg Voigt -- 922; 7. Jim Pettit II -- 912; 8. Thomas Martin -- 877; 9. Kevin Clark -- 826; 10. Kevin Vernon- 823.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 9/23 - 9:00 a.m. Registration opens; 10:00 a.m. Inspection Begins; 1:00-3:00 p.m. Practice; 5:00 p.m. Time Trials; 7:00 p.m. Qualifying Race (if necessary); 7:10 p.m. AutoZone "150".

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Mark Reed , Eric Holmes , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , David Mayhew