SWS/MWS: Pikes Peak: The clash preview

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHWEST SERIES AND MIDWEST SERIES SET FOR CLASH AT PIKES PEAK DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) - For the second time this season the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and Midwest Series ...

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, SOUTHWEST SERIES AND MIDWEST SERIES SET FOR CLASH AT PIKES PEAK

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) - For the second time this season the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and Midwest Series will compete head-to-head in a special combination event. This weekend, both series return to Pikes Peak International Raceway for the running of the King Soopers Freedom "150".

Leading the Midwest Series regulars into PPIR will be 2004 Series Champion and current point leader Justin Diercks of Davenport, Iowa. Diercks has two straight third place finishes at the one-mile paved oval and is looking to continue his series dominance where he has won the first three events of the season.

"We are not necessarily focusing on the championship; we just plan to work hard and try to win races and let the points take care of themselves," said Diercks.

The Midwest Series has competed at PPIR eight times over the last seven years with only Travis Kvapil visiting victory lane twice (99, 00). Eddie Hoffman took the checkers in last year's installment with Southwest Series regular Auggie Vidovich finishing second. Justin Diercks, Steve Carlson, and Colorado Springs competitor Kevin Clark rounded out the top five finishers.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Series returns to PPIR after a three hiatus. Lead by defending series champion Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif., the series regulars hope a return to PPIR creates a little mile high magic.

"Both these series' have very talented drivers," Pettit said. "These combination races are tough, but when you have the caliber of drivers we have then the racing is always spectacular. My goal is to leave Pikes Peak with a solid finish because we have four races in four weeks, so this stretch may determine the championship."

When the Southwest last visited PPIR back in 2002, Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho picked up the win en route to his first series championship. Todd Souza, M.K. Kanke, Scott Lynch, and Sean Woodside were the top five. Southwest Series veteran M.K. Kanke has three top three finishes at PPIR and currently sits fourth in the Southwest Series standings.

This special combination event for the Midwest and Southwest Series' competitors is the second such event this season. Last month the best of both series' gathered at Colorado National Speedway in Erie for a 150-lap clash that saw Northwest Series regular Brandon Riehl get the better of all and claim the victory. Justin Diercks (MW), Burney Lamar (SW), Eddie Hoffman (MW), and Steve Carlson (MW) rounded out the top five finishers.

More than 45 drivers are expected to compete for forty-two starting positions in the $108,772 event. Qualifying will be at a premium, but pit strategy will likely be the key to victory. Eddy McKean from the Southwest Series has ten top three finishes in his last eleven races on one-mile tracks including three victories, so the edge may be in his favor.

"It would be great to return to Pikes Peak and win again," McKean said. "It is such a great race track that is plenty wide; there is room to pass." When asked about his prowess for the big tracks, McKean does not think he necessarily has an advantage. "All the guys in both series' are great drivers. I think it just comes down to set up, experience and luck. I am going into the race knowing that I can win."

Both the Midwest and Southwest Series drivers arrive at PPIR after competing at quarter-mile bullrings. The Midwest series was at Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn. where Justin Diercks won his third event of the season and padded his point lead over Wheaton, Illinois' Eddie Hoffman. Meanwhile the Southwest Series completed their eighth event of the season at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. Auggie Vidovich won his third victory of the season with current point leader Jim Pettit II finishing second.

Teams will have to make big adjustments to their cars as they go from the smallest venues on the schedule to the largest. Aerodynamics, pit strategy, horsepower, and luck will all come into play.

Neither series regularly conducts pit stop races so the team that is mistake free and performs the quickest pit stop may well hold the advantage. The past races at PPIR have had very few caution flags so track position is another key factor in a race that should only see one pit stop.

Dave Finley holds the track qualifying record for the Midwest Series with a quick lap of 26.974 seconds/133.462 mph while Kenny Shepherd holds that mark for the Southwest Series with a lap of 26.831seconds/134.173 mph. Both marks were set back in 2000.

Tim Schendel of Sparta Wisc. holds the 150-lap Midwest Series race record for his 2002 victory in a race that took one hour, 17 minutes and 10 seconds to complete at an average speed of 116.631 mph on July 27, 2002. Eddy McKean holds the Southwest Series 100-lap race record at one hour, 1 minute, and 18 seconds set back on May 19, 2002.

Schendel is hoping the trip Colorado yields success. "We have not had a lot of good luck this season," Schendel said. "I am really looking forward to this weekend. I love racing on the big tracks and I know we have a set up that is competitive, but it going to be a tough race to win. The Southwest has a lot of drivers that do really well on the big tracks. I am confident we can run in the top five all day."

Which series has the advantage? Well, it is probably a toss up. The driver and team that have a mistake free weekend and who has luck on their side may well claim the victory. The big winners will be PPIR and the fans as the best of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division converge at Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway for a prelude to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown that will be stage in November.

Fast Facts

What: King Soopers freedom "150" NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest/Midwest Series combination Event

Where: Pikes Peak Int'l Raceway, Fountain, Colo..
When: Saturday, July 23 at 10:30 a.m. (approx.).

Posted awards: $ 108,722

Race length: 150 laps, 150 miles
Track layout: One-mile paved oval.

2004 Race Winner: Eddie Hoffman
2004 Race Bud Pole Winner: Joey Miller

Pre-Race Schedule: Thursday 7/21 Haulers park 5-6:00 p.m., Registration begins Friday 7/22 Registration 6:30 a.m., Garage Opens 7:00 a.m., Rookie Meeting 11:10 a.m., Practice 12:10 p.m. -- 1:10 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m., Bud Pole qualifying 6:00 p.m. Saturday 7/23 7:00 a.m. Garage Opens, 8:30 a.m. Mandatory Driver/Crew Chief meeting, King Soopers Freedom "150" 10:30 a.m.

Southwest Series Top 10 Drivers: 1. Jim Pettit II 1262, 2. Burney Lamar 1188, 3. Auggie Vidovich 1176, 4. M.K. Kanke 1111, 5. Greg Voigt 1096, 6. Eddy McKean 1045, 7. Nick Lynch 1016, 8. Greg Pursley 1014, 9. Thomas Martin 977, 10. Rip Michels 956.

Midwest Series Top 10 Drivers: 1. Justin Diercks 540, 2. Eddie Hoffman 490, 3. Steve Carlson 481, 4. Josh Vadnais 450, 5. Andrew Morrissey 444, 6. Brent Kirchner 440, 7. Tim Schendel 435, 8. Russ Blakeley 400, 9. Dexter Bean 394, 10. Greg Fowler 394.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Scott Lynch , Greg Pursley , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Kenny Shepherd , Auggie Vidovich , Tim Schendel , Joey Miller , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , Steve Carlson , Travis Kvapil