WS: Altamont: Season finale preview

* Championship on the line as series heads to Altamont Motorsports Park * Peyton Sellers looks to lock up Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award * Large field of entries expected for season finale DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2006) -- The ...

* Championship on the line as series heads to Altamont Motorsports Park

* Peyton Sellers looks to lock up Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award

* Large field of entries expected for season finale

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2006) -- The championship will be on the line when the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series visits Altamont Motorsports Park near Tracy, Calif., for the Altamont 200 on Sunday, Oct. 15.

Eric Holmes (No. 62 Sunoco Race Fuels/Paul Oil Chevrolet) holds a 47-point advantage over Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) heading into the final event and can clinch the title by finishing seventh or better.

Although it has been eight years since the AutoZone West Series last visited Altamont, both Holmes and David are very familiar with the half-mile oval. Holmes won a NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race there last month and David won a NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Western Late Model race there that same weekend.

Their knowledge of the track is just one of many similarities the two drivers share. Both of them work on race cars for a living and both are shooting for their first regional series championship. Both are also second-generation competitors from California's Central Valley, within about 50 miles of Altamont. Holmes, who will turn 32 the day after the race, is from Escalon. David, 39, is from Modesto. One more thing they share is their friendship.

"We've known each other for a long time," David said. "Our dads raced against each other for years."

"We both grew up around Stockton 99 (Calif.) Speedway," Holmes added.

They also share a similar driving style, according to Holmes. "I think we drive a lot alike," he said. "We give everybody respect on the track. We've both got to work on our own cars. So, that's a plus. That's helped us be consistent."

While David was expected to contend for the series title this season, Holmes had not planned a championship campaign in the AutoZone West Series. He and his car owner, Allen Beebe, were initially going to run a limited schedule in the series this year, while competing for the championship in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. When they found themselves in contention for the AutoZone West Series title early in the season, however, they opted to chase both championships.

"Going into the year, I knew he was one of the ones to beat," Holmes said of David. "It's kind of neat in one way and makes it a little tougher in another way, knowing everybody so closely."

The two teams have been evenly matched throughout the season, David pointed out. "I think we've got a real good team and obviously he does too," he said of Holmes. "It's kind of funny, because almost every single race this year, we've raced each other. The second one at Phoenix, we were nose-to-tail going across the line. The last race at Stockton, we raced for the win and then obviously Texas," he said in reference to the most recent event when there was contact between the two as they raced for the lead on the final lap. Holmes won that race, while David spun and finished fifth.

Of the 11 series events so far this year the pair finished nose-to-tail in four races and raced door-to-door late in another.

Both competitors plan to approach this final race in the same manner they have all the others this year.

"We're not going to do anything different," Holmes said. "We expect to run good at Altamont. It's always been a good track for me. We'd like to get another win. We'll probably be a little more cautious, but nothing different. I expect to go there and have a shot at winning the pole and winning the race and having a real good weekend. I don't see any reason why we wouldn't."

David expressed a similar plan. "We're going there to win the race, just like everybody is," he said with a chuckle. "We just want to go there and run as good as we can and let whatever happens, happen and see where we end up."

Because of its location, David says Altamont is something of a home track. "Being that close to home, everybody on the crew has been there in some form or fashion on a late model team or something," he said. "I think that will help us even more."

David is quick to credit his car owner, Randy Lynch, and the Lynch Motorsports team for being in contention this year. "Mario (Isolo) does a great job as the crew chief," he said. "We're communicating real well. All they guys on our team know their job real well. I think that's why we're doing so well."

Winning the series championship, meanwhile, is something that would mean a great deal to both drivers. "That would be outstanding," David said. "It's the goal we set out when we started running. Obviously, I'm a little old to use it as a springboard to a national series, but it would be real important to me and the whole team."

It would have special meaning as well for Holmes, who missed the Southwest Series championship this year by one point. "It would mean a lot," he said. "I've never won a series title like this. Allen Beebe has never won one. He came close with his son, Troy. I've run for three tour championships and we got two seconds.

"Going into the year, I didn't have any intentions of running for this one," Holmes continued. "Missing out on the tour one, this one is even bigger than the Southwest series. It'd be a big thing for the whole team."

NEWS & NOTES

The race -- This event is the 12th and final championship race on the series schedule for 2006. It marks the return of the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series to Altamont Motorsports Park after a eight-year absence.

The track -- Altamont Motorsports Park is a semi-banked, half-mile paved oval with turns banked 12 degrees and four degrees banking in the straights.

Recent changes -- The track received extensive work at the beginning of this season. The renovation included the addition of 12 feet of racing surface on the half-mile oval and paving for a variety of other course configurations, as well as other facility improvements and landscaping.

One race left to decide the title -- Eric Holmes enters this final event with a 47-point lead over Mike David -- 1,724 to 1,677. Heading into the season finale a year ago, Scott Lynch led Mike Duncan by 41 points. Duncan overcame the deficit, however, to win his second consecutive title.

Beebe nears championship -- Although Holmes has a 47-point margin over David in points for the drivers, Allen Beebe leads by 105 points in the standings for car owners. Beebe can clinch the car owner's championship by his car just taking the green flag at Altamont. The points for Beebe and Holmes differ because Holmes drove for a different car owner at Sonoma and finished 25th, while Beebe's car finished seventh.

Close battles throughout -- Drivers throughout the top 16 spots in the points are challenging to move up in the final championship standings for the season. Just 49 points separate the three drivers in third, fourth and fifth -- Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet), Steve Portenga (No. 77 King Taco/SignCo Ford) and Peyton Sellers (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet). Only 74 points separate the five drivers in seventh through 11th -- Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet), Brian Ickler (No. 20 McMillin Homes/NAPAFILTERS.COM Chevrolet), Austin Cameron (No. 88 RaceCarFans.com Chevrolet), Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford) and Justin Lofton (No. 66 Bob Lofton Cattle Feeding Investments Chevrolet). The next three drivers, 12th through 14th, are separated by only 24 points. They are Tim Woods III (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford), Eric Hardin (No. 18 Hardin Buick-Pontiac-GMC/DSNTV Chevrolet) and Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet). Meanwhile, Jack Sellers (No. 75 Aramark Pontiac) holds a 50-point margin over Brett Thompson (No. 61 Thompson Motorsports/Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet) for the 15th spot and an automatic invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year title -- Peyton Sellers heads into the final event of 2006 continuing to lead the challenge for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. He is trailed closely by Justin Lofton and Brian Ickler, followed by Eric Hardin.

Series newcomers -- Several drivers are slated to make their series debut at Altamont. They include second-generation driver Jim Courage Jr. (No. 25 Landgrow.com/Downtown Ford Sacramento/Red Line Oil Ford), Darrell Midgley (No. 09 Northern Provincial Pipelines Chevrolet) and Wade Bland (No. 90 Alpine Group Chevrolet).

Championship battle decided in Northern California -- It has been 33 years since the AutoZone West Series last held its season finale at a Northern California track. The series closed out its 1973 campaign at the half-mile Altamont track, which was then known as Altamont Speedway. While Jack McCoy had already secured the championship, Jim Insolo went on to win the 100-lap race.

Altamont visits -- Altamont Motorsports Park has hosted 12 AutoZone West Series events overall, with five of those between 1995 and 1998.

Previous visit -- The last AutoZone West Series visit to Altamont Motorsports Park was in June of 1998. Kevin Harvick passed Gary Smith on the final lap to capture one of five victories he garnered en route to winning the series championship that year.

No recent repeat winners -- The five most recent AutoZone West Series races at Altamont Motorsports Park produced five different winners.

Front runners at Altamont -- Three drivers -- Ray Elder, Jim Insolo and Jack McCoy -- lead series competition at Altamont, with two wins each. In the modern era (since 1971), Insolo leads in terms of top-five finishes -- with four -- and is tied with Ray Elder for top-10 finishes -- with four each.

Budweiser Poles at Altamont -- Sean Woodside has the most Budweiser Pole Awards in the modern era, with three. Woodside also tops the charts in terms of laps led in that era, running out front for 463 laps.

Competition -- In the nine series races at Altamont since 1971, 110 different drivers took the green flag.

Dodge leads -- With four wins, the Dodge nameplate has been in victory lane at Altamont more than any other manufacturer.

Race distance -- The 12 series races at Altamont varied in distance. The first series visit in 1966 was a 100-lap event, followed by a 150-lap race later that year. Drivers ran 200 laps there in 1968. Two Altamont events in 1973 and two in 1974 were all 100 laps in distance. When the series returned more than two decades later -- the race distance doubled as races in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 were 200 laps. A second visit in 1997 went 250 laps, meanwhile.

Stat of the race -- Three of the nine modern era events at Altamont were won by a driver starting from the Budweiser Pole position.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the second half of October include Eric Holmes, who turns 32 on the 16th; Sean Woodside, who turns 36 also on the 16th; Peyton Sellers, who turns 23 on the 20th; Stan Silva Jr., who turns 41 on the 26th; and David Cardey, who turns 31 on the 31st. Celebrating his 66th birthday on the 28th is Joe Dehorty, known to everyone in the series "Spotter Joe."

FAST FACTS

What: ALTAMONT 200, NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Race #12

Where: Altamont Motorsports Park, Tracy, Calif.
When: 5:00 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 15

Track layout: .5-mile paved oval.
Distance: 200 Laps, 100 miles.

Posted Awards: $124,414

2005 winner: Event not held.
2005 polesitter: Event not held.

Records: Qualifying: Sean Woodside, March 22, 1997, 99.053 mph, 18.172 sec.; Race: Butch Gilliland, March 23, 1997, 71.217 mph, 1 hr 24 min 15 sec

Pre-race schedule: Sunday -- Practice, 10:30-11:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Qualifying, 3:30 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Top 10: 1. Eric Holmes 1,724, 2. Mike David 1,677, 3. Mike Duncan 1,616, 4. Steve Portenga 1,590, 5. Peyton Sellers 1,567, 6. Jim Inglebright 1,507, 7. Scott Gaylord 1,474, 8. Brian Ickler 1,449, 9. Austin Cameron 1,446, 10. Johnny Borneman 1,404.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Steve Portenga , Gary Smith , Tim Woods , Jim Inglebright , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Brett Thompson , Scott Lynch , Mike David , Eric Holmes , Stan Silva Jr. , Austin Cameron , Peyton Sellers , Andrew Myers , Justin Lofton , Brian Ickler