WS: Irwindale: Round six preview

* Rookie brings varied motorsports background to West Series * NAPA team hopes to continue Irwindale dominance * 18-year-old rookie leads talented class of freshman drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) - The ...

* Rookie brings varied motorsports background to West Series

* NAPA team hopes to continue Irwindale dominance

* 18-year-old rookie leads talented class of freshman drivers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2005) - The career path that led Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet) to the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series is one that has featured plenty of twist and turns - as well as some waves and jumps.

His racing background includes jet skis, off-road vehicles and NASCAR late model stock cars. The 25-year-old driver from Huntington Beach, Calif., has faced a learning curve with each new direction his racing has taken him.

This year he tackled the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series - as a rookie driver with a rookie team in the series. "I think we've done quite well," Myers said. "We're on quite a learning curve. We've made a few mistakes - some as a driver and some as a team, but all in all I think we've put together quite a package that will shine throughout the remainder of the year."

Myers is looking forward to his next opportunity, as the West Series visits his home track of Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway for the King Taco 150 on Saturday, July 23. The event, the fifth in a 12-race schedule on this year's circuit, will be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, SPEED Channel will provide an enhanced replay on Aug. 12.

"I am extremely excited about Irwindale, because I've had success at that track before," Myers said in reference to his two years of competing in the NASCAR late model division at the state-of-the-art facility. "It kind of takes out one of the variables as far as the racing. I can concentrate more on the car and I don't have to concentrate as much on learning the track. I feel very comfortable at the track, being my home track."

Myers enters the event 10th in the championship standings and second in the chase for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. "I think my experience at Irwindale will be very beneficial - just learning the track and knowing the different lines," Myers said. "We've tested there with the West Series car once already. I think it will be great."

To bolster his team with experience, Myers obtained the services earlier this year of former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Phil Bonifield as crew chief - along with help from three-time NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series champion Jamie Aube.

"We got them to come out and help get our program lifted off and moving forward," Myers said. The effort was rewarded with top-10 finish in the third race of the season.

Myers is among a talented field of 10 drivers registered for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. His venture into the NASCAR Grand National Division is the latest twist to a career in motorsports that began 12 years ago. His first taste of competition was at the age of 13, racing jet skis in 1993. He competed through 1997, the year he tied for first in the jet ski world finals.

The following year he turned his attention to off-road racing, a sport his dad had competed in since 1978 and in which his brothers also participated. "I was at the age where I wanted to change sports," Myers said. "So, I started racing off road."

He initially competed in an open-wheel class with limited engine specifications. Myers later changed to an open-wheel class with unlimited engines. "It was one of the top classes out there," said Myers, whose major wins came in the Baja 2000 and the Nevada 2000. "I raced that for a couple of years and then decided to switch sports again, because I wanted to make racing into a career."

Myers tackled the highly competitive late model division at Irwindale Speedway. "The late models at Irwindale have some of the toughest racing around in late model short track racing," Myers said. "The last two years there have been very competitive. It taught me a lot to run with those guys."

Going head to head with tough competition is a great education, according to Myers. "It's the only way to learn," he said. "It excels you. If someone is faster, you have to do something to get quicker."

Myers won the rookie title and finished 10th in the point standings at Irwindale in 2003. Last year, he finished fourth in the final standings.

"Then I decided I needed to take another step in a direction that would push my career and get some exposure," Myers said. "So, we decided on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series." He hopes the move will help him eventually reach the national level in NASCAR.

NEWS & NOTES

* The race . The King Taco 150 is the fifth race on the series schedule for 2005. It is the only NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series championship points race at Irwindale this season.

* The track . Irwindale Speedway is a half-mile paved oval with blended banking of six, nine and 12 degrees in the corners and banking of six degrees in the straights. The track has hosted 12 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series events.

* Last year's Irwindale event . David Gilliland (No. 88 RaceCarCeilingFans.com Chevrolet) led the early stages of last year's event, but relinquished the top spot after pitting with a flat tire on lap 40. Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet), who started from the Bud Pole, swapped lead back and forth with Scott Lynch (No. 08 Mr. Gas Dodge) several times. Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford) took command just past the 100-lap mark and appeared headed for victory. However, Duncan mounted a challenge and contact between the two near the end of the race left both cars spinning down the front stretch. Austin Cameron slipped past for the lead and then held off Tim Woods III (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford) in a green-white-checkered finish.

* Multiple entries . Three entries are planned by Joe Nava with Performance Motorsports. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Jason Jefferson is to drive the No. 77 King Taco Ford. Ron Peterson, who competed in the West Series at Fontana in 1997, is to wheel the No. 17 Jan's Towing Ford. Brian Pannone is to make his series debut in the No. 28 All Pro Plumbing/Golden Empire Nuts Ford.

* Series newcomers . Several other drivers are slated to make their series debut at Irwindale. They include Lloyd Mack (No. 29 Mack Enterprises/CBA Chevrolet), Daniel DiGiacomo (No. 31 Russus Pot Exp Chevrolet) and Robbie Brand (No. 37 Big Bear Choppers/Dinapolis Eatery Ford).

* Dog day retirement . Members of the Greyhound Adoption Center will return to Irwindale Speedway for this race. This marks the third consecutive year for Jack Sellers (No. 15 Aramark Pontiac) to donate a portion of his winnings to the agency and display their name on his race car to increase public awareness of their effort to find homes for retired greyhound racers.

* Fast qualifier . Mike Duncan dominated series qualifying last season. He won the Bud Pole Award in seven of 13 events, including this one. He has set the fast time in two of four events this year.

* BMR dominance . Austin Cameron leads West Series winners at Irwindale, with four victories. Brendan Gaughan is next on the list with the three races he swept in 2001. Combined, they put the Bill McAnally Racing No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet into victory lane in six of the past seven races at Irwindale.

* Nine Bud Pole winners . The 12 visits by the series to Irwindale resulted in nine different drivers winning a Bud Pole Award. Cameron, Lynch and Sean Woodside are the only multiple winners, with two each.

* Front runner . Gaughan has the most top-five finishes at Irwindale, with six. The two-time series champion also won the most money in series competition at the state-of-the-art facility, with $71,690, and led the most laps, running out front for 674 laps.

* Mark of a veteran . Series veteran Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) has scored the most top-10s in series competition at Irwindale - finishing in the top 10 in eight of 10 races. He has also notched three consecutive top-five finishes there.

* Widespread competition . More than 100 different drivers (102 to be exact) have taken the green flag in the 12 series races at Irwindale Speedway. Austin Cameron is the only driver to compete in all 12.

* Let's compare . Among drivers who have competed in four or more series races at Irwindale Speedway, Bobby Dotter has the best average finish of 4.0 in four races. Gaughan was close behind, with an average of 4.63 in eight races. Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) is tops among current active drivers with an average finish of 7.17 in six races. In fact, David finished in the top 10 in five of those six races.

* Close finishes . The margin of victory was less than a second in eight of the 12 series races at Irwindale. The closest finish there was in November of 2000 when Bobby Dotter edged Matt Crafton by .024 of a second. It was the only lap Dotter led in that event.

* Manufacturers' battle . Chevrolet has been in victory lane for 10 of the 12 series races at Irwindale. Joe Bean scored Ford's only win there in 2000 and Scott Lynch nabbed the only win for Dodge at Irwindale in 2003.

* Going the distance . The 12 series events at Irwindale have varied in distance. Seven were 250-lap races (two in 1999, two in 2000 and three in 2001); two were 200 laps (one each in 2002 and 2003); two were 150 laps (both in 2004) and one was 300 laps (the season finale in 2000).

* All-Star Showdown . In addition to Irwindale Speedway hosting this event, top drivers in the West Series and from five other NASCAR Touring Divisions throughout the country will return to the half-mile track for post-season action in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Nov. 10-12. Austin Cameron won the Grand National Division portion of the inaugural event in 2003.

* Stat of the race . Three of the 12 West Series races at Irwindale were won from the Bud Pole position.

* Talented crop of rookies . This year's competition for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the West Series has attracted a talented field of rookies. The top finishing rookie has been different in each of the four events so far this season. Eighteen-year-old Andrew Lewis (No. 18 Teen Arrive Alive Chevrolet) has a slight lead in the battle for the prestigious title. Lewis graduated from Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., last month.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of July include Gary Smith, who turned 37 on the 6th; Brendan Gaughan, who turned 30 on the 10th; Rick Ruzbarsky, who turned 40 on the 11th; Bobby Dotter, who turned 45 also on the 11th; Brandon Ash, who turned 28 on the 17th; and Jack Sellers, who turns 61 on the 24th.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On June 19, 1999, Steve Portenga won the inaugural NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series race at Irwindale Speedway. The victory, his first career series win, highlighted his first full season of competition in the series. Rounding out the top five in that first visit to Irwindale were Bill Sedgwick, Butch Gilliland, Ron Hornaday Jr., and Mike Wallace.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Mike Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Bobby Dotter , Matt Crafton , Brendan Gaughan , Andrew Lewis , Phil Bonifield , Steve Portenga , Gary Smith , Tim Woods , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Scott Lynch , Mike David , David Gilliland , Brandon Ash , Austin Cameron , Jason Jefferson , Andrew Myers