* Series veteran Scott Gaylord hopes for another strong performance
* Numerous special off-track activities slated again this year
* Outcome could have big impact throughout championship standings
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2006) -- NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series veteran driver Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) is known for adapting quickly to new tracks on the circuit.
When the series made its inaugural visit to Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, last year, Gaylord had his best event of 2005 by winning the Budweiser Pole Award, leading a substantial portion of the race and finishing third. He hopes to build on that performance as the series heads back to the Lone Star state for the Allstate Texas Thunder 200 on Saturday, Sept. 30.
"I think we always have an advantage when we get to a new track," Gaylord said of the initial visit by the series to Thunder Hill Raceway last year. "Any time we end up at a new track we seem to be up front. Then, for some reason, we struggle on improving from that point; whereas other teams seem to catch up."
Gaylord plans to take up where he left off last year.
"We're planning on going back like we had it at the end of the race and go from there and hopefully improve from that point," said the 48-year-old driver from Lakewood, Colo.
Because he is seventh in the championship standings and 186 points out of first, Gaylord considers any title hopes out the window. "After blowing the engine earlier this year, it kind of killed us in the points," he said. "We're back up in the top 10, but any scenario for a championship is out of the picture."
The situation may offer him a different approach than some others in this event. "We're definitely looking at getting that first win," he said of possibly gaining his first career series victory. "The other guys are worried about points. So, hopefully that will help us out. They're going to be taking care of stuff, while we're trying to get to the front."
The key to getting around the 3/8-mile D-shaped Texas track is much like any short track, according to Gaylord. "You just can't light the tires up," he said. "You have to wait until you're getting that full grip in the rear and make sure the car is turning. At a short track, you have to have the car right and get that position in qualifying and hope you can hold onto it until the end of the night."
Racing on a tight short track like Thunder Hill also requires a balance of patience and aggressiveness as a driver, said Gaylord. "You have to be a little bit aggressive just to hold your position," he explained. "People are knocking on the door a lot and you've got to watch out for the guy in front of you, so that you don't take them out. Everybody's always blaming the person behind, when you're bumping someone in front. It just takes a little responsibility. You still get some banging and bumping, but you can do it without taking people out. It's tight and you have to take care of things."
"In addition to hoping for another successful weekend on the track at Thunder Hill, Gaylord is looking forward to the off-track activities at this event, as well. He was so impressed by the numerous activities for youngsters last year, he and his wife, Donna, decided to bring their three boys to this year's race. "It was a wonderful event," Gaylord recalled of the inaugural visit last year. "We're bringing our kids this year because of all the entertainment."
NEWS & NOTES
The race -- This event is the 11th event in a 12-race series schedule this year. It marks the only visit this year by the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series to the state of Texas.
The track -- Thunder Hill Raceway is a 3/8-mile D-shaped paved oval with nine degrees banking in turns one and four, 12 degrees banking in the turns two and three, six degrees banking in the front straight and five degrees of banking in the back straight.
Championship battle -- Eric Holmes (No. 62 Sunoco Race Fuels/Paul Oil Chevrolet) leads a wide open championship challenge this year. He has a slight 27-point lead over Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) -- 1,539 to 1,512. Two-time and reigning champion Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) is 65 points out of first, with 1,474 points. The leading Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, Peyton Sellers (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet), is fourth in the standings -- 92 markers back of the leader with 1,447 points. Steve Portenga (No. 77 King Taco/Signco Ford) is 99 points out with 1,440.
Texas-style event -- Many special things are planned for this event by Full Throttle Productions, including a special pre-race Texas-style barbecue for the teams on Friday. In addition to numerous advance promotions, various family-oriented activities are planned the day of the race with games, rides and competition for children. In addition to Raceland, other activities include a rock-climbing wall, jumpers, face painting and vendor booths. A driver autograph session is slated, along with special fireworks. Again this year, additional temporary seating is also being brought in.
Musical entertainment -- Live musical entertainment is planned as part of the event during the day on Saturday. Those slated to perform include recording artists Ryan James, No Justice and Trent Willmon.
Close battles throughout -- Drivers throughout the top 15 in the championship standings are also in a tight point battle. Just 37 points separate the four drivers in eighth through 11th -- Austin Cameron (No. 88 RaceCarFans.com Chevrolet), Brian Ickler (No. 20 McMillin Homes/NAPAFILTERS.COM Chevrolet), Justin Lofton (No. 66 Lofton Cattle Feeding Investments Chevrolet) and Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford). The next four drivers, 12th through 15th, are separated by only 39 points. They are Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet), Eric Hardin (No. 18 Hardin Buick-Pontiac-GMC/DSNTV Chevrolet), Tim Woods III (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford) and Jack Sellers (No. 75 Aramark Pontiac).
Entries from the Lone Star state -- This event has attracted two drivers from Texas. Austin resident Tavo C.T. Hellmund (No. 39 Bob West Suzuki Special Pontiac), who won his first of 13 series races he has competed in since 2001, will be making his second start in the series this season. Marc Schulz (No. 33 Pontiac) of Sanger is slated to make his series debut, meanwhile.
Returning visit -- Giuliano Losacco (No. 07 StockCar Brazil/Inforshop Chevrolet), a two-time stock car champion in Brazil, is also on the entry list for the Texas event. Losacco made his NASCAR debut in the series with a 12th-place finish at Monroe in July. His career path has included go-karts, Formula Ford, Formula Uno, Formula Chevrolet, Formula Renault Europe and Formula 3/South America.
Hot qualifying streak -- When it comes to qualifying, Eric Holmes is on a hot streak. He has qualified first or second quickest in seven consecutive series races.
Drivers celebrating a birthday during the first half of October include Chris Schmelzle, who turns 32 on the 1st; Kristi Schmitt, who turns 26 on the 2nd; Tim Woods III, who turns 32 on the 11th; and Eric Holmes, who turns 32 on the 12th;
What: ALLSTATE TEXAS THUNDER 200 NASCAR Grand National Div, AutoZone West Series Race #11
Where: Thunder Hill Raceway, Kyle, Texas.
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30.
Track layout: .375-mile paved oval.
Distance: 200 Laps, 75 miles.
Posted Awards: $132,953
TV: HDNet (Live)
SPEED (enhanced replay, Oct. 12, 2:30 p.m. PT)
2005 winner: Steve Portenga
2005 polesitter: Scott Gaylord .
Records: Qualifying: Scott Gaylord, Oct. 1, 2005, 89.274 mph, 15.122 sec.; Race: Steve Portenga, Oct. 1, 2005, 53.603 mph, 1 h 23 min 57 sec
Pre-race schedule: Saturday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m.-Noon, 12:30-1 p.m., 1:30-2:15. Qualifying, 5:30 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.
NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Top 10: 1. Eric Holmes 1,539, 2. Mike David 1,512, 3. Mike Duncan 1,474, 4. Peyton Sellers 1,447, 5. Steve Portenga 1,440, 6. Jim Inglebright 1,380, 7. Scott Gaylord 1,353, 8. Austin Cameron 1,281, 9. Brian Ickler 1,279, 10. Justin Lofton 1,276.