WS: Mesa Marin II: Season finale preview

* West Series championship on the line at Mesa Marin Raceway * End of an era for high-banked Bakersfield track * Large field of entries expected for final race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2005) - This year's ...

* West Series championship on the line at Mesa Marin Raceway

* End of an era for high-banked Bakersfield track

* Large field of entries expected for final race

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2005) - This year's championship in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series will be decided under the lights at Mesa Marin Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 15, as Scott Lynch (No. 08 Mr. Gas Dodge) and Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) take the title bout down to the wire.

Lynch - who won the spring race at the Bakersfield, Calif., track - has a 41-point advantage heading into the final event and can clinch the championship by finishing seventh or better. Duncan, who won this event in 2003, will be competing on his hometown track, however, where he has won a record four consecutive Bud Pole Awards in qualifying.

In addition to deciding the series championship, the Ford Motorcraft Parts 150 presented by 3M will mark the final event for the speedway. The half-mile track, opened and operated by Marion Collins and his family since 1977, is closing its doors after Saturday night's event.

The race, which is attracting a large field of entries, will be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, an enhanced replay will be televised on SPEED Channel.

Lynch and Duncan are both shooting for their second series championship. Lynch of Burley, Idaho, won the overall title as a rookie in 2003. As the defending champion, meanwhile, Duncan is aiming for back-to-back titles to match those of his crew chief Bill Sedgwick, who won consecutive series championships as a driver in 1991 and 1992.

Although he leads by 41 points, Lynch does not plan to approach this race in a different manner than others. "We're not going to change our game plan," he said. "We're going to try to win the pole, lead every lap we can and win the race. One thing I do not want to do is change our game plan for the last race. We've been fairly good and lucky this year. We're going to go out there and do the best job we can."

Duncan is optimistic, meanwhile, that such a large field of entries could be beneficial to him. "I know there's going to be a lot of fast cars there," he said. "I think that will be in my favor. If the points are going to turn, there's an opportunity for a big gain. Obviously, if he (Lynch) does well, it won't make any difference."

While Lynch and Duncan are the primary championship contenders, Steve Portenga (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet) has put himself in contention to steal the title away. He would have to gain 54 points on Lynch and 13 points on Duncan, however.

In addition to the championship battle, the race is generating plenty of other excitement. Burney Lamar (No. 33 HPS/Groeniger Chevrolet), who is driving selected series events this year for Kevin Harvick Inc., will be shooting for his third win in four races in 2005.

Second-generation driver David Gilliland (No. 88 RaceCarCeiling Fans.com Chevrolet) enters the Bakersfield race fourth in the championship standings. Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) is fifth in points heading into the event, with Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet) in sixth.

While Lynch, Duncan and Portenga battle for the title - five other drivers are locked in an even tighter struggle for a spot in the top 10 of the championship standings for 2005. The drivers in seventh through 11th in the point standings are separated by just 49 markers heading into this final event. Series veteran Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) is in seventh with 1,471 points; Tim Woods III (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford) is in eighth with 1,463; Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet) is ninth with 1,425; Andrew Lewis (No. 18 BMR Chevrolet) is 10th with 1,423; and Daryl Harr (No. 71 WestWorld Computers Chevrolet) is 11th with 1,422.

Meanwhile, Indy 500 veteran Sarah Fisher (No. 20 NAPA Filters/ Domino's Pizza/Office Depot Chevrolet) hopes to carry over her momentum from last week in Texas - where she qualified third and finished a career-best sixth. Other top 15 drivers entered include series veteran Jack Sellers (No. 75 Aramark Pontiac), Takuma Koga (No. 09 Goodyear Chevrolet) and Tim Smith (No. 3 Smith-Mottini Financial Advisors Chevrolet).

Other expected entries include David Cardey (No. 15 Empire Plumbing Pontiac), Nick Joanides (No. 4 Puskarich Racing Pontiac), Rick Ruzbarsky (No. 51 Alfred Matthews Chevrolet), Kristi Schmitt (No. 10 Kristi Schmitt Racing Dodge) and Ed Watson (No. 55 Ellstrom Manufacturing Ford).

The entry list for Saturday's West Series finale also includes newcomers to the series - Daniel DiGiacomo (No. 31 Russo Pet Experience Chevrolet), Eric Hardin (No. 01 Hardin Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Honda Chevrolet), Eric Humphries (No. 25 T.O.E. Performance/Red Line Oil Ford) and Nick Lynch (No. 1 Mr. Gas Dodge).

Four drivers slated to make their series debut at Bakersfield include Clay Andrews (No. 23 Rich's Motorsports/Adams Kart Track Pontiac), Justin Lofton (No. 66 Lofton Livestock Chevrolet), Mike Mulhall (No. 86 Noctis Racing Chevrolet) and Brian Pannone (No. 38 All Pro Plumbing/Pannone Motorsports Ford).

NEWS & NOTES

* The race . This event is the 12th and final race on the series schedule for 2005. It is the second of two series visits this year to Bakersfield.

* The track . Mesa Marin Raceway is a high-banked, half-mile paved oval with turns banked 17 degrees and seven degrees banking in the straights.

* Farewell to Mesa Marin . This will be the 45th and final West Series race at Mesa Marin Raceway. The track, which opened in 1977, announced this is its final season and that this weekend's 28th Annual October Classic will be the final event. The track hosted its first West Series race on May 28, 1977 and has been a regular stop on the schedule nearly every year since.

* Three days of racing capped off with big night . This year's October Classic features various classes racing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Action on Saturday will feature the West Series and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.

* No recent repeat winners . The nine most recent West Series races at Mesa Marin Raceway produced nine different winners.

* Familiar with victory lane . Drivers entered in this event who have previously visited victory lane in series competition at Mesa Marin Raceway include last year's winner Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet); Scott Lynch (No. 08 Mr. Gas Dodge), winner of this year's spring race; Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet); David Gilliland (No. 88 RaceCarCeilingFans.com Chevrolet); and Steve Portenga (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet).

* Similar face off . Two years ago, the championship battle was decided by the race at Mesa Marin Raceway with the same drivers. Lynch led the standings heading into the event, with Portenga trailing by 23 points and Duncan 39 markers back. While Duncan won the race, Lynch clinched the title with a fourth-place finish. Portenga finished seventh and slipped to third in the final standings.

* Double duty . Two drivers are slated for double duty in Bakersfield. Those planning to compete in the West Series race and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race are Burney Lamar (No. 33 HPS/Groeniger Chevrolet) and Nick Lynch (No. 1 Mr. Gas Dodge),

* Duncan dominates Bakersfield qualifying . Mike Duncan has dominated series qualifying - winning a record four consecutive Bud Pole Awards at his home track. His crew chief, Bill Sedgwick, holds the overall record of seven Bud Pole Awards at Mesa Marin Raceway. Sedgwick gathered his between 1989 and 2000. Twenty-two different drivers have won a Bud Pole Award in West Series competition at Mesa Marin.

* Sunoco rookie title to be decided, too . Andrew Lewis (No. 18 BMR Chevrolet) has a slight edge over Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido) in the battle for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Others in the freshman class include Sarah Fisher (No. 20 NAPA Filters/Domino's Pizza/Office Depot Chevrolet) and Tim Smith (No. 3 Smith-Mottini Financial Advisors Chevrolet). Lewis can lock up the prestigious rookie title if he is among the top three rookie finishers in Saturday's race.

* Last year's event . Last year's event featured a first-time winner, as Brett Thompson made a late-race charge for the victory. Mike Duncan had dominated the competition on his home track, winning the Bud Pole Award and pacing the field for a majority of the laps. Duncan began to fade in the late stages of the race, however, and Thompson mounted a late-race charge to the front. He slipped past Duncan just 13 laps from the finish and then held off a challenge from Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) to record his first career win in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. Sean Woodside finished third.

* Notable names . There have been 283 different drivers who raced in series competition at Mesa Marin Raceway. The list includes nationally known drivers such as Davey Allison, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, Derrike Cope, Harry Gant, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Schrader, Jimmy Spencer and Rusty Wallace.

* Winners . Twenty-seven different drivers have visited victory lane in the 44 West Series races at Mesa Marin Raceway. Seven were multiple winners - including Bill Sedgwick, who leads the list with six wins. Sedgwick was the last driver with back-to-back wins in series competition at Bakersfield. In fact, he won three straight - with a victory in October of 1992 and both races in 1993.

* Leading marks . Sedgwick also leads other series statistics at Mesa Marin Raceway. The two-time series champion leads in terms of money won, taking home $106,821 in 23 races. He also led the most laps of competition around the high-banked track, running out front for 1,820 laps.

* Top finishes . Four-time series champion Bill Schmitt holds the record for the most top-five finishes in series competition at the half-mile track, with 15. He also holds the record for the most top-10 finishes, with 19.

* How they compare . Among active drivers who have competed in three or more series races at Mesa Marin Raceway, Scott Lynch has the best average finish of 4.25 in four races. Steve Portenga is second on the list with an average finish of 5.71 in seven races.

* Talk about experience . Jack Sellers (No. 15 Aramark Pontiac) will be taking the green flag for his 32nd race at Mesa Marin on Saturday - more than any active driver in the series. His record on the half-mile track includes three top-10 finishes.

* Manufacturers' battle . Although Chevrolet leads in manufacturer wins at Mesa Marin Raceway with 21, a Dodge was in victory lane most recently.

* Stat of the race . Twelve of the 44 series races at Mesa Marin Raceway were won by the Bud Pole winner.

* One additional stat . The 44 West Series races at Mesa Marin Raceway equate to 9,805 laps or 4,902.5 miles of competition around the half-mile track.

* Top 15 invited to Showdown . The top 15 drivers in the West Series and the top 15 in the Busch North Series will be invited to compete in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on Nov. 10-12. The event awards nearly $500,000 to competitors and will be televised live on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the second half of October include Sean Woodside, who turns 35 on the 16th; and David Cardey, who turns 30 on the 31st. In addition - celebrating his 65th birthday on the 28th is Joe Dehorty, known to everyone on the circuit as "Spotter Joe."

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On May 28, 1977, Jim Reich led wire-to-wire in taking the win over Chuck Wahl and Chuck Bown in a 100-lap race at Mesa Marin Raceway. They were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap of the race in what was then known as the NASCAR Winston West Grand National Series. Other top finishers in that first series visit to the high-banked half-mile Bakersfield track included Richard White, Bill Schmitt, John Borneman and Vic Irvan - in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.

Fast Facts

What: FORD MOTORCRAFT PARTS 150 presented by 3M, NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #12

Where: Mesa Marin Raceway, Bakersfield, Calif.
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15.

Track layout: .5-mile paved oval.
Distance: 150 Laps, 75 miles.

Posted Awards: $103,795

TV: HDNet (Live)
SPEED Channel (enhanced replay, Nov. 26, 5:30 p.m. ET)

2004 winner: Brett Thompson.
2004 polesitter: Mike Duncan.

Records: Qualifying: Butch Gilliland, May 30, 1999, 97.166 mph, 18.525 sec.; Race: Jim Robinson, May 8, 1982, 76.617 mph, 58 min 44 sec

Pre-race schedule: Saturday - Practice, 12:45-1:30 p.m., 2:15-3:15 p.m. Qualifying, 4:15 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Top 10: 1. Scott Lynch 1,812, 2. Mike Duncan 1,771, 3. Steve Portenga 1,758, 4. David Gilliland 1,693, 5. Mike David 1,577, 6. Brett Thompson 1,521, 7. Scott Gaylord 1,471, 8. Tim Woods III 1,463, 9. Andrew Myers 1,425, 10. Andrew Lewis 1,423.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Derrike Cope , Rusty Wallace , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Sarah Fisher , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Andrew Lewis , Steve Portenga , Tim Woods , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Brett Thompson , Scott Lynch , Mike David , Daryl Harr , Donnie Allison , David Gilliland , Burney Lamar , Rick Ruzbarsky , Andrew Myers , Harry Gant , Justin Lofton , Nick Joanides , Jim Robinson , Davey Allison