* Golden Gate Racing Team returns to series
* Thomas Martin part of two-car effort by Jack Sellers Racing
* Toyota Camry among 2007 models approved for competition
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2007) -- Although more than two months remain until competition gets underway in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series -- teams are busy putting plans in place and preparing for the new season.
The 2007 campaign will mark the 54th year for the West's oldest stock car racing circuit -- with the series opener set for March 31 at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas.
NEWS & NOTES
Toyota approved for Grand National Division -- The 2007 Toyota Camry is among the manufacturer models approved for competition in the NASCAR Grand National Division. Other approved 2007 models include the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, the Dodge Charger and the Ford Fusion. In addition, 2006 models from those three manufacturers are also approved -- as well as 2005 models of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus and 2004 models of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Dodge Intrepid and Ford Taurus.
Technical changes -- Various technical rules have changed in the Grand National Division for 2007, most notably concerning the minimum weight. While the minimum weight for 105-inch wheelbase cars will remain at 3,300 pounds, the minimum weight for 110-inch wheelbase cars has changed to 3,250 pounds.
Teams utilizing NASCAR's new composite bodies will see two changes to their cars: the front air dam moves one half-inch outward and a half-inch has been added to the top and sides of the rear spoilers for composite body-equipped cars.
Returning to the series -- Jim Offenbach and his Golden Gate Racing Team are returning to the West Series this season, with series rookie Ryan Foster of Anderson, Calif., as part of a driver development program with Richard Childress Racing. Offenbach's team competed in the West Series from 1997 to 1999. His lineup of drivers included Jay Sauter and Mike Dillon. Steve Portenga, who finished fifth in the final standings in 1999 while driving the GGRT entry full-time in the series, will serve as the team's crew chief this year.
New special award in 2007 -- Grand National Division drivers will have something extra to shoot for at each race in 2007. Utah-based Aero Exhaust, a worldwide leader in performance exhaust technology, will sponsor a special award. The $500 Aero Exhaust Most Laps Led Award goes to the eligible driver who leads the most laps in each event. A special year-end bonus is planned for the driver who collects the most number of Aero Exhaust awards during the season.
Irwindale event moved to July 4 -- A reminder -- the West Series event at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, originally scheduled for July 21, has been moved to Wednesday, July 4.
Taking on role as owner -- After running a selected events as a driver in the West Series in 2005 and 2006 -- Rick Ruzbarsky plans to tackle the full schedule this season, while also taking on the added role as car owner of his 3-Wide Motorsports team. The change is in line with his long-term personal goal of becoming a car owner after he hangs up his helmet.
Busy off-season for Lofton -- Following a successful rookie season, Justin Lofton is moving ahead with plans for 2007. He has relocated his West Series team to the Sacramento, Calif., area under the direction of veteran crew chief Rob Dixon. Lofton is taking advantage of his off-season time, meanwhile, to compete in this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 27-28. Lofton, who participated in testing at the Florida track last week, is slated to drive the Racers Edge Motorsports entry in the GT class.
Team expanding -- Long-time series veteran Jack Sellers has announced that Jack Sellers Racing will field a two-car effort on a regular basis in 2007, with the addition of series rookie Thomas Martin. Sellers, who has been busy during the off-season deer hunting in Wyoming and duck hunting in Northern California, will be celebrating his 23rd season in the series. Martin, who finished 12th in his first of two series starts last year, is coming off a successful season in the NASCAR Elite Division, Southwest Series in which he garnered eighth in the championship standings and capped off his year by finishing second in the Elite portion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in November.
Changes at MRG -- Jimmy Dick has joined as a partner with MRG Motorsports to form Motorway Motorsports/MRG. His son, Jamie Dick, is slated to compete in at least five races this year. In addition, the team intends to field a second car in the series.
Expanded effort -- After racing in four events in the West Series in 2006 -- Stan Silva Jr., plans to tackle the full schedule this year. Silva, who finished eighth at Sonoma in one of those races last year, also competed in selected events in the NASCAR Elite Division, Southwest Series between 2002 and 2005.
Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of January include Robbie Brand, who turned 49 on the 7th; Jeff Jefferson, who turns 35 on the 17th; Andrew Lewis, who turns 20 on the 19th; Mike Duncan, who turns 45 on the 22nd; Austin Cameron, who turns 30 on the 24th; Gary Collins, who turns 47 on the 24th; Mike David, who turns 40 on the 29th; and Jeff Davis, who will turn 48 on the 29th.