WS: Round one preview

* Series veteran Mike David hopes to launch another title run in Texas * West's oldest stock car racing circuit prepares to kick off 2007 season * Texas Terry' Labonte to serve as Grand Marshal of event DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 26, 2007)...

* Series veteran Mike David hopes to launch another title run in Texas

* West's oldest stock car racing circuit prepares to kick off 2007 season

* Texas Terry' Labonte to serve as Grand Marshal of event

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 26, 2007) -- After coming just a bit short of the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series championship last year, Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) is anxious to get the 2007 season under way and start another title run.

The West Series kicks off its season with the Allstate Texas Thunder 150 at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on Saturday, March 31. The event, the first on a 13-race schedule for 2007, will be televised to a national audience in high definition on HDNet. In addition, an enhanced replay will air on SPEED.

The result of last fall's West Series race at Kyle cut into his team's momentum as they were making a run for the title, according to David. "The outcome of that race took a little bit of wind out of our team's sails," he said.

David, who won his first career Bud Pole Award at last year's race, led the most laps and came within half a lap of winning the race. But contact with the car of Eric Holmes made for a wild finish, with David's car sliding sideways in turn three and recovering for a fifth-place finish. Holmes went on to win the race and eventually the championship.

To have victory snatched away so close to the finish was tough for David's team. "It bummed them out," David said. "But they're good competitive guys and they rallied back from it."

While preparing for this race, David quietly reflected on last year's incident. "It happens," he said. "If you could take a lap back at every race to change the outcome, I probably would have driven that lap more defensively and maybe blocked or whatever and not let him get into me. The outcome may have been different. But we'll put that behind us and go try and win again."

David is looking forward to returning to Texas. "I'm excited to go back again," said the veteran driver from Modesto, Calif. "Instead of racing in the fall, we're racing in the spring. I don't know if coming off a winter there if the track will have the same characteristics or not. I'm sure with a practice, we'll be able to chase it down and find the right feel in the car again. I'm excited. We've always run well there."

David and his team, headed by car owner Randy Lynch, are also looking forward to making another run at the championship this season.

"We're pretty excited," David said. "We've got a lot of the same team members. We run well at Texas and we did pretty well at Phoenix last year, too. So, we're excited to go to both of those tracks and get the year started."

While pleased with his runner up finish in the championship standings last year, David would like to see a little different outcome this season. "I hope it's just a little bit better," the 40-year-old driver said. "We still have our same engine program and our same key guys. As long as our luck continues and our momentum, I think we'll have a good season."

Of course, he knows he will face plenty of opposition this year. David predicts there will be plenty of competition from young newcomers to the series, as well as the established veterans.

NEWS & NOTES

The race -- The Allstate Texas Thunder 150 is the first in a 13-race series schedule this year for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. It marks the first time for Thunder Hill Raceway to host the season opener. For the past 12 years the West Series has kicked off its season in Arizona, 1995-1999 at Tucson and 2000-2006 at Phoenix. The series did get its 1993 season underway in Texas, however, joining in a combination event with the ARCA RE/MAX Series at College Station on March 23 of that year.

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. The track has hosted two West Series events.

Two-time Cup champion to serve as Grand Marshal -- Two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and Texas native Terry Labonte will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Allstate Texas Thunder 150. Labonte, who won championships in NASCAR's premier series in 1984 and 1996, was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers of all-time in 1998. His son, Justin, will join in to make the Texas event a family event by competing in the West Series race at Thunder Hill.

Family fun -- The midway/concession area at this year's event will feature interactive fun with a climbing wall, face painting, two moonwalks, all-day DJ, driver autograph sessions, sponsor tents, live music by a local band and much more.

Drivers travel to hospital for special visit with troops -- Three drivers from the Bill McAnally Racing team -- Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet), Moses Smith (No. 18 HASA Pool Products Chevrolet) and Eric Richardson (No. 20 GreenFrogRoasting.com Chevrolet) -- along with Eric Hardin (No. 5 Alta Dena Dairy Chevrolet) are slated to make a special visit to military patients at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio on Thursday, March 29. BMR is also slated to bring one of their team haulers to the hospital to be displayed.

Last year's event -- Last year's event featured a thrilling see-saw battle between Eric Holmes (No. 62 Sunoco Race Fuels/Paul Oil Chevrolet) and Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford). Their season-long duel for the series championship played out on the tight Texas track as the pair ran door-to-door and swapped the lead a dozen times. Holmes ultimately prevailed -- as contact between the two on the last lap left David spinning, while Holmes slipped by for his first career series win. Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) took the runner up spot, with Austin Cameron finishing third and Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford) in fourth. David recovered for fifth.

Multiple top-five finishes -- With two fifth-place finishes, Mike David is the only driver to finish in the top five in both West Series races at Thunder Hill. In fact, he is the only active driver to finish in the top 10 in both events. Steve Portenga, who serves as the crew chief on the Golden Gate Racing Team this year, also has two top-10 finishes at Kyle to his credit.

Best average finish -- Of the 10 drivers who competed in both West Series races at Thunder Hill, Portenga has the best average finish with 3.5. He won the inaugural event in 2005 and finished sixth in 2006.

Leading laps -- Portenga has led the most laps in West Series competition at the South Texas track -- running out front for 113 laps, compared to 111 for David.

Changes at Gaylord Racing -- Series veteran Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Gaylord Racing Chevrolet) heads to Texas while searching for a primary sponsor. Long-time sponsor, Oliver Gravity Separators, left the sport at the end of last season after sponsoring Gaylord for 18 years. In other news from Gaylord, his oldest son Ryan has begun racing. The 17-year-old has tested a late model stock car and raced last week in an enduro race at Colorado National Speedway near Denver.

Rolling across the country -- The start of the season will be a long one for members of the Bill McAnally Racing team. Following the season opener in Texas, they head to Newton, Iowa, for a test slated at Iowa Speedway on April 4.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of March include Charles Price, who turned 20 on the 14th; Takuma Koga, who turned 30 on the 16th; Kyle Cattanach, who turned 22 on the 22nd; Andrew Phipps, who turned 31 on the 25th; Kevin Culver, who turned 50 on the 25th; Gene Woods, who turns 49 on the 27th; and Moses Smith, who turns 31 on the 30th.

FAST FACTS

What: ALLSTATE TEXAS THUNDER 150 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #1

Where: Thunder Hill Raceway,
Kyle, Texas.

When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 31.

Track layout: .375-mile paved oval.
Distance: 150 Laps, 56.25 miles.

Posted Awards: $120,512

TV: HDNet
SPEED (enhanced replay, April 12, 2:30 p.m. ET)

2006 winner: Eric Holmes.
2006 polesitter: Mike David.

Pre-race schedule: Saturday -- Practice, 11:10 a.m.-Noon, 12:40-1:25 p.m Qualifying, 5:15 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Terry Labonte , Moses Smith , Steve Portenga , Scott Gaylord , Mike David , Eric Holmes , Austin Cameron , Brian Ickler