WS: Sears Point: Round five preview

* Inglebright looks for success in Grand National Division at Infineon Raceway * Series returns to Sonoma after seven-year absence * Event attracts NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2006) -- When the NASCAR ...

* Inglebright looks for success in Grand National Division at Infineon Raceway

* Series returns to Sonoma after seven-year absence

* Event attracts NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2006) -- When the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series visits Infineon Raceway for the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 on Saturday, June 24, it may seem to Jim Inglebright (No. 1 Jelly Belly Chevrolet) like he is playing in his own backyard.

It's not just because Inglebright hails from nearby Fairfield, which is also home to his long-time sponsor Jelly Belly. It's his performance on the track that could give the former motorcycle racer a stake in claiming the twisting 1.99-mile road course as his territory.

In NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series competition at Infineon, Inglebright scored a record three consecutive wins (2000-02), giving him eight top-five finishes overall in 13 races. He has also competed there on several occasions in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, finishing as high as 19th in his most recent effort in a Richard Childress Racing entry in 2004.

"I don't really know why I get around that track so well. I just love it," Inglebright said of the road course in the Sonoma Valley wine country of Northern California. He attributes much of what he knows about the track to two instructors he met while completing a driving school there before he began racing stock cars.

"Those guys really just beat into my head where you need to be rolling out of the gas, where you need to be turning the car and where you need to place the car in certain places on the track," Inglebright said. "For some reason, it sunk in to my thick head on what you've really got to do," he said with a chuckle.

In more than a decade of racing there, Inglebright has also found some other secrets to getting around the twisting track. He declines to disclose those details, however. "There are things that I do out there that I'll never tell anybody," he said. "There are parts of that race track that I know you can hustle a race car and there are parts of that race track where I know you better not. I found that out the hard way. I got upside down in 1994."

Inglebright was running with the lead pack of cars in that year's event when he had a tire going down. Before he could get back around to the pits, he got into a tire barrier in turn six and rolled over.

"That race track is not very forgiving," Inglebright said. "The guys that usually wreck are the ones that are trying to make up for a mistake they made two or three corners back. You usually pass them as they're in the tire barriers."

Inglebright, who returned to racing a full schedule in the AutoZone West Series this year after running limited events the past few seasons, has been looking forward to the Infineon race since it was announced as being on the 2006 schedule.

"We've been saving this car for Infineon," he pointed out. "It's not a true road course car, but it's pretty close. I'm anxious to get back in a heavy car over there."

In preparing himself physically, Inglebright has been spending some time on two wheels. "I've been doing a lot of dirt bike riding over the last six months for my hand-eye coordination," he said. "With a dirt bike, you're always clutching or braking. You're kind of using all four limbs at the same time. The same thing is true with road racing," he said of operating the throttle, brake and clutch with two feet and steering and shifting with two hands.

With this event being at his home track and his sponsor's home track, Inglebright does admit to an added emphasis on this race. Much of the pressure stems more from his past performance, however, he said. "I've been so successful at Infineon that I'm expected to be up front," he said.

NEWS & NOTES

* The race -- This event is the fifth of a 12-race schedule for the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series in 2006. It marks a return by the series to Infineon Raceway after a seven-year absence.

* The track -- Infineon Raceway is a winding 10-turn 1.99-mile road course, with varying elevation.

* Coverage on national television -- Fans across the country will get two opportunities to see the AutoZone West Series event at Infineon on television. The $165,270 event is to be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, SPEED is scheduled to provide an enhanced replay on July 6 at 2:30 p.m. PT.

* Double-duty for several -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regulars Brian Vickers (No. 17 GMAC Chevrolet) and Ken Schrader (No. 99 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), along with Boris Said (No. 57 Pacific States/DenBeste Transportation Ford), are slated for double duty at Infineon. They are entered in the AutoZone West Series event on Saturday, as well as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race on Sunday.

* Previous visit -- The last AutoZone West Series visit to Infineon Raceway was in October of 1998, when the facility was known as Sears Point Raceway. Kevin Harvick edged Brandon Ash and Austin Cameron (No. 88 RaceCarFans.com Chevrolet) at the finish line to capture one of five victories he garnered en route to winning the series championship that year.

* Series experience at Infineon -- In addition to Cameron, two other current series regulars have competed in AutoZone West Series action at Infineon -- Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) and Jack Sellers (No. 75 Aramark Pontiac). Gaylord -- who came into NASCAR with a road racing background -- competed in four series races at Sonoma, with a best finish of third in 1995. He also participated in six combination events with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, with a best finish of 33rd in 1991. Sellers raced in seven series events at Infineon, finishing as high as 11th in 1989. He also participated in six combination races with NEXTEL Cup there, finishing 40th on two occasions.

* Other Infineon experience -- Steve Portenga (No. 77 King Taco Ford) has experience at Infineon, competing there five times in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series -- finishing as high as third in 1997. He also raced there in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in its inaugural season in 1995.

* Plenty of Southwest Series experience at Sonoma -- In addition to Portenga and Inglebright, numerous other drivers entered in this event have competed in Southwest Series races at Sonoma. Ken Schrader raced in four Southwest Series events at Infineon between 1992 and 1995, winning in 1994. Tom Dyer (No. 62 Cycle Shack/Menards Chevrolet) won the Southwest Series race there last year. Kenny Shepherd (No. 95 Mountain Dew/Save Mart Chevrolet) has two runner-up finishes, along with six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 13 Southwest Series events. Tom Hubert (No. 10 Sunsweet Growers Dodge) recorded one top-five and three top-10 finishes in nine Southwest Series races at Infineon. In addition to a second-place finish, Eric Holmes (No. 35 Bollegrass/Coastal Wire Ford) has two top-five and four top-10 finishes in seven Southwest Series races there. Others with Southwest Series experience at Infineon include Todd Souza (No. 13 Blanco Basura Chevrolet), with six starts between 2000 and 2005; Stan Silva Jr. (No. 65 A&S Metals/Stan Silva Jr Trucking Chevrolet), with three starts between 2003 and 2005; and Thomas Martin (No. 28 Strictly Toy-Ondas/Rockett Fuel Pontiac), with five starts at Infineon.

* Vintage car racers -- Vintage car racers Ken Epsman (No. 25 Coffee Critic/Red Line Oil/Landgro Landscape Ford) and Garland Self (No. 81 Selco Air Conditioning Ford) have also turned plenty of laps at Infineon. Epsman is a well-known vintage car owner and racer, particularly in the Historic Trans Am series. Self is a car owner and driver in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series.

* Early road racing experience -- Two AutoZone West Series regulars who gained road racing experience early in their careers were Austin Cameron and Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford). Both drivers were champions in a late model stock car class at a Southern California road course before joining the AutoZone West Series.

* East meets West -- Eric Holmes, currently third in the AutoZone West Series championship standings, will be driving an entry for NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series car owner Robert Torriere. The car is one that has won road course events in the Busch East Series.

* Long history at Sonoma -- Infineon Raceway was a regular stop on the AutoZone West Series schedule, with the series making 27 visits there overall. The series initially traveled to Sonoma for two races in 1969. The track hosted 16 events between 1978 and 1998. In addition, AutoZone West Series drivers competed in nine companion events with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series between 1989 and 1997.

* Road racing in the West -- Road races have long been a part of the AutoZone West Series. The series, which dates back to 1954, visited its first road course in Rosamond, Calif., in 1955. At least one road race was on the series schedule nearly every year through 2001. Road races were most prominent in the series in the 1980s -- when for several seasons at least half of the events were races with left and right-hand turns. The most recent series visit to a road course was in Monterey, Calif., in 2001. The series frequented Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway the most -- making 54 visits between 1958 and 1988 to the now-closed Southern California facility, including combination events with the NEXTEL Cup Series. Infineon Raceway is second on the list -- hosting the series 27 times, including combination events. The series made eight visits to the road course in Monterey and five to the Rosamond track. Other locations to host a series road race included Vancouver, British Columbia; Castle Rock, Colo.; Topeka, Kan.; Eugene, Ore.; Portland, Ore.; Kent, Wash.; and Bremerton, Wash. Road races were also held on temporary street courses in Tacoma, Wash., and Spokane, Wash. -- as well as a temporary course in Las Vegas.

* Front runners at Infineon -- Three drivers -- Hershel McGriff (1983, 1985, 1987), Jim Insolo (1978, 1979, 1980) and Bill Schmitt (1981, 1988, 1989) -- lead series competition at Infineon, with three wins each. Schmitt also leads in terms of top-five finishes, with eight, and top-10 finishes, with nine. McGriff led the most laps in series competition, meanwhile, running out front for 142 laps. Two-time race winner Butch Gilliland (1996, 1997) accumulated the most money won in series competition at Infineon, netting $42,300.

* Also in victory lane -- Other series drivers to win a series race at Infineon include Jim Bown (1984), Ray Elder (1969), Doug George (1995), Kevin Harvick (1998), Jack McCoy (1969), Jim Robinson (1986) and Roy Smith (1982).

* Other Budweiser Pole winners -- In addition to McGriff, 11 other drivers have won Budweiser Poles at Infineon Raceway -- including Scott Gaylord in 1996.

* Varied race distance -- The 18 series races at Infineon Raceway, in which most utilized the longer course configuration, ranged in distance from 40 laps to 75 laps. Both events in 1969 were 60 laps in duration. Three of the races -- 1978, 1979 and 1980 -- were 59 laps. The next four, 1981-1984, were 70 laps long. The distance was bumped to 74 laps in 1985 and to 75 laps in 1986 and 1987. Races in 1988 and 1989 were 50 laps in distance. Series visits in 1995, 1996 and 1997 were 40 laps -- with the last visit in 1998 being 51 laps.

* Pontiac prevails -- With five wins, a Pontiac has been in victory lane at Infineon more than any other manufacturer.

* Stat of the race -- Only three of the 18 series events at Infineon were won by a driver starting from the Budweiser Pole position.

* Consecutive starts for Gaylord -- When he takes the green flag at Infineon, Scott Gaylord will move into third place on the list of consecutive series starts in the modern era (1971 to present) with 80. Ray Elder leads the category with 121 straight starts in the era, followed by Bill Schmitt with 118. While Gaylord has 162 career starts overall, dating back to 1988 -- his current string of 79 straight starts began Oct. 17, 1999.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the last portion of June include Eric Hardin, who turns 24 on the 22nd; Brian Pannone, who turns 34 on the 23rd; and Johnny Borneman, who turns 29 on the 30th.

FAST FACTS

What:Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200, NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Race #5

Where: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.

When: 1:00 p.m., Saturday, June 24.

Track layout: 1.99-mile road course.
Distance: 64 Laps, 127.36 miles.

Posted Awards: $165,270

TV: HDNet (Live)
SPEED (enhanced replay, July 6, 2:30 p.m. PT)

2005 winner: Event not held.
2005 polesitter: Event not held.

Records: Will be established for the 1.99-mile configuration.

Pre-race schedule: Friday --Practice, 8:10-9:20 a.m., 10:30-11:30 a.m. Qualifying, 2:50 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Top 10: 1. Mike David 636, 2. Steve Portenga 617, 3. Eric Holmes 608, 4. Mike Duncan 565, 5. Jim Inglebright 557, 6. Peyton Sellers 547, 7. Brett Thompson 546, 8. Brian Ickler 518, 9. Scott Gaylord 516, 10. Johnny Borneman 494.

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Brian Vickers , Steve Portenga , Jim Inglebright , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Brett Thompson , Eric Holmes , Stan Silva Jr. , Kenny Shepherd , Thomas Martin , Todd Souza , Brandon Ash , Austin Cameron , Hershel McGriff , Peyton Sellers , Ken Epsman , Brian Ickler , Jim Robinson , Garland Self , Tom Dyer