WS: Sears Point: Round seven preview

* Ickler Hopes To Turn Season Around With Good Run On Road Course * David Gilliland, Boris Said, P.J. Jones Among Entries At Sonoma * Two Teens From Joe Gibbs Racing Return To Race In West Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 18, 2007)...

* Ickler Hopes To Turn Season Around With Good Run On Road Course

* David Gilliland, Boris Said, P.J. Jones Among Entries At Sonoma
* Two Teens From Joe Gibbs Racing Return To Race In West Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 18, 2007) -- Don't blame Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) for being anxious to return to Infineon Raceway.

As a rookie last year, he arrived for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series race on the twisting Sonoma, Calif., road course and hardly knew what to expect. He came away with a career-best second-place finish.

The Grand National West Series returns to Infineon this week for the Blue Lizard Suncream 200 presented by Supercuts on Saturday, June 23. The race will be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, SPEED is to provide an enhanced replay.

"I'm looking forward to this year," Ickler said. "I'm in a lot better shape than I was last year. Those road courses take a lot out of you. I've been preparing for that. I can't wait to get out there."

Looking back, Ickler declines to point to a specific reason for doing so well in his first time on such a challenging track. "We just showed up and had no idea what to expect," recalled the 21-year-old driver from San Diego. "We tested there and that was a huge advantage, for us to at least see the track before the rest of the competition showed up."

Ickler admits to being surprised by his success on the winding 1.99-mile track last year. "Not having been to a road course before, it was a huge surprise," he said of qualifying third and finishing second. "I found that I really enjoy road racing a lot more than I thought I would."

His success may stem from his years of off-road racing. "I think that's why we did well," Ickler said. "A lot of off-road racing is farm roads and every corner is different. You can't really set up a car for two corners, like you do in circle track. And off-road racing has a lot of shifting. There are a lot of similarities there. So, I think that helped me a lot."

After encountering various setbacks in the first six races this season, Ickler and his Bill McAnally Racing team led by crew chief Craig Raudman are looking to turn their luck around. "Craig and I have been at the shop four days a week working on these cars, trying to get them as good and well prepared as we can," Ickler said. "It's frustrating. We just go on to the next race with a good attitude. It will turn around one of these times."

Ickler is optimistic that the team's turnaround could come at Infineon. "We went up there and tested," he said. "We had a lot of instruction from Chris Cook, the road course specialist. I think with the effort we've been putting in the whole year, I don't see why our luck won't change. We definitely have good equipment and good cars and good people working on them."

Ickler knows that a lot goes into getting a good finish, especially on a road course. "The biggest key is just being smooth," said the second-year West Series driver. "If you look at last year's race, there were some engines blown up from over-revving them downshifting and transmissions broke from all the wheel-hop when you get going in the corner too hard."

The grueling demand of a road race requires extra preparation on the car, Ickler pointed out. "It takes a lot more time, a lot more man-hours to get a road course car ready," he said. "All the safety wiring, the wear and tear on all the bolts, and everything coming loose. I think that car prep is huge."

A good attitude by the driver is also important to doing well on a road course, he added. "I think it's being calm, being patient. It's more racing the race track other than racing your competitors," Ickler said.

NEWS & NOTES

* The race -- The Blue Lizard Suncream 200 presented by Supercuts is the seventh race on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule in 2007. It is the first of three road course events for the series this season.

* The track -- Infineon Raceway is a winding 10-turn 1.99-mile road course, with varying elevation. The West Series has visited the Sonoma facility 28 times, since first going there in 1969. In addition to the track hosting 19 stand-alone events, West Series drivers and teams competed in nine companion events there with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series between 1989 and 1997.

* Record entry list at Infineon -- The 41 drivers entered in this event, a record for a West Series race at Infineon Raceway, represent 10 states -- as well as Mexico and Canada. California leads the list, with 27 drivers hailing from the Golden State. Arizona and Idaho are each represented by two drivers. Seven states -- Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and North Carolina -- each have one driver entered. Two drivers are from Mexico City and one is from Alberta, Canada.

* NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers in West Series race -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers David Gilliland (No. 82 Sunrise Ford Ford) and Regan Smith (No. 4 Ginn Racing Chevrolet) are entered in the West Series race at Infineon. Gilliland, who was a champion crew chief and a second-generation competitor in the West Series, won a NASCAR Elite Division, Southwest Series race at Infineon in 2004. His father, Butch Gilliland, won the West Series championship in 1997.

* Experienced road racers -- The entry list for the West Series event also includes some drivers known for their road racing skills -- Boris Said (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet), P.J. Jones (No. 24 Bennett Lane Winery "Maximus" Ford), Carlos Contreras (No. 12 Supercuts Chevrolet) and Kevin O'Connell (No. 06 Taleo Grim/General Environmental Chevrolet).

* Young guns from Joe Gibbs Racing -- Two young drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, who are quickly making a mark for themselves this year in the NASCAR Grand National Division, are entered in the West Series race at Infineon. Joey Logano (No. 10 Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet), who turned 17 last month, won the West Series race at Phoenix in April and the Grand National Division combination race at Iowa in May. Marc Davis (No. 92 Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet) -- who will celebrate his 17th birthday on race day, June 23 -- finished in the runner-up spot to Logano at Phoenix. Both teens are running full-time this season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series.

* Other representation from Busch East Series -- The entry list at Infineon includes a veteran of the Busch East Series and a West Coast champion who now races in that series. Dale Quarterley (No. 32 Carpet One Chevrolet), who raced in 139 Busch East Series events between 1994 and 2006, finished second when he last raced in a West Series race in 2004. Eric Holmes (No. 62 Van Dyk Baler/Bollegraaf Chevrolet), who runs full-time in the East Series this year after winning the West Series championship in 2006, will be making his second start this season in the West Series.

* NASCAR Day at State Capitol -- Several West Series drivers participated in the second annual "NASCAR Day at the Capitol" in Sacramento earlier this month. Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet), Justin Lofton (No. 66 Lofton Cattle/Cometic/Klotz/Eibach Springs Ford) and Kenny Shepherd (No. 95 SaveMart/Mountain Dew Chevrolet) signed autographs, competed against fans in racing simulators and participated in a question and answer session about NASCAR Week at Infineon.

* Competing for Showdown spot -- Race winners this year in NASCAR Grand National Division are being rewarded with a starting spot in the 2007 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Under the new format announced at the beginning of the season, only Grand National race winners and champions of the NASCAR Developmental Series will be locked in to the field. All others must race their way in.

* Going into overtime -- Four of six West Series events so far this season have featured late-race cautions that resulted in the race distance being extended for a green-white-checkered finish.

* Last year's event -- While Brian Vickers dominated last year's event overall, several series rookies captured the spotlight with top-five finishes. Vickers led 61 of 64 laps en route to delivering car owner Rick Hendrick a West Series victory. Rookie Brian Ickler registered a career-best mark, with a second-place finish. Fellow freshman drivers Peyton Sellers and Justin Lofton followed Ickler across the finish line for third and fourth, respectively. Tom Hubert was fifth.

* 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 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), Roy Smith (1982) and Brian Vickers (2006).

* Bud Pole winners -- While Hershel McGriff leads the series with three Bud Poles at Infineon, Jim Bown, Butch Gilliland, Roy Smith and Tim Williamson each had won two poles there.

* Varied race distance -- The stand-alone 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 and the 1998 event was 51 laps. Last year's race was 64 laps.

* Series experience at Infineon -- Jack Sellers (No. 15 Aramark/Dutra Group Chevrolet) has the most series experience at Infineon of any active driver. He competed in eight stand-alone series events, finishing as high as 11th in 1989, and six combination events, finishing 40th on two occasions.

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

* Stat of the race -- Only four of the 19 series events at Infineon in the modern era were won by a driver starting from the Bud Pole position.

FAST FACTS

What: Blue Lizard Suncream 200, presented by Supercuts
NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #7

Where: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
When: 2:00 p.m., Saturday, June 23.

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

Posted Awards: $173,199

TV: HDNet (Live)
SPEED (enhanced replay, July 3, 2:30 p.m. ET)

2006 winner: Brian Vickers.
2006 polesitter: Brian Vickers.

Records: Qualifying: Brian Vickers, June 23, 2006, 90.872 mph, 78.836 sec.; Race: Brian Vickers, June 24, 2006, 67.595 mph, 1 hr 53 min 3 sec

Pre-race schedule: Friday - Practice, 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m., 2:50-3:55 p.m. Saturday - Qualifying, 10:05 a.m. Note: All times subject to change.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Tom Hubert , Carlos Contreras , P.J. Jones , Brian Vickers , Dale Quarterley , Jack Sellers , Eric Holmes , David Gilliland , Craig Raudman , Kenny Shepherd , Hershel McGriff , Peyton Sellers , Chris Cook , Kevin O'Connell , Justin Lofton , Joey Logano , Marc Davis , Brian Ickler , Jim Robinson
Teams Williams , Joe Gibbs Racing