WS: Stockton II: Round nine preview

* Mike David hopes to win AutoZone West Series final visit to Stockton * Can't get any closer: points leaders David and Holmes are tied heading into Stockton * August marks busy portion of schedule for series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug....

* Mike David hopes to win AutoZone West Series final visit to Stockton

* Can't get any closer: points leaders David and Holmes are tied heading into Stockton

* August marks busy portion of schedule for series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2006) -- When the checkered flag waves at Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 5, it will mark the end of an era for stock car racing in Stockton, Calif. -- as the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series stock cars rumble around the quarter-mile oval for a final time.

The historic facility is slated to close at the end of the season and several drivers are hoping to send it off on a high note -- by winning in their final appearance.

Mike David No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) of nearby Modesto is among a long list of competitors hoping to claim victory in the Dodge Country 200 by NAPA Belts & Hose and Havoline on Saturday. The race will be televised live in high definition to a national audience on HDNet. In addition, SPEED is slated to provide an enhanced replay at 2:30 p.m. (PT) on Aug. 17.

David has many reasons to be optimistic about his chances for victory. After growing up watching his father race at Stockton, the second-generation driver began his racing career there. The first of David's three career wins in the AutoZone West Series came at Stockton in 2004 and he registered his most recent when the series visited there earlier this year.

"We've got real good equipment and a great team," David said in terms of his opportunity to score back-to-back wins at Stockton. "Mario Isolo does a super job as a crew chief setting the car up. He knows the track real well. And I know the track real well. I think we've got a real good chance."

David has extra incentive for wanting to win this event. In the AutoZone West Series season finale last year, he won the final race before the closure of another great race track -- Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. Now the 39-year-old competitor would like to be the final driver to take the checkered flag in AutoZone West Series action at Stockton.

"That would be something special," he said. "That would be big. It's our home track and one of the closest tracks to my sponsor."

David appeared somewhat unsure, meanwhile, of how sentimental this race might be for him. "I don't know. It almost seems surreal," he said. "If we win it will be even more sentimental."

A win would certainly provide a boost in points for David -- who is in the midst of a fierce championship battle, with just 46 points separating the top five drivers in the standings. David and Eric Holmes (No. 62 Sunoco Race Fuels/Paul Oil Chevrolet) are even at 1,189 points, with four races remaining to decide the 2006 title. Although Holmes of Escalon, Calif., also considers Stockton 99 Speedway his home track -- he experienced his worst results of the season there with a 20th-place finish earlier in the year.

Weather conditions, meanwhile, are expected to differ for this race than in April. Despite a forecast for hotter temperatures, David does not plan to alter much from the notes he used previously. "As far as the base setup, it doesn't really change and the feel I want in the car doesn't change," he said. "It (the track) is so old and seasoned; it's not affected as Irwindale or some of the newer tracks."

David, who competed in Modifieds and Late Model stock cars at Stockton early in his career, says racing AutoZone West Series cars around the tight quarter-mile Stockton oval presents a special challenge to drivers. "The Grand National Division is the heavier car. More horsepower and a tight track makes it real exciting to drive," he said. "You've got to be on your toes a bit more. Things happen quicker. A Late Model car you can throw around and get out of trouble, but the Grand National cars are not so easy to maneuver quickly."

NEWS & NOTES

* The race -- This event is the ninth race on the series schedule for 2006. It marks the second of two visits by the AutoZone West Series to Stockton this year.

* The track -- Stockton 99 Speedway is a quarter-mile paved oval with blended banking of up to 14 degrees in turns one and two and up to 17 degrees in turns three and four.

* Farewell to Stockton 99 -- This will be the 21st and final NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series race at Stockton 99 Speedway. The track -- which opened in 1947 -- announced this will be its final year of operation. It hosted its first AutoZone West Series event on April 17, 1966, a 100-lap event won by Jack McCoy.

* Exciting finishes -- Late-race cautions have contributed to some exciting finishes at Stockton 99 Speedway, with the race distance being extended for a green-white-checkered finish in five of the past seven series races.

* Three-race swing -- This race marks the final of three consecutive weekends of racing for the AutoZone West Series. The series visited Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on July 22 and Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., on July 29.

* Seven different winners in eight races -- The first eight races this season have produced seven different winners. Andrew Myers (No. 44 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet) is the only multiple winner so far -- with a victory at Phoenix in April and Irwindale in May. Other drivers to visit victory lane this year are Mike David at Stockton in April, Peyton Sellers (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet) at Roseburg, Austin Cameron (No. 88 RaceCarFans.com Chevrolet) at Irwindale in July and Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford) at Monroe. Two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regulars have also won in the AutoZone West Series this season -- with Ken Schrader (No. 99 Four Winds Motorhomes/AXA Chevrolet) winning the season opener at Phoenix and Brian Vickers (No. 17 GMAC Chevrolet) taking the victory at Sonoma.

* Moore returns to series -- Local NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Western Late Model competitor John Moore (No. 61 J&M Environmental Chevrolet) is slated to be back in action in the AutoZone West Series, driving the Thompson Motorsports entry at Stockton. Moore of Granite Bay, has competed in five series events during the past three seasons -- with four of those starts at Stockton.

* Last year's event -- After three consecutive runner-up finishes in series action at Stockton 99 Speedway, Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) finally took home the big prize in this event a year ago. It was Scott Lynch, however, who appeared to have the car to beat early in the race. After winning the Budweiser Pole Award and setting the pace early, Lynch lost the lead and began to fade with electrical problems at lap 61. Steve Portenga charged out front and began to open up a margin on his competition. His advantage was quickly erased, however, by numerous cautions in the first half of the race. David Gilliland took advantage of one of the subsequent restarts to jump into the lead on lap 84. Portenga regained the point on lap 112 and paced the field for most of the second half of the race. After gaining second place, when contact from a lapped car sent Gilliland spinning in turn one, Duncan set after the leader. He wrestled the top spot from Portenga just after a lap 187 restart. Duncan held off his competition after a late race caution extended the race to 206 laps and a green-white-checkered finish. He crossed the finish line with a margin of .748 of a second. Lynch was able to rebound to finish second after his crew made repairs at the midway break of the race. Gilliland recovered from his spin to take third.

* Winning drivers at Stockton -- Jack McCoy's five victories (1966, 1968, 1971, 1973 and 1974) top the list of winning series drivers at Stockton. With his Stockton win earlier this year, Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) joined those drivers with two wins on the quarter-mile oval. Others on that list include Dick Bown (1970, 1972), Jim Bown (1982, 1983) and Austin Cameron (No. 88 RaceCarFans.com Chevrolet) (2003, 2004).

* Most poles -- McCoy was also dominant in terms of qualifying, winning five Budweiser Pole Awards at Stockton. Duncan, Scott Lynch and Jim Bown follow on that list with two each.

* Stockton experience -- Among active drivers, only four have competed in all seven series races at Stockton since 2002 -- David, Duncan, Gaylord and Jack Sellers (No. 75 Aramark Pontiac).

* Stat of the race -- Seven of 16 AutoZone West Series events in the modern era at Stockton were won by the Budweiser Pole winner.

* Additional Stockton stat -- The 20 AutoZone West Series races at Stockton equate to 2,979 laps or 744.75 miles of competition around the historic quarter-mile track.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday in August include Scott Gaylord, who turns 48 on the 12th; Rick Craig, who turns 34 also on the 12th; Justin Fisher, who turns 20 on the 17th; Burney Lamar, who turns 26 on the 21st; Travis Powell, who turns 42 on the 26th; John Moore, who turns 43 on the 27th; Brandon Loverock, who turns 30 also on the 27th; Brian Richardson, who turns 31 on the 28th; and Brandon Miller, who turns 25 also on the 28th.

FAST FACTS

What: Dodge Country 200 by NAPA Belts & Hose and Havoline, NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Race #9

Where: Stockton 99 Speedway, Stockton, Calif.

When: 8:15 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5.

Track layout: .25-mile paved oval.
Distance: 200 Laps, 50 miles

Posted Awards: $114,253

TV: HDNet (live)
SPEED (enhanced replay, Aug. 17, 2:30 p.m. PT)

2005 winner: Mike Duncan.
2005 polesitter: Scott Lynch.

Records: Qualifying: Mike Duncan, May 29, 2004, 63.861 mph, 14.093 sec.; Race: Johnny Borneman, Aug. 17, 2002, 48.976 mph, 1 hr 1 m 52 s

Pre-race schedule: Saturday -- Practice, Noon-12:45 p.m., 1:15-2 p.m. Qualifying, 5:30 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series Top 10: 1. Mike David 1,189, 2. Eric Holmes 1,189, 3. Peyton Sellers 1,177, 4. Steve Portenga 1,148, 5. Mike Duncan 1,143, 6. Jim Inglebright 1,086, 7. Scott Gaylord 1,056, 8. Justin Lofton 1,047, 9. Johnny Borneman 1,041, 10. Brian Ickler 1,006.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Ken Schrader , Steve Portenga , Jim Inglebright , Jack Sellers , Brandon Miller , Scott Lynch , Mike David , John Moore , Eric Holmes , Burney Lamar , Austin Cameron , Peyton Sellers , Andrew Myers , Justin Lofton , Brian Ickler