WS: Utah: Round 10 preview

* Lofton Looks Forward To Inaugural Road Course Event In Utah * Series Heads For First Visit To Miller Motorsports Park * Drivers Prepare To Go Road Racing, Again DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 9, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, West...

* Lofton Looks Forward To Inaugural Road Course Event In Utah
* Series Heads For First Visit To Miller Motorsports Park
* Drivers Prepare To Go Road Racing, Again

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 9, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series makes its inaugural visit to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, this week with the Big O Tires 150 on Saturday, July 14.

Although he has never been on the 3.06-mile road course, Justin Lofton (No. 66 Lofton Cattle/Cometic/Klotz/Eibach Ford) is looking forward to this race with great anticipation.

"I think it'll be a blast," he said. "The only way I'm familiar with the track is watching it on TV. I've talked to a couple of people from the Grand Am Rolex Series. I haven't been on the track, but it looks like a lot of fun."

Lofton is optimistic that he and several other drivers who began their racing careers in off-road competition will adapt quickly to the new road course.

"We should do really good there, probably better than most people," said the 21-year-old driver from Westmorland, Calif. "Brian (Ickler) is going to be tough there, along with Eric (Hardin) and Andrew (Myers). Because we're from the off-road background, we drive what we see, not what we're use to. A corner won't surprise us, because we'll be looking out for it."

Lofton, whose best career finishes in the West Series came on the road course at Infineon Raceway in the form of a fourth-place finish a year ago and a fifth-place finish this year, credits much of his road racing skill to his racing as a teen in off-road and hill-climb competition.

"A lot that is patience," Lofton said. "It just goes back to being patient and getting to the end of the race. When you do off-road and hill-climb racing, you drive more what you see. In a circle-track race, you get in a rhythm and hit the same corner every time. In off-road racing you never know what to expect. So, you're more on your toes and watching out for something. If someone kicks a little dirt up on the track, it's not going to throw you off, because you're looking out for it. It doesn't catch you by surprise."

To prepare for the event, Lofton will do what he can to become familiar with the configuration of the road course in Utah. "I'll watch as many races on TV as I can," he said. "If we can get it on the computer or any kind of video game, I'll race it that way. But we haven't had time to do a driving school there."

He is optimistic this event may provide him with his first series win.

"We're right there," Lofton said of a possible victory. "We're knocking on the door. Last year everything was new to us. Now we know more of what we want and how to drive these cars."

The second-year driver, who is currently sixth in the championship standings, is hopeful of also moving into the top five before the season is over.

NEWS & NOTES

The race -- This event is the 10th race for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series in 2007. It is the second of three road course events for the series this season. It is the only visit by the series to the state of Utah this year.

The track -- Miller Motorsports Park is a multi-purpose road course with four possible configurations. The track is located adjacent to Tooele County's Deseret Peak Recreation Complex, approximately 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.

Competing for Showdown spot -- West Series drivers only have four events left to secure a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown by winning a race. 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.

Road racing in the West -- Road races have long been a part of the West Series. The series, which dates back to 1954, visited its first road course in Rosamond, Calif., in 1955. While the series schedule featured at least one road race nearly every year through 2001, there were no road course races from 2002 through 2005. Road races were most prominent in the series in the 1980s -- when at least half of the events were races with left and right-hand turns. 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 29 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.

Bonus money -- The championship standings will have added emphasis at this event. Following this race, a combined $50,000 in prize money will be paid out through the second portion of the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Leader Bonus Program to 15 drivers, based on their finishes in the second leg of the schedule. Coming off back-to-back wins, it's no surprise that Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) leads the standings for that portion of the schedule, which is comprised of the sixth race through the 10th race. He is followed by Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet), Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Twisted X Boots/Red Line Oil Ford) and Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford).

Similar season for leader -- After nine races in 2006, Mike David led the standings with 1,374 points. This season he has accumulated 1,373 points in the first nine races. A year ago, his lead was just five points over Eric Holmes, who went on to win the series championship. His lead this season is 76 points over Mike Duncan.

Early practice -- West Series teams will get their first opportunity to get on the road course at Miller Motorsports Park during an open practice, hosted by the track on Friday.

Compliments from Cup driver -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Casey Mears got a look at Miller Motorsports Park while NASCAR's premier series was in Las Vegas in March. "What a beautiful track and a great facility," he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

FAST FACTS

What: Big O Tires 150 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #10

Where: Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, Utah.
When: 6:25 p.m., Saturday, July 14.

Track layout: 3.06-mile Road Course.
Distance: 41 Laps, 126.46 miles.

Posted Awards: $176,928

2006 winner: Inaugural event.
2006 polesitter: Inaugural event.

Pre-race schedule: Saturday -- Practice, 10:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Qualifying, 2:40 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Casey Mears , Mike David , Eric Holmes , Justin Lofton , Brian Ickler