NCRA Sprint: Season opener preview

O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Cars Invade Nebraska Raceway Park PARK CITY, Kan. (April 5, 2006) -- Defending series champion Garry Lee Maier leads the way as the O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Car Series, presented by ICM/Ethanol, opens their 2006 season...

O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Cars Invade Nebraska Raceway Park

PARK CITY, Kan. (April 5, 2006) -- Defending series champion Garry Lee Maier leads the way as the O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Car Series, presented by ICM/Ethanol, opens their 2006 season Saturday at Nebraska Raceway Park in Greenwood, Neb. It marks the initial visit for the series to the 4/10ths-mile track.

With the help of six feature wins, the most ever in a NCRA 360 sprint car season, Maier easily captured his second championship in 2005, 14 years after winning his first crown in 1991.

Maier competed the first two seasons of the NCRA 360 sprints, finishing second in points the inaugural year of 1990 before winning it all the following season. But in 1992 the Cimarron, Kan., driver moved to another series full time until he and his sponsors decided to race closer to home last year and run the full NCRA schedule.

"The NCRA's been very good to me," Maier said. "We've run a lot of races here and it's been great to be back."

Maier made it to all 16 features in 2005, racking up 14 top 10 finishes and 12 top fives. He closed the season with finishes of third, second, first, and first.

"The NCRA has stepped up a lot and is much more competitive than before," Maier said.

This year, Maier's sponsors include Lubbock Wrecker, Salina Engines, J.D. and Laurie Erskine, Mid State Hay, and Max Jantz Engineering. He enters the season as the all-time leader in NCRA 360 sprint car victories with 52.

Maier also won the prestigious Brodix Tournament of Champions in Knoxville, Iowa, last year driving under the NCRA banner.

"It was great to represent the NCRA at the Tournament of Champions, and to win it was even bigger," he said.

The 2005 O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year was Preston Peebles II, runner-up to Maier in points. Peebles made it to every show, driving his way into all 16 features. He raced to one win, five top fives, and 12 top 10s.

Another two-time series champion, Steve King, is sponsored again by ICM/Ethanol, the presenting sponsor for all three NCRA divisions in 2006. King was third in points last year with one feature win, seven top fives, and 10 top 10s. His 17 career feature wins is good enough for second on the all-time NCRA 360 sprint car list.

Fourth-place finisher Dennis Park is the career leader with three season championships but won't be contending for a fourth title as a driver. Park owns the car driven by his son-in-law C.J. Johnson, who was fifth in points last year, just nine points behind Park. Johnson recorded a pair of runner-up finishes as part of his five top fives and nine top 10s on the season.

Rounding out the top 10 in points last year were Derek Drown, Luke Cranston, Jon Freeman, J.D. Johnson, and Mike Woodruff. Only 189 points separated this quintet at season's end.

Woodruff especially hopes to bounce back and perform closer to the level he did in 2004 when he picked up six victories en route to the championship. Although Woodruff didn't make it to the winner's circle last year, his 13 career wins puts him fourth on the all-time NCRA list.

For more information about the O'Reilly NCRA 360 Sprint Car Series, presented by ICM/Ethanol, either visit their Web site at www.ncraracing.org or call the NCRA office at (316) 755-1781.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Preston Peebles , Mike Woodruff , C.J. Johnson