MOTEGI CITY, Japan (Nov. 17, 1999) Three Japanese drivers and three competitors from Australia will be among the 30 competitors in this weekend's history-making NASCAR Winston West Series championship race, the '99 NASCAR Coca-Cola 500 at Twin...
MOTEGI CITY, Japan (Nov. 17, 1999) Three Japanese drivers and three competitors from Australia will be among the 30 competitors in this weekend's history-making NASCAR Winston West Series championship race, the '99 NASCAR Coca-Cola 500 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Adding international flavor to the event on the 1.549-mile superspeedway, the fourth straight NASCAR event in November in Japan but the first championship point race, are three Japanese: Hideo Fukuyama, Keiichi Tsuchiya and Manibu Orido; and Australians Kim Jane, Neville Lance and Terry Wyhoon.
"We are thrilled to announce that these drivers will be participating in this year's Coca-Cola 500 at Twin Ring Motegi," said Dennis Huth, vice president touring operations and international development for NASCAR. "The three Japanese have competed in the series and we welcome them back. Their participation reflects the popularity of NASCAR on an international level from a competition standpoint, as well as fan involvement.
"This will deliver an international flavor throughout the entire event. We are thrilled to have drivers competing in the event from three different continents."
The event, which caps off a 14-race schedule for the NASCAR Winston West Series, will be the first NASCAR point race outside of North America. In addition to the six competitors from Australia and Japan, the field will include no less than 21 NASCAR Winston West Series competitors, including series veteran Gary Smith, who hails from British Columbia, Canada; and three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers.
Two of the Japanese drivers, Fukuyama and Tsuchiya, competed in the three NASCAR exhibition events held in Japan in each of the past three years. The events were held at the road course at Suzuka Circuit in 1996 and 1997. Last year's race was held at the Twin Ring Motegi superspeedway.
Fukuyama, of Suzuka City, finished 22nd and 21st in the two races held at Suzuka Circuitland in 1996 and 1997, respectively. He turned in a 17th-place finish last year at Twin Ring Motegi. In addition, he raced his way to a 19th-place finish in a regular NASCAR Winston West Series event last year at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tsuchiya, of Nagano, finished 15th and 11th in the two races at Suzuka Circuitland and 26th at Motegi. In addition, he competed at a NASCAR Winston West Series race at California Speedway in 1998. He finished 24th in that event on the two-mile superspeedway near Los Angeles.
Orido, of Yokohama, raced in his first NASCAR event earlier this season at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, where he finished 18th on the half-mile short track.
Jane, 32, of Melbourne, Australia, is a three-time NASCAR Australia champion whose uncle, Bob Jane, built the Calder Park Thunderdome speedway in Australia. Kim Jane won the title in 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99. He has raced at the Thunderdome superspeedway since 1988. Jane will compete in a Bob Jane T-Marts/Goodyear/Repco-sponsored Chevrolet in Japan.
Lance, 39, of Perth, Western Australian, has competed in NASCAR Australia at the Thunderdome since 1994. At Motegi, he is set to drive a Ford sponsored by King Koil Chiropractic Beds.
Wyhoon, 37, of Korumburra, South Gippsland, Victoria, also competes in NASCAR Australia at the Thunderdome and is also a former champion. He was the runner-up for the AUSCAR title in 1993-94 and followed that up by winning the AUSCAR championship in 1995-96. He was the NASCAR Australia Rookie of the Year in 1997-98. Wyhoon is slated to compete at Motegi in an Australian-built Ford.
The drivers will be competing at Motegi on a 1.549-mile superspeedway. It is part of a 640-acre, $400 million motorsports entertainment complex located in the Yamizo mountain range, approximately 60 miles northeast of Tokyo. The track opened in 1997.
This year's event at Motegi follows NASCAR exhibition events that were held in Japan in each of the past three years. The races in 1996 and 1997 were held on the road course at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka City, while last year's event was at Motegi. Former NASCAR Winston Cup champion Rusty Wallace won the inaugural event in 1996 while former NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year won the 1997 and 1998 Japanese exhibition events.
Australian Jim Richards competed in the 1997 event at Suzuka, qualifying second quickest and finishing sixth.
Nearly a decade prior to the NASCAR exhibition events in Japan, drivers from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and the NASCAR Winston West Series traveled to Australia in 1988 to participate in the inaugural NASCAR Australia exhibition event at the Thunderdome. Several of them returned again in 1989 for the second event on the 1-mile superspeedway.
Speedvision's telecast of the Coca-Cola 500 will be on a tape-delay basis into the United States, which offers a better timetable for viewers due to the 13-hour difference in time. The telecast will air Saturday, Dec. 11, beginning at 3 p.m. ET.