BE: News of note 2007-03-06

East-West drivers to battle for points in big NASCAR weekend in the Midwest Speedway EXPO Opens Pre-Season in Northeast Sons of LaJoie, Shaw planning their futures DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 6, 2007) - Mike Olsen is plenty familiar with the ...

East-West drivers to battle for points in big NASCAR weekend in the Midwest

Speedway EXPO Opens Pre-Season in Northeast
Sons of LaJoie, Shaw planning their futures

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Mar. 6, 2007) - Mike Olsen is plenty familiar with the NASCAR West Series drivers. The two-time NASCAR Busch East champion has gotten to know his NASCAR Grand National counterparts over the last several years through the postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

And like a lot of the drivers in both series, Olsen is looking forward to renewing acquaintances in May when the two sides meet in the middle for an historic two-race, regular-season face-off.

Teams from coast to coast will converge on the .375-mile oval at Elko (Minn.) Speedway on Friday, May 18. They will head approximately 240 miles south to Newton, Iowa, to face off again on Sunday, May 20, at the .875- mile Iowa Speedway.

"I think it's going to be a great deal," said Olsen (No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet). "There are a lot of good teams and a lot of good drivers. It should make for a real good event and real tough events, both Friday and Sunday."

This marks the first time teams will compete for valuable championship points in the same event.

Visiting a track for the first time should present an equal challenge for drivers from both series, said Olsen, who added the 2006 Busch East title to the one he won in 2001.

"It should be a pretty evenly matched race as far as that goes," Olsen said. "I'm looking forward to it. Any time we can run against those guys, it's a lot of fun."

Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet), who won back- to-back West Series championships in 2004 and 2005, agrees. Success in the two events will hinge on which teams can quickly adapt to tracks they have never seen before, he said.

"It's going to be a matter of who can figure out the tracks the quickest," Duncan said. "That will be the deciding factor. None of us on the West Coast have seen these tracks. The knowledge of the facilities is probably going to play a big role in the success of how we do back there."

"I'm looking forward to going," Duncan said of seeing new fans and visiting a new part of the country.

Olsen will have extra incentive for doing well at Iowa Speedway - with his team's sponsor, Little Trees, having a factory in Iowa.

"We should have a lot of company people there for that race," Olsen said. "I hear it's a beautiful track."

In addition to being the first combination events, with points at stake for drivers in each series, it marks the first time for each series to compete in Minnesota or Iowa. The West Series traces its history to 1954, when NASCAR came to the West Coast and began sanctioning the Pacific Coast Late Model Series.

The modern era for the Busch East Series began in 1987.

While these races mark the first combination events between the Busch East Series and the West Series, it is not the first time for either series to participate in a combination event with other NASCAR series.

The West Series (then known as Winston West) ran 67 combination events with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (then known as Winston Cup) between 1971 and 1997. The Busch East Series (then known as the Busch Grand National North Series) participated in various combination events with the NASCAR Busch Series (then known as NASCAR Busch Grand National Series) through 1991.

This season marks a new era in the NASCAR Grand National Division, with a composite body and spec engine that were introduced into competition in 2006. The combination of the spec engine, composite body and the option of running either 105- or 110- inch wheelbase cars, comprise a wide variety of cost- saving initiatives for the Grand National Division, which serves as the top developmental series for up- and-coming future stars of NASCAR. The sanctioning organization also reduced its minimum driving age to 16 for the division this year.

The West Series will kick off its 54th season at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on March 31. The Busch East Series is set to get its 21st season underway at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., on April 28.

NEWS & NOTES

Speedway EXPO opens pre-season . Thousands of motorsports participants, enthusiasts and industry suppliers converged at the Eastern States Exposition complex in West Springfield, Mass., March 2-4. The Speedway EXPO, organized by Dick Berggren's Speedway Illustrated magazine, rejuvenated the landmark trade show at the "Big E" after a several-year hiatus. "I was very pleased that the show came together the way it did," Berggren said. "Many where those who came to us to say they had a good time. Vendors said they did well. It was important to us to provide an opportunity for area race tracks to pass out their 2007 schedules, for their drivers to meet new fans, and all that happened." Dale Wolbrink, motorsports consultant and Special Events Manager, helped create the new show and was a primary facilitator before and during the event. "We're really happy with the turnout," Wolbrink said. "We really want to thank the vendors for having faith in the EXPO. We are thrilled with their support and they are happy with their decision to support it. We wanted to keep what worked and build new features for teams, fans and suppliers. We wanted to have something for everyone. "I've always looked forward to this event and now the future looks bright." NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks were strongly represented: eight of the region's tracks had substantial display space, and were supported with more than 30 race cars of all types. In addition, New Hampshire International Speedway provided a complete showcase of the various cars that race the 1- mile track. It all provided a worthwhile weekend to bridge the winter gap until the start of racing in New England. "Since everyone seemed to have a good time, since so many vendors asked us to do the show again, we're looking forward to a 2008 Town Fair Tire Speedway EXPO," Berggren said.

"Generation Next". With young second generation NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers Matt Hirschman and Chris Pasteryak already on track, some second generation NASCAR Busch East Series drivers are in the career developmental stage. NASCAR Busch Series championship-winning driver Randy LaJoie said his 15-year-old son Cody aspires to join the NASCAR Busch East Series, possibly as early 2008. And 1994 NASCAR Busch East Series champion Dale Shaw was introducing his teenage son, D.J., to friends at the Expo as a potential-filled youngster as well.

-credit: nascar

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