MWS: February notebook

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series -- February Notebook DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2005) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series will open its 31st season in 2005, the eighth year that the series has been...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series -- February Notebook

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2005) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series will open its 31st season in 2005, the eighth year that the series has been sanctioned by NASCAR. While Midwest Series teams, drivers and fans await the season opener, here's a rundown of off-season news...

Ø Midwest Series graduates make headlines ... Several former Midwest Series drivers find themselves in the news this year, led by 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, who has jumped into the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series as the driver of Penske-Jasper Racing's No. 77 Kodak Dodge. Kvapil, of Janesville, Wis., spent the 1999-2000 seasons in the Midwest Series, where he recorded two wins and 15 top-five finishes in 31 starts, before advancing to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2001. Clint Bowyer, a 2002 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champion and 2003 rookie of the year contender in the Midwest Series, ran a limited NASCAR Busch Series schedule for Richard Childress Racing in 2004, and will step up to a full schedule in RCR's No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet in 2005. Bowyer posted four top-five finishes in 17 starts in his NASCAR Busch Series debut season.

Other former Midwest Series drivers to watch include: Paul Menard, who returns for his second season the NASCAR Busch Series, as the driver of the No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Jamie McMurray, who raced on the Midwest Series in 1998-99, will attempt to break into the NASCAR Top 10 and earn a spot in the 2005 "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." Last season, McMurray finished 11th in the point standings, becoming the first driver to collect NASCAR's $1 million bonus for finishing 11th, the first driver outside of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." In addition, McMurray will drive RWI Racing's No. 64 Top Flite Dodge on a limited schedule in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Ø Record year for Steve Carlson? Since NASCAR began sanctioning the Midwest Series (formerly ARTGO Challenge Series) in 1998, Steve Carlson has recorded 38 wins -- an average of 5.4 wins per season. At this rate, Carlson will find himself on top of the Midwest Series all-time win list before to long. Carlson, a nine-time series champion from West Salem, Wis., has 65 career victories, just three wins shy of Dick Trickle's record of 68 wins.

Ø Did you know? In 2004, the top 20 drivers in the Midwest Series shared more than $685,000 in race winnings, special awards, sponsorship contingency awards and NASCAR point fund awards.

Ø With Carlson as underdog, defending title no east feat for Diercks ... Since the Midwest Series' NASCAR era began in 1998, Carlson has been the leading driver in all categories. In addition to his 38 NASCAR wins, Carlson has won the series' championship in five of the past seven seasons. Carlson's annual dominance was one reason why Justin Diercks' 2004 championship run was so impressive. As Diercks prepares to defend his title, here is one fact that will put the challenge in perspective: In 2000, the only other season since 1998 in which Carlson was not the reigning champion (Brian Hoppe won the honors in 1999), he re-gained the title by 207 points, the largest championship margin of his NASCAR career.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard , Clint Bowyer , Justin Diercks , Steve Carlson , Travis Kvapil