MWS: LaCrosse preview

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE LINE IN OKTOBERFEST 200 AT LaCROSSE FAIRGROUNDS SPEEDWAY For the second year, Justin Diercks and Steve Carlson competing for top honors DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2005) --...


For the second year, Justin Diercks and Steve Carlson competing for top honors

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2005) -- Last year, Justin Diercks edged out Steve Carlson by a 48-point margin to win his first NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series championship, after a hard-fought seventh-place finish in the season finale at LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway.

At the age of 24, Diercks became the first driver since 1999 to unseat Carlson from his perennial championship perch -- and he was the first driver from the state of Iowa to win the Midwest Series title.

A year later, Diercks and Carlson will once again decide the Midwest Series championship at LaCrosse, in the Oktoberfest 200 presented by Kwik Trip this Saturday. Diercks carries a 49-point advantage over Carlson into the finale. The Davenport, Iowa driver heads back to LaCrosse with the experience and mind-set of a proven champion.

"Basically, I haven't thought about it too much," said Diercks. "I'm just it letting it be. Last year I thought about it so much beforehand and I was kind of nervous going into the race. This time around, I've been through it and I know what to expect. I just need to run a smart race and run up in the top five and stay right by Steve. That's what the game plan is. If he goes forward, we'll move forward."

Diercks can secure his second consecutive championship with a 10th place finish, or better, on Saturday. If he finishes in the top 10, Diercks will accumulate enough points to win the title, even if Carlson gains the maximum amount of points by winning the race. Carlson is a two-time Oktoberfest winner and finished second in 2004.

Although the circumstances are similar for Diercks and Carlson this time around, Diercks will surely hope for a better outcome than last year's final visit to LaCrosse. He finished in the top 10 and secured the championship, but Diercks struggled to stay on the track after suffering a broken wheel in the opening laps and sustained more damage after a collision with a lapped car later in the race.

"We learned a lot of things from last year," said Diercks. "I talked about it with Nick [Carlson, crew chief] and my Dad, and we went over things that happened last year. We'll apply it to this year, try to run a smart race and hopefully come home with a second straight title."

Since the Midwest Series became sanctioned by NASCAR in 1998, Carlson has won the championship in all but two seasons -- 1999 when he lost by eight points to Brian Hoppe and 2004 when Diercks took his first title. If Carlson comes from behind to win the title this weekend, it will mark his 10th championship overall. If he wins the race itself, it will mark his 68th victory and tie him with Dick Trickle on the Midwest Series' all-time win list.


Special Awards also up for grabs ... In addition to the overall series championship, several special awards can be won or lost at LaCrosse. Andrew Morrissey can clinch the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title by starting the race. If he takes the green flag, Morrissey will earn enough rookie points to win the $1,500 year-end prize from Sunoco, the Official Fuel of NASCAR. Other special awards include the annual Bud Pole Award, POWERade Power Move of the Race Award and Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award. The Bud Pole and POWERade awards are still undecided. Those participating sponsors award bonuses at each event and the driver who wins each award the most during the year wins the year-end award. Rookie Josh Bauer has already wrapped up the Featherlite Award by winning Featherlite's individual race award on three occasions.

Meet the drivers at AutoZone ... In conjunction with the Oktoberfest 200, fans will be able to meet drivers from the Midwest Series in a special appearance scheduled for this Thursday, at the AutoZone store located at 3820 Mormon Coulee Road in LaCrosse. Drivers Tim Schendel, of Sparta, Wis., and Dexter Bean, of Westby, Wis., are scheduled to appear at the store from 2-4:00 p.m. (CT). Fans are encouraged to stop by to see the race cars up close and get autographs from these drivers.

Fast Facts

What: Oktoberfest 200 presented by Kwik Trip
Where: LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. (CT).

Posted awards: $70,572.

Race length: 200 laps, 125 miles
Track layout: .625-mile oval.

Pre-Race Schedule (all times local): Registration begins 6:30 a.m.; Practice 9:30-11:00 a.m.; Bud Pole qualifying 1:00 p.m.

Top 10 Drivers: 1. Justin Diercks 1,324, 2. Steve Carlson 1,275, 3. Tim Schendel 1,219, 4. Andrew Morrissey 1,156, 5. Brent Kirchner, 1,101, 6. Eddie Hoffman 1,093, 7. Dexter Bean 1,085, 8. Josh Bauer 1,041, 9. Russ Blakeley 1,037, 10. Nick Joanides 1,031.


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Drivers Dick Trickle , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Steve Carlson , Nick Joanides