MWS: Milwaukee: Round seven preview

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES RETURNS TO HISTORIC MILWAUKEE MILE AUGUST 27-28 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2005) -- It's been four years since the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series raced at The Milwaukee Mile, yet...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2005) -- It's been four years since the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series raced at The Milwaukee Mile, yet the break is over Aug. 28. The series returns to the historic race track for the Aug. 28 running of the Milwaukee 200.

Located in the heart of NASCAR's Midwest Series territory (most teams are based in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota), the venerable Wisconsin State Fairgrounds facility has hosted racing events for over 100 years, making it the oldest operating motor speedway in the world. This long history makes it a special visit for Midwest Series racers.

Tim Schendel, a six-year veteran of the Midwest Series from Sparta, Wis., says his family has followed races at Milwaukee for generations.

"It's really special," said Schendel. "My Dad used to always tell me about the races he used to go down there and watch -- especially the USAC [United States Auto Club] races with guys like A.J. Foyt and Bay Darnell.* It would be a neat thing to go down there and run up front.

"I really think we have a car to contend to win with," said Schendel. "I like the faster speeds. For me, it seems like the way we setup our cars, we do better on tracks that are a half-mile or above. For some reason, it just seems to fit me better."

The flat one-mile oval suits Schendel just fine, thanks to his Late Model racing experience at one of Wisconsin's premier short tracks.

"Milwaukee kind of reminds me of my home track, here at LaCrosse [Fairgrounds Speedway], just quite a bit bigger," he said.

Schendel finished seventh at Milwaukee in the Midwest Series most recent appearance in 2001. He has also raced there with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, finishing 22nd in his Craftsman Truck Series debut in June 2004.

"I'm glad that we're going back there because I've really missed it since the last time we raced there [with the Midwest Series]," said Schendel. "It's only two hours away for most of the people who race on the Midwest Series. It's great to have that mile track right out your back door. To win there would be a huge win."

Schendel, 26, earned his first career Midwest Series victory on a one-mile track, at Colorado's Pikes Peak International Raceway in 2002. He also won the prestigious 2003 Oktoberfest race at LaCrosse, but hasn't won since -- a span of 19 Midwest Series races in 2004-05.

"I haven't won for a while, you've got to remember that," said Schendel with a laugh. "Any win would be great, but I'd really like to win at Milwaukee -- because of the history behind it and I myself want to win there."

The Milwaukee 200 is scheduled to get underway on Sun., Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. (CT). The 200-lap race is the culmination of a full weekend at the track, including Bud Pole qualifying for the Midwest Series on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 27 and additional racing events featuring the USAC National Sprint Car Series, MARS Late Models and Mid Am Cars and Trucks.

The Midwest Series, which was first sanctioned by NASCAR in 1998 and was formerly known as the ARTGO Challenge Series, has been to the track on six previous occasions from 1988-2001.

Scott Hansen is the only driver to earn a repeat Midwest Series victory at the track, with wins in 1993 and 2001. Dick Trickle, Tom Carlson, Jeff Neal and Joe Shear have also logged Midwest Series victories there. The Midwest Series visited Milwaukee twice in 1993, under the ARTGO banner, and future NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series star Matt Kenseth finished third in both events. Hansen also holds the series' Bud Pole qualifying record at Milwaukee (30.391 seconds/118.456 mph set in 2001). Kenseth's current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup crew chief, Robbie Reiser, also won a Bud Pole qualifying award at Milwaukee, during his driving career with the Midwest Series.

The race is sure to be another closely-contested battle for the 2005 Midwest Series championship, between heavyweights Steve Carlson and Justin Diercks. The two are separated by just three points entering the Milwaukee 200, meaning every position on the track will be critical to their championship efforts.

Diercks, of Davenport, Iowa, won the 2004 title after posting six wins. He was the first driver to knock Carlson off the championship podium in several years, as Carlson won four consecutive titles from 2000-03. Diercks and Carlson have combined to win five races this season.

The Milwaukee 200 also represents a chance for Carlson, a nine-time Midwest Series champion, to tie Trickle's all-time series win record (68 wins). Carlson has never won at Milwaukee, but has two top-five finishes in his last four appearances there.

Following Milwaukee, Diercks, Carlson and the other championship contenders have two more chances to solidify their position in the standings. The Midwest Series will participate in a special combination race with the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series at Kentucky Motor Speedway Sept. 10. The Midwest Series season finale will be held Oct. 8 at LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway.

The top 10 drivers in the final point standings will earn invitations to the third-annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, scheduled for Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. The $500,000 post-season special event features the top 10 drivers from each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division -- Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest Series. The Toyota All-Star Showdown will be broadcast live on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel.

* (Editor's Note: Bay Darnell's grandson, Erik, won the last Midwest Series event at Lake Geneva Raceway and is scheduled to compete in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Milwaukee 200)

Fast Facts

What: Milwaukee 200 (Race No. 7 of 8 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series).

Where:  The Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, Wis.

When: Sunday, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. (CT).

Track layout:  1.0-mile oval.

Race length: 200 laps / 200 miles.

Posted awards: $123,022.

Top 10 in points: 1. Justin Diercks 1,004, 2. Steve Carlson 1,001, 3. Andrew Morrissey 897, 4. Tim Schendel 869, 5. Brent Kirchner 863, 6. Eddie Hoffman 810, 7. Dexter Bean 805, 8. Josh Bauer 793, 9. Russ Blakeley 779, 10. Greg Fowler 763.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday, Aug. 27 -- Practice 11:00 a.m. -- noon, Practice 1:45-2:45 p.m. Bud Pole qualifying time trials (2 laps) 5:00 p.m.


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Drivers Matt Kenseth , Dick Trickle , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Steve Carlson , A.J. Foyt , Scott Hansen