MINNESOTA'S JOSH VADNAIS LEADS NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES TO RACEWAY PARK DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 11, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series returns to Raceway Park, in Shakopee, Minn., on Friday night,...
MINNESOTA'S JOSH VADNAIS LEADS NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES TO RACEWAY PARK
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 11, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series returns to Raceway Park, in Shakopee, Minn., on Friday night, July 14 for the Raceway Park 150. One of the local favorites arrives on top of the point standings for the first time in his career.
Josh Vadnais (No. 11 Discount Taxi/General Repair Service/Northern Racing Products Chevrolet), of White Bear Lake, Minn., won the season-opener for the Midwest Series at Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo., which was also a combination race with the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. In other words, Vadnais not only picked up his first career victory, he did it in style, winning the Bud Pole and beating many of the very best Elite Division drivers from the Midwest and Southwest.
"Raceway Park is a tough track," said Vadnais, who finished 10th in last year's Raceway Park 150. "I heard Dick Trickle describe racing in some places as 'flying jet fighters in a gymnasium.' I think Raceway Park would definitely fit that mold. These [Elite Division] cars are so fast around this quarter-mile track.
"One lap goes by in no time at all, so you've got to be cautious and you've got to be patient -- but at the same time you need to be aggressive," said Vadnais. "It's real easy to ride behind someone for 25 laps and look for a way to get around them. It's a catch-22; you've got to be patiently aggressive. It makes for a really interesting race. It's a driver's track because it is tough to pass. I've you've got a good car, you've got to get going."
Friday's race is the second of seven scheduled points races for the Midwest Series, which concludes Oct. 6 at LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway. The compressed schedule puts points at a premium -- and Vadnais' early lead is less than assured.
"When you're the points chaser, there is a little less pressure than when you're the one being chased," said Vadnais. "Because you're leading the points, you want to make sure that everything is right because the last thing you want is to have a mechanical failure of some kind."
One of the toughest challengers for the title is nine-time series champion Steve Carlson, of West Salem, Wis. Carlson finished second to Iowa's Justin Diercks in last year's Raceway Park 150 and the two battled back-and-forth for the championship points lead for most of the 2005 season. The 2005 championship ultimately went to Diercks, who moved up to a NASCAR driver development program in conjunction with Robert Yates Racing this season. With Diercks' departure, Carlson is once again a favorite for the crown and he's also chasing another mark: with his next victory Carlson will tie Dick Trickle as the series' all-time win leader.
Not far behind Carlson among the championship contenders is Tim Schendel, of Sparta, Wis. Schendel, the 2000 Midwest Series rookie of the year, hasn't finished out of the top five in the point standings since 2002.
MIDWEST SERIES NEWS & NOTES
* Colorado Club ... With a history of events at Colorado National Speedway and other tracks in Colorado, the Midwest Series has never had a problem attracting drivers from the state. Seven Colorado drivers are entered in Friday's Raceway Park 150, rivaling the turnout of local drivers from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Jon Backman (Parker, Colo.), Darren Bucklen (Greeley, Colo.), Darren Crocker (Littleton, Colo.), Greg Fowler (Erie, Colo.), Mike Gallegos (Wheat Ridge, Colo.) and Jim Sikes (Fountain, Colo.) and Bruce Yackey (Greeley, Colo.) are headed to from Colorado to Shakopee for Friday's race.
* Four races, four winners ... In four previous Midwest Series events at Raceway Park, four different drivers have visited victory lane. Butch Miller won in 1987 and set the series' track qualifying record (13.670 seconds, 65.838 mph) that still stands today. Other winners were Mark Martin and Trickle in 1983, and Diercks in 2005.
* Darnell Family Still Racing Strong in Midwest ... Erik Darnell, of Beach Park, Ill., made the transition from the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division to NASCAR's national level, gaining a full-time ride with Roush Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season. Darnell beat out hundreds of other candidates in Roush's nationally-televised "Driver X" tryout. But his family's Late Model team is still intact and Erik's father, Danny Darnell, will drive this Friday at Raceway Park. Erik's grandfather, Bay Darnell, is well-known as a successful United States Auto Club (USAC) Stock Car driver across the Midwest from the 1950's to the 1980's. Bay Darnell also competed briefly in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in the late 1950's and early 1960's.