MWS/SWS: Colorado: Midwest/Southwest matchup preview

NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES AND SOUTHWEST SERIES MATCHUP IN AUTO TRADER 150 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 31, 2006) -- On Saturday, June 3 the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and Midwest Series return to Colorado...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 31, 2006) -- On Saturday, June 3 the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and Midwest Series return to Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo., in an Elite Division matchup featuring the two Late Model series in a combined format.

The highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will be credited with a Midwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Midwest Series championship, regardless of their overall finish in the event. The second highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will receive second-place points and so on. Likewise, the highest-finishing Southwest Series driver will be credited with a Southwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Southwest Series championship, and so on.

Drivers will be credited with championship points for their respective series, based on whichever series they have previously obtained a NASCAR license for. Drivers will not be credited with a start or championship points outside their "home" series for which they are licensed for.

The Auto Trader is the third race of the season for the Southwest Series and marks the start of the 2006 Midwest Series campaign.

The two series, which use identical race cars under identical rules as part of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, have both raced at Colorado National Speedway, located 25 miles north of Denver, on several previous occasions. Saturday's Auto Trader 150 is the third time they are being brought together in a combined format.

Qualifying will be at a premium as only thirty-two starting positions are available for the 150-lap event, where a full contingent of series regulars will vie for their shot at victory in this unique format. Several local NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series drivers will attempt to qualify, led by multi-time track champion Roger Avants, of Littleton, Colo.

Other notable local competitors entered in this marquee event include Jerry Robertson of Denver, Bruce Yackey of Greeley, Colo., Kevin Clark of Colorado Springs, Colo., Mike Gallegos of Wheat Ridge, Colo., Greg Fowler of Erie, Trevor Morrical of Brighton, Colo., Jon Backman of Parker, Colo., Danny Mientka of Colorado Springs, Colo., Kenneth Walter of Littleton, Colo., Darren Crocker of Littleton, Colo., and Dave Finley of Brighton, Colo.

Two-time defending Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II, of Prunedale, Calif., is clawing his way back into the top 10 in the Southwest Series standings after a rough start this season. Pettit finished eighth at Shasta Raceway Park three weeks ago and currently sits 13th after two races this season. Pettit eyes a return trip to the winner's circle at CNS after finishing second to Jerry Robertson in August 2005.

"I love racing at Colorado National," Pettit said. "It is a long [trip], but the racing is always some of the best all year and the fans are incredible. I have always run real well there and hope that I am there at the end this weekend. It is going to be a tough race to win as the best of the Midwest will make it one of the more competitive fields all season."

Looking to back up his thrilling win at CNS last season is Brandon Riehl, of Boring, Ore., who currently holds the point lead in the Northwest Series. "I am looking forward to Colorado, but it is going to be tough with all the top guys there," Riehl said. "This could be the toughest race of the season."

The Midwest Series will kick off their season at CNS led by nine-time champion Steve Carlson, of West Salem, Wis., Carlson will be joined by the top drivers of the Midwest Series including Tim Schendel, Ron Hawley, Dexter Bean, Brent Kirchner, Josh Vadnais and David Finney.

The Auto Trader "150" could well be the best race of the season and it looms as one of the most important races in this year's championship chase. The green flag is set to wave at 8:10 p.m. Saturday, June 3.

Auto Trader 150 NEWS & NOTES

Alumni Spotlight... Burney Lamar, former Southwest Series star and current driver of the No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. on the NASCAR Busch Series, continues to impress as he continues to finish races and complete laps in his first full season on the NASCAR Busch Series. Lamar is 11th in the standings and is the leading Rookie-of-the-Year competitor. Former Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich has made the jump to the NASCAR Busch Series, where he'll drive the No. 4 Dodge for Biagi-Den Beste Racing. From the Midwest Series, two-time champion Justin Diercks, of Davenport, Iowa, made his NASCAR Busch Series debut May 5 at Richmond International Raceway

Points ... Eric Holmes leads the current 2006 Southwest Series standings after two races with 2002 series champion Eddy McKean only five markers back.

Bud Pole Awards ... Craig Raudman's 29 career Bud Pole Awards leads all Southwest Series drivers but M.K. Kanke (28 poles) looks to take that record back this season.

Who's Faster ... If past Bud Pole qualifying speeds are any indication, the Southwest Series may be favored to put one of its drivers on the pole. The Southwest Series' Bud Pole qualifying record at Colorado National is 15.736 seconds (85.791 mph), set by Burney Lamar in 2002. In the Midwest Series, the record belongs to Mark Kraus, at 15.919 seconds (84.804 mph) set in 2000.

Rookie Race ... David Mayhew leads the Southwest Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings after a ninth-place finish at Shasta. Other Southwest Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders this season include Travis McCullough, Cody Pruitt, Eric Richardson, Danny Mientka, Bobby Latham, and Brandon Loverock.

287 and Counting...That is how many career Southwest Series starts Bob Lyon, of Aqua Dulce, Calif., has heading into the Auto Trader 150. Lyon has started more races than any other competitor in series history. His Southwest Series career started back in 1987. Lyon finished 12th at CNS last season.

History Lesson ... Rick Carelli, the "high plains drifter," scored the win back on August 22, 1992. The victory was Carelli's sixth of the season and moved him into third place in the point standings behind Ron Hornaday and Doug George. Hornaday finished second that day followed by Roger Avants, Bob Lyon, and Michael Waltrip. Steve Portenga was the top finishing rookie in a race that took just 39 minutes and 31 seconds to complete 104 laps. Carelli's margin of victory was 3.1 seconds and the race was slowed four times for 22 laps. Carelli was also the fast qualifier with a quick lap of 16.407 seconds.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series/Midwest Series Auto Trader "150"

Where: Colorado National Speedway, Erie, Colo.

Who: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series/Midwest Series

When: Sat., June 3 at 8:10 p.m. (Mountain Time).

Posted awards: $85,313

Race length: 150laps, 43.75 miles
Track layout: 3/8-mile oval.

2005 Race Winner: Brandon Riehl
2005 Bud Pole Winner: Brandon Riehl

Pre-Race Schedule (All Times Local): Saturday, June 3- Registration begins 8:00 a.m., Haulers Enter 8:00 a.m., Practice 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying 4:50 p.m., Auto Trader "150" 8:10 p.m.


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Drivers Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Rick Carelli , Steve Portenga , Jerry Robertson , Eric Holmes , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Dexter Bean , Kevin Clark , Steve Carlson , David Mayhew