NWS: Countdown to the Showdown: drivers spotlight

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 29, 2003) -- The promise of a post-season showdown with the best of the best suits Kevin Hamlin just fine. The two-time defending NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series champion may not win his third...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 29, 2003) -- The promise of a post-season showdown with the best of the best suits Kevin Hamlin just fine. The two-time defending NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series champion may not win his third consecutive title this season, but he is excited at the prospect of competing against drivers in an all-star type event.

The 23-year-old Snohomish, Wash. native eyes an opportunity to move up through NASCAR's ladder system and knows that the who's who in the racing world will be watching this event. The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will bring together top drivers from throughout NASCAR's regional racing divisions to compete at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on Nov. 6-8. The top 10 drivers in each of the four series in the NASCAR Elite Division will compete along with the top 15 drivers in the two NASCAR Grand National series -- Busch North and Winston West. The race will be televised live on NASCAR TV on SPEED Channel, beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Nov. 8.

"It is going to be neat to race in an event like this," said Hamlin, who is currently sixth in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series championship standings in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. "This will be a first for us in the Northwest and a great chance to prove who the best is. A lot of our guys have gone to Phoenix in the past, but this race is on a short track, the type we all race on all year."

Drivers in the showdown will be competing for their share of $500,000 in prize money, but Hamlin says the bragging rights are more important.

"I just want to win races, everything else comes if you win," Hamlin said.

Another driver hoping to use the Showdown to propel his career is Jason Jefferson of Yakima, Wash. Jefferson campaigns the only Dodge Intrepid in NASCAR Elite Division competition and wants to give the name plate recognition, along with trying to clear a path to NASCAR's higher echelon.

Jefferson is a two-time winner on the series and currently holds down the third position in the standings with three races remaining. He has also all but wrapped up the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year title and needs an event like this to prove he is ready for the next challenge."

"I can't wait for the Showdown," Jefferson said. "The Northwest Dodge Dealers have been real supportive and really like our program. The Northwest has always had great drivers and to have the top 10 from across the country is a cool idea that is long overdue."

With the top spot in each of the Elite Divisions secure with the knowledge an invite is coming, those drivers that sit at the bottom end of the top ten have a lot more pressure to perform. Rick Suran, of Estacada, Ore., is a hard-working guy who likes to race. An invite to the Showdown would be a career highlight.

Suran owns a paving company just outside Portland, Ore. and often drives all night to make the race after working until midnight. A trip to Southern California may serve as a long over due vacation.

"Our series is tough," Suran said. "A lot of our guys run every race and finishing in the top 10 is no easy feat. It will all come down to luck over the last three races. I'm in ninth, but could easily drop to 15th if I am not careful. An invite to the Showdown is obviously our goal."

The Toyota All-Star Showdown is an invitation-only, non-points event. Drivers will be invited based on their finish in the 2003 point standings for their respective series. Forty Elite Division teams and 30 Elite Division teams will make up the event's starting fields.

The three-day event begins with practice on Thursday, Nov. 6. Teams return for another practice session on Friday, Nov. 7, along with twin 50-lap qualifying races for both divisions. The feature races will be held Saturday, Nov. 8.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Hamlin