NWS: Evergreen II: Habich team - NASCAR spotlight

HABICH TEAM HAS TURNED TRAGEDY INTO FAITH IN THE NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES DAYTONA BEACH (August 8, 2005) -- All racecar drivers have the goal of winning races. At the same time, that exposure helps team sponsors gain a...

HABICH TEAM HAS TURNED TRAGEDY INTO FAITH IN THE NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES

DAYTONA BEACH (August 8, 2005) -- All racecar drivers have the goal of winning races. At the same time, that exposure helps team sponsors gain a return on their investment. That provides an avenue to sell more cars, brake jobs, lumber or whatever the product may be.

Roger Habich and his Rock Church/Rock of Ages Plumbing Chevrolet race team have different a little different motive in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. Make no mistake; this team wants to win races, but while spreading the word of God. "We use the racecar as a ministry," says Habich, a native of Monroe, Wash. "Our message is that Christianity is OK and that it does not have to be about pews and hymn books."

"Our community at The Rock Church has rallied around this idea and many are making substantive contributions to our effort. Some are noted on the car while others prefer not to be. They aren't looking for advertising or prestige to spread the good news of Jesus Christ," added Habich.

Car owner Jeff Knight and Habich have a history that stretches back to their childhood. The two lived near each other and were often found together. Some of that time was spent at the racetrack watching Habich's father compete at the local track, Evergreen Speedway.

"When we graduated from high school our paths went in different directions," said Habich. "We never lost touch of each other, but it was not the day-in-day-out relationship it had been."

Incredibly, a pair of extremely unfortunate happenings tested these friends' faith and brought their paths together once again.

Knight's parents, Linda and Joseph, were serving as co-pastors of The Rock Church in Monroe while Jeff was beginning his vocation as youth pastor. In January 2000, Linda and Joseph Knight, who had been spearheading missionary efforts for children living in poverty in Mexico, were returning to Seattle from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261 on January 31 that crashed into the Pacific Ocean leaving no survivors.

"That thrust Jeff very quickly from youth pastor to senior pastor," Habich said. "It also put his faith to the test and forced him to evaluate the direction of his life."

A year later, the terrorist attacks of September 11 rocked the United States giving all of its citizens a moment of pause.

"We really weren't going to church at that time and my son said he wanted to pray for the victims and their families but really didn't know how," said Habich. "We decided as a family right then that it was time to get back to that and with Jeff being a childhood friend it was a good place to start."

It was 2002 when Knight and Habich decided to put their respective areas of expertise together and form a race team to extol the virtues of their church, all while winning races, and having some fun.

The collaboration never got beyond a few races at Evergreen Speedway, but a more vigorous financial campaign resulted in a decision to race the Northwest Series in 2005. They had planned to run some of the bigger events in the area. However, upon seeing the Northwest Series schedule, Habich and Knight decided that they could take their ministry to a new level and it was affordable.

The idea of using the car as a ministry has worked out well for the No. 76 team. "The church community has united around this effort and made it a lot of fun," says Habich. "We ask people to come out and watch the church racecar and they don't expect what they find. I don't know what it is they think they're going to see, but everyone has been surprised at the level of professionalism of what we're running."

The on-track performance of the team this season has been up and down. While according to the rulebook Habich is not a rookie having won the series' rookie-of-the-year award in 1995 driving Kelly Tanner's car. Tanner was in the midst of establishing his motorsports company and needed to concentrate on the business side of things. Habich made the most of the one-year opportunity by finishing second in points and garnering the rookie honors. However, for all intents and purposes, Habich and his team this season are rookies.

That did not deter them from entering the season with high expectations. "We came into the year planning on a top-10 finish in points and I had a personal goal of winning one race," Habich said. "We've got some work to do on both of those fronts, but both are still in sight. I don't think we've shown our ability as a team yet this season."

Glimpses of what the Habich team can do on the track have been evident all season long as they adjust to the various venues, but the success of this team is twofold and there is little doubt about its accomplishments as healers, ministers and friends.

FAST FACTS

What: Turn 1 Energy Drink 125 (Race No. 6 of 10 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).

Where:  Evergreen Speedway, Monroe, Wash.

When: 8:30 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, August 13, 2005.

Track layout:  .646-mile oval.

Race length: 125 laps/80.75 miles.

Posted awards: $50,290.

Top 10 in points: 1. Jeff Jefferson 846, 2. Brandon Riehl 767, 3. Pete Harding 765, 4. Garrett Evans 752, 5. Wilbur Bruce 734, 6. Gary Lewis 723, 7. John Dillon 712, 8. Jeff Barkshire 710, 9. Jeff Bailey 694, 10. Travis Bennett 691.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:30 a.m. Registration opens, 2:00-3:45 p.m. Practice, 5:15 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying, 8:30 p.m. Turn 1 Energy Drink 125.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire