NWS: Evergreen II: Race notes

BENDER DRIVES AWAY FROM FIELD AT EVERGREEN SPEEDWAY MONROE, Wash. (August 13, 2005) - John Bender collected his second win of the season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series and made it look pretty easy. The win came in the...


MONROE, Wash. (August 13, 2005) - John Bender collected his second win of the season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series and made it look pretty easy. The win came in the Turn 1 Energy Drink 125 presented by QFC at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., where he is a former track champion in Late Model competition.

Bender, out of Snohomish, Wash., took the lead on lap 49 from Garrett Evans and faced few challenges over the final 76 laps around the .646-mile oval.

He did lose the lead to Jeff Jefferson on the 88th lap coming out of turn two onto the backstretch, but he promptly regained the lead before heading into turn three. "I kind of washed up the track a little because of lapped traffic giving him a chance to get underneath me," said Bender. "I was able to pass him right back, though. My car was really strong."

Bender's No. 18 Oso Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet was not only strong; it was the class of the field on this night. However, that was a well kept secret during both afternoon practice sessions.

"We only got in around five laps of practice," Bender said. "The rear end broke so we put our old one back in and it required a little different set-up. So, we really weren't too sure on what to expect."

Qualifying provided a clue as the Bender machine posted the sixth-fastest time, but the cat was out of the bag by lap 20. At that point, Bender was running in third and he could sense it was going to be a special night. "I was sitting there in third and I was holding back. I knew we had it from there," he said.

Bender, whose first win this season came on June 11 at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho and, coincidentally, the venue for next Saturday's Northwest Series event, sung the praises of his crew for the equipment they put under him for the race. "I don't think this car was as dominating as the one we had in Twin Falls, but it was pretty close. It was good every single lap."

It was the fourth win of his series career and the second at his home track of Evergreen Speedway. However, that first win came on the 3/8-mile inner oval. "I've had a ton of experience at this place, but in a (Northwest Series) car something always seems to happen to ruin the night," he stated.

Nothing would prove to neither spoil this effort nor derail the goals of the night and the season. "We needed to have a solid run here and get back in the top 10 in points. I think we did that," quipped the elated winner. With the win, he moved from 11th to eighth in the championship point standings.

After Jefferson made that move for the lead in his No. 42 LeMay Museum/Morgan Transport Chevy which was soundly rebuffed, all Bender had to do from that point was not make a mistake. There were no miscues and he beat Jefferson to the finish line by 1.930 seconds.

"I had the one chance there when I got inside of him, but I couldn't keep it there. Something happened to my car around lap 50. I don't know what it is, but it wasn't right after that," said Jefferson, a native of Naches, Wash. "Don't take anything away from (Bender), though. He had a real strong car."

Pete Harding, the race winner the last time the Northwest Series visited Evergreen Speedway in early July finished a solid third after staring 15th. "I had a loose racecar all night long. We were able to pick off some spots and pick up another top-five finish," he said.

By virtue of improving his position by 12 places over the course of the race, Harding, racing out of Surrey, B.C. Canada, collected the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award. It was the second time this season that the driver of the No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet picked up that $750 bonus.

East Wenatchee, Washington's Evans finished fourth and earned his third top-five finish of the year. Evans led 42 laps of this event on the heels of leading 54 laps in the previous event at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway. Evans has driven the No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing/Pure Power Lubricants Chevrolet to a top-10 finish in each of the six events this season joining Jefferson as the only drivers in the series to accomplish that feat.

Former series rookie of the year Roger Habich, of Monroe, used the home track advantage coming home in fifth. It was his first top-five effort of the season in the No. 76 The Rock Church/Rock of Ages Plumbing Chevrolet.

Brandon Riehl, Ed Watson, John Dillon, Joe Benedetti and Matt Hall rounded out the top 10.

Travis Bennett, who hails from Ellensburg, Wash., posted the fast time in qualifying for the second time in three races in the No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber Chevy. This performance for the Bud Pole Award was most impressive by clocking a lap in 22.686 seconds (102.513 mph) which was nearly two-tenths of a second faster than the second-fastest car of Gary Lewis.

Little went right for Bennett after that first qualifying lap. As he was completing his second qualifying lap something went awry in the motor necessitating a look under the hood. Once that look occurred, NASCAR's impound rules were breached thus sending Bennett to the rear of the field for the start of the race. The problem seemingly never was diagnosed as he succumbed to ignition problems 101 laps into the race resulting in a 19th-place finish.

Just three scheduled events remain on the Northwest Series slate in 2005 and everyone's attention is turning to the point standings. Some teams have aspirations of winning the championship while others fight to finish in the top 10. An invitation to participate in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on November 10-12 awaits drivers finishing in the top 10 in points and the chance to race against the top 10 drivers from the other three NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division regional series.

Jefferson stretched out his lead in points over second-place Harding to 86 points as he pursues an unprecedented third straight Northwest Series title. "I'm disappointed that we didn't win, but it's hard to be upset with the end result of the night," he said.

While Jefferson's lead is fairly substantial, the remainder of the top 10 is quite bunched together. Harding, Riehl and Evans in second through fourth, respectively are separated by only 18 points. Fifth-ranked John Dillon is only 28 points in front of Lewis in ninth. Bennett holds the tenth spot, but clings to a slim six-point lead over Jeff Bailey. And there are just 46 points between 10th and 14th.

The Etch-A-Sketch will be given another shake next week as the Northwest Series quickly turns its attention to the running of next Saturday's Magic Valley Pipe 200 presented by AutoZone at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho.


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , John Bender , Gary Lewis , Matt Hall