NWS: Evergreen: Race notes

Speed Works For Gary Lewis as He Wins the Evergreen 125 Monroe, Wash. (June 26, 2004) -- Racing is about speed, but the fastest driver does not always take home the winner's trophy. Finally for Bothell, Washington's Gary Lewis Saturday night in...

Speed Works For Gary Lewis as He Wins the Evergreen 125

Monroe, Wash. (June 26, 2004) -- Racing is about speed, but the fastest driver does not always take home the winner's trophy. Finally for Bothell, Washington's Gary Lewis Saturday night in the Evergreen 125 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. being fast paid off as he took the checkered flag. It was his first NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series victory of the 2004 season and the 27th of his career in the series.

Lewis powered his Sign Factory USA/Sandblasters Pontiac past Pete Harding's L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet during the race's 47th trip around the 5/8-mile track and held on from there. At the event's conclusion, Lewis beat Harding to the line by over a second. "It may have looked like I had Pete all the way, but he made me work for it," said a victorious Lewis after the race. "He made me stay up on the wheel. Fortunately, I was fast enough to stay in front."

Lewis has had a fast car all year. He won the season's first two Bud Pole Awards, but posted finishes of 17th and 24th in those races. However, the last three races have been a different story for the 1998 series champion by logging three straight Top 5 finishes.

"We're in a good stretch right now. It was good to get the win after being close the last couple of times out," stated Lewis. "My crew gave me a great car tonight."

Harding and his Surrey, B.C. Canada-based crew took home the second place trophy as well as their fourth straight Top 5. "I could get up close to Gary, but I just never had a chance to get around him," said Harding. "We had a good race tonight. We're just looking to maintain the momentum we have built after finishing dead last in the first race of the year."

Lewis' car was fast and he earned the win, but perhaps the best car at the race belonged to defending series champion Jeff Jefferson. He was not the most rested driver in the field after having to catch an early flight into Seattle from Milwaukee, Wisc. where he made his debut in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race which was held at the Milwaukee Mile Friday night. On that opportunity Jefferson simply stated, "What a great experience that was. It was a lot of fun." On Saturday, Jefferson and his LeMay Auto Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet crew found the proper set-up for the car during the first practice session of the day and opted not to even participate in the second and final practice session. That proved to be solid strategy as the Naches, Wash. native posted a qualifying speed of 102.260 mph to win the Bud Pole Award.

But the unfortunate draw of a 10-car invert as events unfolded ended up costing Jefferson a chance for the win. While Jefferson was climbing his way to the front from his starting position of the tenth and making it up to fourth, he made contact with John Bender on the race's 69th lap causing both cars to spin, sending Jefferson to the back of the pack.

"It was my fault all the way on that spin and I apologized to John," said Jefferson. "My car was just super fast all night." Though the spin may have prevented a chance at the win for Jefferson, it was just a minor setback in getting his car back through the field to the race leaders and a third-place finish. It was his third consecutive Top 10 finish.

The surprise driver on the circuit, Travis Bennett of Ellensburg, Wash., posted a finish of fourth. The probable Auto Meter Rookie of the Year for the series has finished in the Top 10 in all five events in 2004 in his Bowman's Electro Painting/Zeb's Truck Stop/Knudson Lumber Chevy. Only he and current championship points leader Garrett Evans, only whom Bennett trails in the points race, have accomplished that this season.

Crossing the line in fifth was Wes Rhodes, haling from Lacey, Wash. in the Knight Fire Protection Chevrolet.

Evans finished in sixth and held onto that season points lead. Seventh went to John Zaretzke, who raced in the event after winning the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series event held prior to the Northwest Series race. Zaretzke is among the region's leaders in weekly series racing. Steven Howard, Jeff Bailey and Brandon Riehl rounded out the Top 10.

Jason Jefferson, Jeff's younger brother, lost the motor on his No. 97 Mike Olson Dodge/Simmonson Automotive Dodge in the initial laps of the first practice session, but was able to strike a deal to use Jeff's back-up car for the remainder of the day. The car was not race-ready when qualifying began forcing a sub-par speed and a start in 21st position for Jason, but the situation was different by the time the green flag waved to start the main event. The pseudo-No. 97 was able to finish in 12th earning Jason the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award given to the driver who improves his position the most over the course of the race. Robert Tesch also improved nine spots in the race, but the tiebreaker is the season driver's points.

Bailey in the Sharpe & Preszler Construction Chevrolet collected the Featherlite "Most Improved Driver" Award given to the driver who improves his position the most from the previous event. The Kennewick, Wash. driver equaled his season-best finish of ninth in this race after coming in 16th at the Pepsi 125 held on June 12.

As the season approaches the halfway point much more attention is paid to the point standings as teams gear up for a championship run or a slot in the final top ten. At season's end, the series' top ten drivers will advance to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be held at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in early November, which brings together the top ten drivers from each of the four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Series.

Just 128 points separate the top ten drivers in the Northwest Series. In fact, less than 200 points are between Evans, the leader, and Jeff Bailey who currently resides in 13th. While Evans held onto the lead, Bennett was able to shave 10 points off that lead as he sits just 33 points behind the four-time series champion in Evans.

The Northwest Series is in action next Saturday, July 3, with a visit to the Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley's Super Oval for the KKRV 125.

Race stats:

Time of Race: 1 hrs., 7 mins, 57 secs
Average Speed: 71.302 mph
Margin of Victory: 1.19 Seconds

BUD POLE AWARD: Jeff Jefferson, 42 Morgan Transport/Gary Mears Trucking Chevrolet

FEATHERLITE "MOST IMPROVED DRIVER" AWARD: Jeff Bailey, 27 Sharpe&Preszler Con/K-10 Tanning Chevrolet

POWERADE "POWER MOVE OF THE RACE" AWARD: Jason Jefferson, 97 Mike Olson Dodge/Simmonson Automotive Dodge

Caution Flags: Laps 10-12; 24-26; 58-61; 69-73; 87-89; 91-96; 107-109. 7 for 27 laps.

Lap Leaders: Tom Sweatman 1-30, Pete Harding 31-46, Gary Lewis 47-125.

Total Laps Led: Gary Lewis 79, Tom Sweatman 30, Pete Harding 16. 2 changes involving 3 drivers.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , Jason Jefferson , John Bender , Gary Lewis