NWS: Harding Racing legacy will continue

HARDING RACING LEGACY SAFE FOR YEARS TO COME 1999 Northwest Series Champion Pete Harding Prepares to Move Son Shane Through NASCAR's Ranks DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2005) -- For 1999 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series...

HARDING RACING LEGACY SAFE FOR YEARS TO COME
1999 Northwest Series Champion Pete Harding Prepares to Move Son Shane Through NASCAR's Ranks

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2005) -- For 1999 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series champion Pete Harding, 2005 could be his final season of racing full-time in the Northwest Series For his son, Shane Harding, the coming season could represent a final tune up before he takes his father's place among the Northwest Series ranks.

Shane, 25, will spend the 2005 season in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Super Stock division at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., and compete in a few Northwest Series events. Shane, of Langley, British Columbia, Canada, recorded four wins at Evergreen last season, en route to a second-place finish in the track point standings. A track championship could be a fitting send-off for the second-generation driver as he graduates up the NASCAR racing ladder.

In the meantime, Shane also knows his father has plenty of racing left.

"It would be one thing if he was running in the back all of the time, but he's not," said Shane of his father's impending retirement. "He's still having fun. I'll believe it when I see it.".

Pete, also of Langley, B.C., has accomplished as much as any Canadian driver in the history of NASCAR. By taking the 1999 Northwest Series title, he and four-time NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series champion Roy Smith are the only two Canadians ever to win a NASCAR championship. In Pete's 18 seasons in the Northwest Series he has taken the checkered flag 16 times with 74 top-five and 104 top-10 finishes in 191 career starts.

At 54 years of age, though, he says that he can feel the physical toll of driving a little more now than in his younger days. "Besides, it's about time for Shane to take the reins," added Pete.

Shane finished second to John Zaretzke last season at Evergreen. At times, it was more like two seasons in one for the younger Harding. Zaretzke dominated the early races, but the second half of the season brought more success and victories for Shane.

Over the course of the season, Pete feels that Shane earned a measure of confidence in himself and the ability to deal with adversity.

"There was one night that (Shane) bent an A-frame in practice and we were not able to totally straighten it out, but he went out and finished second, I believe, with a car that was far less than perfect," said Pete. "That kind of told me right there that he was coming of age as a driver."

Shane feels that it was not really he, but rather his crew that helped him turn the corner, so to speak. "They've been together for a while now and they jelled and it took a lot of pressure off me," he said. "It got to the point that I all I had to do was concentrate on what the car was doing and driving.

"There are some things he can work on and he would really like to win the track championship in the Weekly Series at Evergreen," said Pete. "I'd like him to be more calm and confident as a driver before he moves up to a more competitive series."

Shane feels that he is ready now, but is willing to follow his father's sage advice. "Also, he kind of controls the purse strings," quipped Shane.

While on a different stage, the Harding's conversations are reminiscent of one of NASCAR's most famous father-son duos -- the Earnhardts. After winning a NASCAR Busch Series championship in 1998, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ready to move up and go racing with his father, but Dale, Sr. felt another season in the Busch Series was the way to go.

Shane can relate to the younger Earnhardt's rise to the top. After reading Dale, Jr.'s autobiographical book Driver #8; he understands it all the more.

"Some friends of mine, that know my father and I really well, had read it and told me that I had to, as well," said Shane. "It was really eerie. The very same things that Dale, Sr. said to Junior are almost word-for-word what Dad has told me. It was really freaky."

Now, as the 2005 season draws nearer, father and son have the same goal -- to win a championship.

Shane, once again, will race for the track championship at Evergreen Speedway under the revamped points system in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series.

For Pete, the parity among the top teams in the Northwest Series, which resulted in the 2004 championship being decided by a single point and the top six teams being separated by just 65 points, is likely to get stickier in 2005. In addition to four-time series champion Garrett Evans, former titleholder Gary Lewis, last year's runner-up and rookie of the year Travis Bennett and two-time defending champion Jeff Jefferson, Harding will have to contend with former NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean. Racing out of Jerome, Idaho, McKean has plans to race both the Northwest and Southwest Series this season.

"The competition is stout. There is no question about that," says Pete. "But, that's why it is still fun after all these years. At the very least, we want to finish in the top 10 and go back to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. That is truly a great event."

The Toyota All-Star Showdown is a special post-season invitational event, which includes the top 10 drivers from each of the four series that comprise the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division: Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. Harding earned his first trip to the event last season and finished 12th. Pete Harding will embark on his 19th Northwest Series season March 26, in the Northwest Series season-opener at Evergreen.

Whether Pete actually hangs up his helmet after this season remains to be seen, but with Shane in the wings racing fans in the Northwest will still be able to enjoy the Harding style of racing for years to come.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Jefferson , Gary Lewis