NWS: Joe Benedetti 2002 preview

Benedetti Ready For Run At Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, Nascar Touring Championship AUBURN, Wash. (March 6, 2002) - For Joe Benedetti, the 2002 season is the year for moving up the ladder to the next level, a NASCAR Touring Series ...

Benedetti Ready For Run At Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, Nascar Touring Championship

AUBURN, Wash. (March 6, 2002) - For Joe Benedetti, the 2002 season is the year for moving up the ladder to the next level, a NASCAR Touring Series Championship.

Benedetti was one of the most consistent drivers on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series last season, challenging eventual champion Kevin Hamlin at nearly every track on the schedule. One thing eluded Benedetti's quest for the title, victory.

This season he plans to turn his top-5 performances into wins that count towards the championship. RaceCals, the family-owned business based in Auburn, Wash., will again sponsor his team.

"Consistency will get you to second place (in the points chase) but, wins get you a title," Benedetti said. "I think Kevin proved that last season."

Hamlin captured four wins in route to the championship, while Benedetti managed a string of 12 consecutive top-10 performances without finding victory lane.

The 27-year old driver enters his fourth season of competition on the elite NASCAR circuit in the Northwest. Starting the season off at Evergreen Speedway for the Big O Tires 125 with a good performance in qualifying will be key to Benedetti's hunt for the championship he said.

"I need to look at sticking it in the front row because all of the wrecks happen in the middle or in the back of the field at Monroe. If I'm qualified up front, I can usually stay there," Benedetti said.

Benedetti hopes that 2002 is the year he finally captures his first Bud Pole Award on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.

"I want one in the worst way," he said. "You can't even imagine, but, we're proud of our motor because we were down on power and still finding ourselves up front at the end of the day."

Most of the race tracks in the Northwest are under a half-mile. Evergreen Speedway, site of the March 30 season opener, is a .646-mile paved oval. Benedetti said that horsepower is a key to victory at the 'Super Speedway of the Northwest'.

"There are not a lot of horsepower tracks on our series," he said. "Monroe is defiantly one of them. I've been fast early and slowed down a bit late in the day so we're working on our set-up and motor program."

Benedetti admits that he will not be the only driver on the series in the hunt for the 2002 championship.

"I'm pretty excited about this year's field," he said. "Kevin is riding some confidence after his title run last season. I know that (four-time champion) Garrett (Evans) has got new cars to work with, Gary Lewis has stepped it up and is looking to come back to the top of the field, Pete Harding is as determined as I've ever seen him, and Chris Hart is determined to make up for last season."

"It's hard to pick just one front runner in this series," Benedetti said. "Every driver on the Northwest Series is the best they can be. This year you're going to see an awesome field of cars."

The Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series is one of eight NASCAR Touring Series that blanket the United States. NASCAR Touring brings special events to many NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks and some NASCAR superspeedways and road courses. NASCAR Touring Series can provide a competitor with an entire career, or they can provide valuable experience to competitors moving through the NASCAR ranks. Corporate sponsors make significant contributions to NASCAR Touring Series point funds. The sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Raybestos Brakes, Featherlite Trailers, Gatorade, Goody's Headache Powders, Hills Brother's Coffee, RE/MAX International Inc., and R.J. Reynolds brand Winston.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Hamlin