NWS: Magic Valley: Early pre-race notes

DARREN RUPINSKI STILL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT 2006 NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES SEASON *Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 11th Northwest Series Race on June 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2006) -- Darren Rupinski's 2006 NASCAR...


*Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 11th Northwest Series Race on June 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2006) -- Darren Rupinski's 2006 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series season did not get off to a start that has fans and competitors clamoring for information about this rookie driver, but he is still optimistic about what can be accomplished.

His Northwest Series debut in April at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway was to serve as a springboard for the new season, but instead it became a hunt for a mysterious vibration in a race car that came with a solid pedigree.

The car that Rupinski bought was the one that three-time series champion Jeff Jefferson used to win last year's title, but during a practice session for the Meridian race it had picked up a vibration. Jefferson, who happened to be in attendance, helped service what he sold. He assisted the new team in replacing the rear end and transmission, but the vibration was still there. As it turned out, there was a manufacturing defect in the drive line.

"Tracking down that vibration really put us behind the eight-ball for the whole deal," said Rupinski, who hails from Hayden, Idaho. "We only got about 30 laps or so of practice in and that was not going to get it done."

With the repairs still weighing on his mind, his qualifying laps were not good enough to make the show through time trials, so he was forced to try and race his way in via the qualifying event. He finished fourth in the eight-car field, but only the top two transferred to the main event which left him deeply disappointed.

"We really wanted to get off on the right foot, but it was not meant to be, I guess. It was extremely frustrating," he said.

With a repaired racecar a recent practice session at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway went very well. "I think we're on the right road now," said Rupinski. "Our times were comparable to other series competitors."

Rupinski is one a healthy class of 12 series drivers competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He is new to the Northwest Series, but the second-generation driver is not new to racing. He has raced virtually everything on wheels from motorcycles to dragsters to late model stock cars. All told, he has over 15 years of racing experience.

"The whole time I was on motorcycles and drag racing, I wanted to go circle track racing. In 1999, I got the opportunity to get into a Street Stock followed by a Late Model in 2000," Rupinski stated.

While he has never raced for a points championship rather choosing to race singular events at various tracks to garner as much experience as possible in a short time, success in a stock car has come for Rupinski. He won the Idaho 200 in 2003 and posted top fives in Fall Classic at Yakima Speedway and other Late Model events around the Pacific Northwest.

That success left him with a desire to tackle the Northwest Series, and, this year, he was able to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Despite the troubles at Meridian, the excitement and optimism by Rupinski can be sensed.

"I have raced against a few of Northwest Series drivers in various Late Model shows in the area, but I've always heard how competitive this series is when all these guys are on the same track and I am looking forward to experiencing it," he says.

The next task at hand for Rupinski is the Pepsi 125 at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho and, like Meridian, is a track at which he has never raced.

"No, I've never had the chance to race there, but I hear only good things about the track. I've heard that it is a top-notch facility, and, like I said, I am anxious to get there and race now that we have gotten the problems with the car sorted out," he said.

John Bender, the defending Pepsi 125 champion after leading the race wire-to-wire a year ago, will lead a full field of cars into the June 10 event.

Ticket information for the Pepsi 125 can be obtained by calling Magic Valley Speedway at (208) 734-3700 or by logging onto www.magicvalleyspeedway.com.


What: Pepsi 125 (Race No. 2 of 11 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).

Where: Magic Valley Speedway, Twin Falls, Idaho.

When: 9:00 p.m. MDT (approx.), Saturday, June 10, 2006.

Track layout:  1/3-mile oval.

Race length: 125 laps/41.66 miles.

Posted awards: $56,418.

2005 winner:  John Bender.

2005 polesitter: Brandon Riehl.

Top 10 in points: 1. Brandon Riehl -- 180; 2. Gary Lewis -- 170; 3. Jason Fraser -- 165; 4. Travis Bennett -- 160; 5. Jeff Barkshire -- 155; 6. John Dillon -- 150; 7. Brent Harris -- 146; 8. John Bender -- 142; 9. Wilbur Bruce -- 138; 10. Jay Sauls -- 134.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 a.m. Registration opens, 2:30-5:00 p.m. Practice, 6:30 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying, 9:00 p.m. Pepsi 125.


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , John Bender , Gary Lewis