NWS: Magic Valley II: Round eight preview

ZAN SHARP GETTING COMFORTABLE IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 12th and Final Northwest Series Race on August 5 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2006) -- Zan Sharp is a ...


Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 12th and Final Northwest Series Race on August 5

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2006) -- Zan Sharp is a Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series, but he has been around the series for the past few seasons. The Wellsville, Utah resident frequently participated in the races held at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho when his schedule allowed due to the facility's close proximity to his home base. However, he readily admits that racing with the series once or so a season is far different than being a full-time competitor.

"This year is a lot different than the past. I'm just not some guy coming in to race a single event," says the driver of the Sharp Transportation Chevrolet. "So, it's pretty much a rookie season even though I was familiar with many of the teams. I've gotten to know many of the people better and I hope that I've earned a measure of respect from all the drivers."

Sharp, winner of the last two Rocky Mountain Challenge Series championships came into the season with high aspirations thinking that his familiarity with perimeter chassis cars would work to his advantage. Both the Northwest Series and the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series use that style of equipment, but there still have been growing pains.

"In theory, the cars should be very close in their performance, but that really hasn't been the case," he says. "We've learned a lot of new things this year and we're finally getting it to where we thought we'd be a while ago."

Much of the learning has come from one of the best in the business. Sharp hired Chuck Carruthers as his crew chief over the winter. Carruthers guided Jeff Jefferson to the last three Northwest Series titles, but became available when Jefferson decided to build a NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series team for the 2007 season.

"Chuck has been invaluable to us this season. The guy is like an encyclopedia when it comes to race cars, and this kind of car, in particular," states Sharp. "Like I said, I kind of thought we would be able to hit the ground running and do well from the very start. He has been able to take us back and forth through all sorts of adjustments."

The biggest adjustment for Sharp has been having a crew chief at all. "I've never really had a crew chief before so my communication to him about what the car was doing wasn't all that great early on," he says. "I basically made most of my own decisions in the past and never had to be on the same plane with anyone else. We're getting there now."

Getting comfortable in a racecar and getting it to do what it needs to do and forming a good rapport with a crew chief is a directly proportional relationship. The strides that the Sharp/Carruthers team has made in that area are becoming evident. While they have just one top-10 finish to their credit, to date, one of the primary goals for every Northwest Series team is within striking distance which is an opportunity to race in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Teams from each of the four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series that finish in the top 10 in points get an invitation to race in the prestigious event.

After a solid 11th-place effort last Saturday at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., Sharp currently holds 14th place in the championship point standings, but is just 23 points behind the 10th place Brent Harris. For that matter, he is only 59 points in back of Wilbur Bruce who occupies the 8th position.

Sharp is pleased to be that close, considering the various trials and tribulations his team has experienced, as the Northwest Series heads to Magic Valley Speedway this Saturday. It is the track on the series with which he is most familiar and has the most experience.

"I hope it works out well. We're in a position to get in [the top 10 in points]. I like Magic Valley a lot and have plenty of experience there. And it's close to home," he says.

Magic Valley Speedway is just a short 190 mile haul up I-84 for the Sharp team which is a walk in the park compared to the sometimes more than 12-hour trips to virtually every other Northwest Series event.

Why does a racer based in northern Utah opt to participate in the Northwest Series? The answer is competition. "We're in a position that we could have raced in any of three, or four, of the [NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series], really. Maybe we would have done better in one of the others, I don't know. But I knew the car count was going to be very good in the Northwest and I think it's the best competition. There's a reputation out there that this series is a little rough, but it's just good, hard racing in my opinion," states Sharp. "If we were going to do or win anything in this deal, then we wanted to earn it against the best out there and that is exactly what the Northwest Series is."

Ticket information for the Platt Electric 200 can be obtained by calling Magic Valley Speedway at (208) 734-3700 or by logging onto www.magicvalleyspeedway.com.


What: Platt Electric 200 (Race No. 8 of 10 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).

Where: Magic Valley Speedway, Twin Falls, Idaho.

When: 9:00 p.m. MDT (approx.), Saturday, August 5, 2006.

Track layout: 1/3-mile oval.
Race length: 200 laps/66.66 miles.

Posted awards: $54,013.

2005 winner:  Wilbur Bruce.

2005 polesitter: Jeff Jefferson.

Top 10 in points: 1. Gary Lewis -1157; 2. Travis Bennett--1069; 3. Brandon Riehl--1048; 4. Jeff Barkshire--992; 5. Shane Mitchell--949; 6. Jay Sauls--935; 7. Garrett Evans--922; 8. Wilbur Bruce--889; 9. Steven Howard--876; 10. Brent Harris--859

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 a.m. Registration opens, 2:30-5:00 p.m. Practice, 6:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying, 9:00 p.m. Platt Electric 200.


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire