BAILEY OPTIMISTIC AS NEW NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES SEASON GETS UNDERWAY Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 9th Northwest Series Race June 11 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 3, 2005) -- Not a single driver in the NASCAR AutoZone...
BAILEY OPTIMISTIC AS NEW NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES SEASON GETS UNDERWAY
Magic Valley Speedway Hosts Its 9th Northwest Series Race June 11
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 3, 2005) -- Not a single driver in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series is happier than Jeff Bailey that the 2005 season is underway. He can now exorcise the demons that haunted him in 2004.
Bailey, of Kennewick, Wash., stormed into the Northwest Series in 2003 and quickly got some career firsts out of the way. In just his second start, he was able to notch his first top-10 finish at Tri-City Raceway in West Richland, Wash. His first Bud Pole Award came in his sixth start at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho. The season culminated in an eighth-place finish in the championship point standings.
The 2003 Rookie-of-the-Year Award went to Jason Jefferson, who finished second in points for the season, but Bailey's campaign was considered a success, with three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 14 starts. "After the top five in my second race, I thought this is going to be pretty easy," said Bailey. "Everything was falling my way."
Little did Bailey know that the great racing gods in the sky can be quite vindictive. All of the little things that broke in his favor in 2003 seemed to go the other way in 2004.
"I don't think I can pin the season on any one thing," Bailey says describing his encounter with the sophomore jinx. "If the car was good, then an accident would find me, and if it wasn't getting caught up in a wreck, then the car wasn't right."
Bailey's best finish a season ago was a seventh-place effort at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval, where he had won a pair of Late Model titles before moving up to the Northwest Series.
On the surface, the 2004 season was not a complete loss with four top-10s in 11 outings and a finish of 13th in points, but anyone would be hard pressed to convince Bailey of that. The fun was there from the spirit of competition, but everyone on the Sharpe & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines team was glad to see it end.
"I didn't like not being at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown last year after being there in 2003, but we took the opportunity to evaluate a few of the things we were doing," he stated.
The 2005 season begins with a new car and a rejuvenated spirit, but the Bailey Motorsports team entered the first race of the year at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway with cautious optimism. "It's a new car and we are running a different shock package, but traditionally we have not fared all that well in Yakima," said the 31 year-old Bailey. The first feeling he had that it was a new season came during practice in Yakima. "The car came into shape in practice. I brought it in and told the crew not to touch a thing."
Bailey feels that NASCAR's impounding of the cars after qualifying works to his team's advantage. "With the cars being impounded, we can focus more on race set-up and not worry about getting the car in qualifying trim. This way we can get the car right for the race and simply tape it up and go. We can avoid out thinking ourselves," he believes.
The result proved to be just as good for Bailey. He crossed the finish line in fifth and earned his first top-five finish since finishing second in Wenatchee to end the 2003 season. "I'm real happy with the results. We worked hard and maybe we have our act together again," he says.
The opportunity to build on that success is there for the No. 27 driver as the Northwest Series makes preparations for the Pepsi 125 at Magic Valley Speedway, the site of his first career Bud Pole Award. "I really like the 1/3-mile, 1/4-mile racetracks. I guess it goes back to winning championships in Wenatchee a few years ago," he said. "I really like Magic Valley. It's a fun track to race and it's a great atmosphere because the fans always pack the place."
Bailey knows there is still work to be done and one race does not a season make, but rest assured that he will do everything in his power to continue the success with the memories of last year still very fresh in his mind. "I'm really looking forward to getting back out there. Running good makes the hard work and time commitment worth it. It's definitely more fun," he said. Jeff Bailey is really happy that the 2005 season is underway.
What: Pepsi 125 (Race No. 2 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, June 11, 2005.
Track layout: 1/3-mile oval.
Race length: 125 laps/41.66 miles.
Posted awards: $48,265.
2004 winner: Garrett Evans.
2004 polesitter: Jeff Jefferson.
Top 10 in points: 1. Brandon Riehl 180, 2. Jeff Jefferson 170, 3. Pete Harding 165, 4. Wilbur Bruce 160, 5. Jeff Bailey 155, 6. Garrett Evans 150, 7. Roger Habich 146, 8. Mike Longton 142, 9. John Dillon 138, 10. Joe Benedetti 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.