NWS: Raceway Park: Round ten preview

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (August 5, 2003) - Kalispell, Montana may not be what comes to mind when mentioned in the same sentence as NASCAR, but for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series it is a prized stop on the tour. This ...

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (August 5, 2003) - Kalispell, Montana may not be what comes to mind when mentioned in the same sentence as NASCAR, but for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series it is a prized stop on the tour. This Saturday, August 9, the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series returns for the 5th time for the running of the Coors Light "125" at Flathead Valley's Raceway Park in Kalispell, Mont.

Situated in the picturesque Flathead Valley of upper Montana with Glacier National Park bordering to the east, Raceway Park offers one of the most scenic settings in all of motorsports. Saturday's 125-lap race will have the top stars of the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series vie for their share of $45,297 in posted awards in race ten of the 14-race championship series.

Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. continues to enjoy his best year on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and leads the point standings for the fourth straight race on the strength of three consecutive victories. Hart hopes to leave the Rocky Mountains on a high note as he chases his first series crown.

"We have really kept it simple this season," Hart explained. "Basic setups and smart driving along with luck has been the difference this season."

Chasing Hart in the championship are the brothers Jefferson. Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. is second in the standings and inches closer to his first series title after successfully campaigning everything from Late Models to Winston West cars over the past several years. Jefferson has three Bud Pole Awards along with one win this season and is not only battling Hart for the title, but his younger brother Jason for the family bragging rights.

Jefferson knows he has a great car for this weekend's event and expects no less than a top three finish. "I know we can win in Kalispell," Jefferson said. "The track allows you to race flat out; you have the room to make moves. We have run well this season and it is going to be hard to catch Chris if he keeps running like he is, but we are going to give him a run for the money."

Several Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Year candidates will visit Raceway Park for the first time this Saturday including rookie point leader Jason Jefferson of Yakima, Wash. Jefferson sits third in the overall standings just two points behind his brother. Jason Jefferson won a Late Model race at a similar shaped track last weekend in central Washington and knows that experience may aid him this weekend.

"Anytime you can win you learn something," Jefferson said. "My sponsors and team have been behind this Dodge effort this season and we fully expect to be competitive every race no matter where it is at. Never seeing the place can make it a challenge, but that is what makes racing interesting."

Making some rumblings of his own is Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. who has asserted himself since June and joined the championship fray. Not conceding the title or racing for the runner-up spot, Lewis has masterfully moved into fourth place in the overall standings on the strength of one win, six top five and seven top ten performances through the first nine races. Lewis is the defending race winner of the event and likes his chances this time around.

"I love heading to Kalispell each year," Lewis said. "I take some time off and go fishing and enjoy the scenery. The racetrack is great and the fans are the best around. This is an important race for our team."

Two-time defending series champion Kevin Hamlin of Snohomish, Wash knows that he stands on the outside looking in with regards to this years championship, but is not ready to throw in the towel.

"Bad luck certainly caught up to us this year, but I can't complain," Hamlin said. "Winning the title is a real long shot, but a top five point's finish is certainly something I know we can achieve." Hamlin has three straight fourth place finishes at Raceway Park. "A win this weekend will mean an awful lot at this stage of the season."

The father and son duo of Rod Schultz Jr. and Rod Schultz Sr. have the most interesting battle of all the competitors this season. There is a lot at stake when it comes to family honor. Who is the better driver? Well, that question may be left to the critics, but there is no denying the intensity of their competitive drive.

The Schultz's are currently 11th (Sr.) and 16th (Jr.) in the standings and both are rookie competitors in the series. Both drivers are fighting for a top ten point's finish, the rookie title, a win, and an invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in November. The Schultz's have the family mantra of race together and learn together. Both will have a lot of learning to do this weekend as they visit Kalispell for the first time.

The Coors Light "125" is set to take the green flag at 9:30 pm MDT this Saturday, August 9 for "Rumble in the Rockies V."

THE INSIDE LINE

* The race within the race . Jason Jefferson tops the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after nine events. Jeff Bailey, Rod Schultz Sr., Brandon Riehl, and Rod Schultz Jr., round out the top-five Rookies.

* Kevin Hamlin holds the one lap qualifying record at Raceway Park with a time of 12.750 seconds/71.489 mph. Four different drivers have won the Bud Pole Award in the four races staged on the quarter-mile paved oval.

* Shane Biles holds the race record for the 125-lap distance with a time of 38 minutes, 9 seconds at an average speed of 48.090 mph set August 5, 2000.

* Pontiac has scored 3 victories at Raceway Park, with Ford picking up one win.

* Gary Lewis will be the only former winner scheduled to compete in the event.

* Streaking: Chris Hart has won three consecutive races. Kevin Hamlin has three consecutive fourth place finishes at Raceway Park. Rod Schultz Jr. has three straight top ten finishes.

* Driver to keep your eye on: Rick Suran has stayed in the NASCAR Top 10 for the past two events. Suran is currently 10th in the standings and looking for his first career victory in Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series competition.

* Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR Elite Division in 2003 and will award 32 tires to eligible car owners at each series event. Hoosier will also award two tires to the highest eligible Rookie-of-the-Year candidate's car owner.

* Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JR Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Powerade, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Race Gas, Victory Circle Chassis, and Wix Air Filters.

MOVING UP

* Ed Watson of Mt. Vernon, Wash. moved closer to the NASCAR Top-10 after a 10th place effort at Yakima Speedway July 19. Watson sits in the 12th position in the overall standings, just 65 points out of 10th place.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

* "Kalispell is one of my most favorite tracks. It is always fun to go there."- Gary Lewis (No. 73 Sign Factory Pontiac).

PAGE FROM THE PAST

Gary Lewis topped Pete Harding by .450 seconds to take the win last season at Flathead Valley's Raceway Park. Kevin Hamlin won the Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 12.750 seconds/70.588 mph setting a new track record. Travis Powell was the top finishing rookie with a 12th place performance.

Fast Facts

What: Coors Light "125. Race 10 of 14 for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
Where: Flathead Valley's Raceway Park, Kalispell, Mont.
When: 9:30p.m. MDT, Saturday, August 9.

Track layout: 1/4-mile banked paved oval.
Race length: 125 laps, 31.25 miles.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 am Registration Opens, 10:30 am Haulers Enter, 11:00 am Inspections Begins, 12:30 pm Mandatory Crew Chief's Meeting, 12:45 pm Qualifying Draw, 2:30-5:00 pm Alternating Practice, 5:30 pm Mandatory Driver's and Crew Chief's Meeting, 5:45 Mandatory Rookie Driver's Meeting, 7:15 pm Time Trials, 8:00 Trophy Dash, 9:30 pm Coors Light "125".

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , Jason Jefferson , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis