THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series.
THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. At season's end the top ten drivers in each of the four series (Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division will be invited to compete in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 1 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 350. Previous ranking: 1. Just call him butter because he's on a roll. In two Northwest Series events this season all Riehl has to show for it are a victory, a second-place finish and Bud Pole Award. After his first 25 starts in the series covering the last two seasons, Riehl had managed just four top-five finishes, but has two to start the 2005 campaign. He finished seventh last season in the championship point standings.
No. 2 -- Jeff Jefferson, Naches, Wash. (No. 42 LeMay Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet), Team: Morgan Racing. Points: 316 (-34). Previous ranking: 2. Lurking just behind Riehl is the two-time and defending Northwest Series champion. The Jefferson camp has to feel better about the start of this season as opposed to last. The 2004 campaign began with a pair of finishes in the back of the pack and well out of the top 10 in points. The next event on the calendar for the Northwest Series is a July 2 date in Wenatchee, a race that Jefferson dominated from start to end a year ago.
No. 3 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 315 (-35). Previous ranking: 3. Harding can talk of retirement all he wants, but until people see the trademark hard racing and top-10 finishes go away, then no one will listen. The veteran Canadian driver will have a difficult time convincing himself after a pair of finishes in the top 10 to start the season. In his Northwest Series career, Harding has 106 top-10 finishes in 193 career starts.
No. 4 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/James Hardie Products Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 310 (-40). Previous ranking: 11. The moral of the story may be not to let Bender start on the pole. Two of his three Northwest Series victories have of the wire-to-wire variety including on June 12 at Magic Valley Speedway. In that race, the No. 18 Chevy was hardly challenged. Up seven spots, Bender was the big mover this week in the top 10 by virtue of the win in Idaho.
No. 5 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 302 (-48). Previous ranking: 4. Bruce is running his first full season in the Northwest Series since 1999. Since that '99 season, Bruce has made 19 starts in the series with just one top-five and three top-10 finishes. In two races this year, he has logged a pair of top-10 efforts. The 1998 Rookie-of-the-Year could well be the wild card in the championship equation in 2005. Bruce's lone win in the Northwest Series came on August 22, 1998 at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval.
No. 6 -- Joe Benedetti, Auburn, Wash. (No. 2 Bret Chevrolet/RaceCals Chevrolet), Team: Benedetti Racing. Points: 289 (-61). Previous ranking: 10. Word out of the Benedetti camp is that they are in favor of scheduling every Northwest Series event at Magic Valley Speedway. He now has finished in the top five in four consecutive and five of the last six races at the Idaho track. Benedetti has finished in the top 10 in points in each of the last six Northwest Series seasons.
No. 7 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 288 (-62). Previous ranking: 6. The four-time series champion continues to rack up the numbers. He now has posted 192 career top-10 finishes in the Northwest Series which is more than any other driver currently in the top 10 has starts with the exception of Harding, who has 193 starts. Evans has logged a top-five finish in three of the last four races held at WVSO.
No. 8 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 273 (-77). Previous ranking: 5. Bailey finished fifth in the season's first event at Yakima Speedway and began to erase the bad memories of 2004. He slipped a bit with a finish of 15th at Magic Valley, but remained in the top 10 in points. Bailey is looking for his second berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in three seasons.
No. 9 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 268 (-82). Previous ranking: 9. Like Bruce, Dillon is returning full-time to the series after a hiatus. Dillon's last full Northwest Series season came in 1990, a season in which he won the championship and set the series record for wins in a season with eight. He has posted finishes of ninth and 11th, respectively, in the two events this season and is looking to land his first invitation to the Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 10 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Zeb's Truck Stop/Knudson Lumber Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 261 (-89). Previous ranking: 12. The 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year had his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes snapped at 12 after a finish in 12th at Yakima. However, he quickly began a new streak by finishing 10th at Magic Valley Speedway. One streak of Bennett's remains in tact, though. He has finished on the lead lap in every Northwest Series race he has been in since Sept. 14, 2002, a span of 15 events.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Hooker Harness/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 260 (-90). Previous ranking: 20. Barkshire is the only rookie in the top 15 in Northwest Series points. After a 20th-place showing in Yakima, Barkshire rebounded with a fourth-place effort at Magic Valley Speedway. It was his first career top-five finish in the Northwest Series. He is currently tied with Jim McVey for the lead in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year race.
New to the top 10: John Bender, Travis Bennett
Dropped out of the top 10: Roger Habich, Mike Longton