NWS: Showdown lowdown 2005-07-07

THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 7, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series....

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 7, 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, Nov. 10-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.

No. 1 -- Jeff Jefferson, Naches, Wash. (No. 42 LeMay Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet), Team: Morgan Racing. Points: 496. Previous ranking: 2. The two-time and defending Northwest Series champion finds himself atop the championship point standings, a place in which he sat just one time last season. Of course, that was the most important of all, following the final race of the year. Jefferson professes a preference of being pursued as opposed to being the pursuer. He picked up his 11th career series win last week in Wenatchee. All of his wins have come in the last four seasons on the circuit.

No. 2 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 492 (-4). Previous ranking: 1. Riehl cooled off a tad this last week, but still turned in an eighth-place performance at Wenatchee. He was without his 2005 trademark colorful vinyl wrap this time around, but, have no fear, the new one should be placed on the car this week. Perhaps his mojo will be restored.

No. 3 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 453 (-43). Previous ranking: 7. The four-time series champion is synonymous with the Northwest Series. His success and longevity in the series is unparalleled. His third-place finish last week in Wenatchee was the third time in the last four races in which he has done so at his home track. Evans narrowly missed his 64th career Northwest Series Bud Pole Award last week. John Bender, as the last qualifier of the day, used the second of his two laps to unseat Evans from the top spot.

No. 4 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Hooker Harness/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 430 (-66). Previous ranking: 11. Barkshire posted his second straight top-five finish with a second-place effort in Wenatchee. He continues to shine among the nine Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders. He is now alone in the top spot in the standings, although it is a slim one-point lead over Jim McVey. Barkshire proved that he could run with the best drivers on the circuit over the last two events. Last week, he finished between the six combined championships of Jefferson and Evans.

No. 5 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 429 (-67). Previous ranking: 5. Bruce continues to run solid with good equipment under him. No doubt the No. 8 team was disappointed with the finish in 12th last week, but has to happy that it did not result in losing any spots in the rankings. The last time Bruce ran an entire season's slate of races was 1998, a year in which he finished third in points.

No. 6T -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 423 (-73). Previous ranking: 8. Bailey continues to lurk under the radar. After a disappointing performance at Magic Valley Speedway, he rebounded with a sixth-place effort in Wenatchee. That gives the third-year driver a pair of top-10 finishes for the season as he looks to improve upon his series-best finish of eighth in points accomplished in his rookie year of 2003.

No. 6T -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 423 (-73). Previous ranking: 9. Dillon, like Bruce, is demonstrating that his time away from the Northwest Series has had little affect on his ability. Dillon led 57 laps, the most of any driver, at Wenatchee. He had not raced in Wenatchee since winning there in July 1990. Once he called Evans to refresh his memory on how to get to the track, Dillon was all set as he posted his first top-five of the year.

No. 8T -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 416 (-80). Previous ranking: 4. Bender seemed to have the series by the tail with a wire-to-wire win at Magic Valley Speedway and followed that up with his second career Bud Pole Award at Wenatchee. Then, an old nemesis by the name of the Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval reared its head. While he likes the facility, he rarely likes his results. "Not John Bender's favorite track. I just don't have any good luck here," he said. The bad luck this time around was a flat tire relegating him to a finish in 19th.

No. 8T -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 416 (-80). Previous ranking: 12. Watch out. Lewis followed up his third-place finish at Magic Valley with a fourth-place showing last week. He looks to carry that momentum into this week's race at Evergreen Speedway, a track at which he has been fairly dominant at for the past several years. He has seven wins in the past 18 races at the facility in Monroe, Wash. Lewis has won a Northwest Series event in each of the last nine seasons and has a streak of five straight top-10 finishes in points.

No. 10 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 415 (-81). Previous ranking: 3. By the end of last week's race, Harding's car looked more suited for the open-wheeled NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour than the Northwest Series. His crew was forced to cut the body off the front of the car after an early accident leaving the front tires and motor exposed. While Pete will be using another car this week at Evergreen, the damaged one will be in service, too. His son, Shane, the points leader at Evergreen in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Super Stocks, will be racing that one testing his skills in the AutoZone 125 presented by Oso Lumber.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- Joe Benedetti, Auburn, Wash. (No. 2 Bret Chevrolet/RaceCals Chevrolet), Team: Benedetti Racing. Points: 289 (-61). Previous ranking: 6. A finish in 13th last week at Wenatchee dropped Benedetti out of the top 10 in points. That's the bad news. The good news is that the points race is so tight that just 10 points separate 11th place from sixth place. It also snapped a string of seven consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to last season for the Auburn, Washington-based driver.

New to the top 10: Jeff Barkshire, Gary Lewis

Dropped out of the top 10: Joe Benedetti, Travis Bennett


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Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Jeff Bailey , John Bender , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire