THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 30, 2005) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest...
THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 30, 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: 1113. Previous ranking: 1. My, how things change! A week ago, Jefferson was in the midst of one of the hottest streaks in all of NASCAR by finishing first or second in nine of 10 races. He still may be, but his mechanical malfunction and the resulting contact with the outside front stretch wall left the defending champion with a finish of 22nd. At the end of the Magic Valley Pipe 200 presented by AutoZone at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho, Jefferson's lead of 86 points that he held going into the event was melted down to just 13.
No. 2 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 1100 (-13). Previous ranking: 2. Harding took full advantage of Jefferson's misfortune by finishing second and posting his fourth straight podium finish at Magic Valley. Harding has five career wins at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway, the next stop for the Northwest Series, but the last came in July 2001. However, he does have four podium finishes in last five races in Yakima. Harding's average finish this season, his 19th, is 5.43 just a tick behind Jefferson's 5.28.
No. 3 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 1077 (-36). Previous ranking: 3. Riehl has reeled off three consecutive top-10 efforts. He, like Harding, took a big hunk off Jefferson's lead. In two previous starts this season at Yakima (Wash) Speedway, Riehl has a win and a fourth place. The win was his first in the Northwest Series. He has shown continual improvement in his career. He finished 11th in this rookie season, seventh a season ago and currently sits in third.
No. 4 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing/Pure Power Lubricants Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 1050 (-63). Previous ranking: 4. The four-time series champion is the only driver on the circuit to post a top-10 finish in each of the events so far in 2005. He finished ninth at Magic Valley Speedway. Evans has started in 278 of the 300 races ever held in the Northwest Series. Evans has won five times at Yakima Speedway, but the most recent came on August 1, 1998. He finished third when the series visited on July 23.
No. 5 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 1029 (-84). Previous ranking: 6. On a night in which the lead was a difficult thing to hold on to, Bruce led the most important lap of all, the last one, in the series' last outing at Magic Valley. It was Bruce's first win since his rookie campaign of 1998. Always a strong performer at Yakima, Bruce has finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the two earlier visits this season. He is seeking his first berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 6 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 OSO Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 997 (-116). Previous ranking: 8. Despite the two wins, Bender had yet to record consecutive finishes in the top 10, at least until now. His third-place finish at Twin Falls took care of that. His finish of third was quite a feet in that he was down a lap due to a pit stop to clean up some damage to the car. He was able to earn his lap back and work his way through the field. He has just an average finish of 13th this season at Yakima, but has proven he can win there by taking the checkers on May 31, 2003.
No. 7 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 978 (-135). Previous ranking: 5. Dillon led seven laps in the last race, but it wasn't enough for the 1990 series champ. An incident involving many in the lead pack relegated Dillon to a 13th-place finish. He was the last driver in the series to be on the lead lap in every event, but the accident took that away, as well. Dillon has posted finishes of ninth and 10th in the first two trips to Yakima this season.
No. 8 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 949 (-164). Previous ranking: 7. After four consecutive top-10 finishes, Barkshire has finished outside the top 10 in each of his last two races. His finish of 17th was his worst showing of the year since the first race of the year saw him finish 21st. However, he still leads the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings. He is trying to become the third straight series rookie of the year to finish in the top 10 in points and the 16th of the last 17.
No. 9 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 941 (-172). Previous ranking: 11. After a week out of the top 10 in points, Bailey jumped right back in with a sixth-place effort at Magic Valley Speedway. It was the third time this season that Bailey has finished sixth in a race. Being eight points out of eighth place is the glass if half full philosophy for this team as opposed to being 10 points out of 10th. The Bailey Motorsports gang is looking for its second trip to Irwindale for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
No. 10 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 931 (-182). Previous ranking: 10. For the first time in his Northwest Series driving career, Bennett found himself leading the field. He passed Eddy McKean heading into lap 87 and led for 59 trips around the 1/3-mile oval in Twin Falls. He eventually succumbed to McKean and a cut tire causing him to finish 10th, but it was his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races for last season's rookie of the year.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 World's Gym/Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 926 (-187). Previous ranking: 9. Lewis is this season's monument to Murphy's Law. Virtually everything has gone wrong. They were already in their back-up car, after the primary sustained major damage, for the Magic Valley race. Now, they are looking at putting a back-up motor in that ride after problems in Idaho. Lewis has won at least one event in nine straight Northwest Series seasons. With that in mind, an adage about a wounded animal comes to mind.
New to the top 10: Jeff Bailey
Dropped out of the top 10: Gary Lewis