THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 16, 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 16, 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: 1016. Previous ranking: 1. The only driver in NASCAR that might be on a better roll than Jefferson is Tony Stewart. Jefferson finished second to John Bender in the Turn 1 Energy Drink 125 presented by QFC at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., and it was the ninth time in his last 10 Northwest Series events that he has finished first or second with four of those being victories. By gaining ground on every driver with the exception of Bender in the championship point standings, he takes one step closer to that third straight Northwest Series title. If he should win that third consecutive championship, then he will join a small fraternity of drivers to have accomplished that feat in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division. Two drivers have won four straight (Steve Carlson (2000-03) in the Midwest Series and Dave Mader III (1985-88) in the Southeast Series), while a pair have won three in a row (Dick Trickle (1983-85) in the Midwest Series and Jody Ridley (1991-93) in the Southeast Series). No one in either the Northwest or Southwest Series has won more than two straight.
No. 2 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 930 (-86). Previous ranking: 3. If it weren't for the tremendous run that Jefferson is on, then all the talk in the Northwest Series would be about the fantastic season Harding is having. He battled a loose racecar all night long and finished third at Evergreen Speedway after starting 15th in the field for his third consecutive podium finish. The Canadian product now has a win, a second and two thirds this season. Harding is looking for a top-10 finish in points in five of the last seven years.
No. 3 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 917 (-99). Previous ranking: 2. Riehl is beginning to recapture some of the magic he had at the beginning of the season. With a sixth-place finish at Evergreen, he now has three top 10s in his last four outings. He finished a solid second the last time the series visited Magic Valley Speedway. He has already equaled his previous season-best of three top-five finishes set a year ago.
No. 4 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing/Pure Power Lubricants Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 912 (-104). Previous ranking: 4. Whatever the cause was for the motor problems at Evergreen and Yakima (Wash.) Speedway in July, the Evans team has apparently ferreted out a solution. Evans posted a fourth-place finish last week and extended their streak of top-10 finishes to six. Only Jefferson matches that total on the circuit this season. Evans led 42 laps which follows up the previous race at Yakima where he paced the field for 54 trips around the track. He continues to re-write his already impressive resume. He is 17 starts away from his 300th in the series, five away from his 150th top five and four away from his 200th top-10 effort.
No. 5 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 854 (-162). Previous ranking: 7. Dillon turned in his fifth top-10 finish of the season with an eighth-place showing at Evergreen Speedway last Saturday. However, don't expect anyone in the Dillon camp to be doing back flips. The 1990 series champion rejoined the series on a full-time basis to win races. He finished 11th that last race at Magic Valley, but he may be a driver to watch this time around for the Magic Valley Pipe 200 presented by AutoZone.
No. 6 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 849 (-167). Previous ranking: 5. A promising start turned into an evening to forget for the No. 8 team. Due to the invert, they started on the pole, but a loose wheel required a stop in the pits leaving them out of the top 10 for the second time in six races. Like Dillon, Bruce is running a full series schedule for the first time in many years. Both teams have struggled at times with some of the newer innovations for racecars today, but neither can be awfully upset with the results so far.
No. 7 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 837 (-179). Previous ranking: 8. Barkshire finished out the top 10 for the first time in five races with a 12th-place effort at Evergreen. However, he was still the top-finishing rookie in the event and continues to lead the way for the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Award. All in all, the evening can be chalked up to a learning experience for the first-year driver. 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. 8 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 832 (-184). Previous ranking: 11. It seems to be a feast or famine type season for the Bender gang. The posted their second win of the season last week at Evergreen and it was also just their second top-10 finish of the season. It was Bender's first series win on the .646-mile track in Monroe. His first victory at Evergreen came on the 3/8-mile inner oval in 2003. The upside for Bender is heading back to Twin Falls where his earlier win this was recorded in wire-to-wire fashion.
No. 9 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 World's Gym/Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 826 (-190). Previous ranking: 6. No driver has been more dominant in the Northwest Series at Evergreen Speedway than Lewis. He has won over a third of his last 20 races there. However, the 2005 season will be one of "what could have been". In early July a wreck during his second qualifying lap resulted in a start at the back of the field. He was able to work his way through the field for a third-place finish. This time, the accident came a little bit later and did not leave enough recovery time. He had already posted the second-fastest qualifying time and was working in the top 10 at the time of his contact with the wall in turn one.
No. 10 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 797 (-219). Previous ranking: 10. Last season for Bennett was a year in which few setbacks were encountered. This year, however, is one in which few things have gone right. For the second time in as many races at Evergreen this year, he collected Bud Pole honors with a very impressive lap of 22.686 seconds (102.513 mph). No good deed ever goes unpunished, though, this season for the DS Racing team. During his second qualifying lap something in the motor went south relegating Bennett to a start in the rear after pulling the car out of NASCAR's impound area. He and his team never did isolate the problem and a promising night with a strong engine ended with a 19th-place finish.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 791 (-225). Previous ranking: 9. The silver lining for Bailey's black cloud cover encountered at Evergreen Speedway was very thin, but no less significant. It was a chance for Bailey to put some distance between himself and Bennett as the two were just three points apart heading into the night. Bailey logs the third-fastest time in time trials and Bennett has his motor woes during qualifying. It seemed like a good night at the track until trouble found the No. 27 car. Bailey finished a disappointing last after contact with the wall in turn three. The silver lining was Bennett's predicament. Bailey is just six points, or just two positions in the next race, behind Bennett for that coveted final invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
New to the top 10: John Bender
Dropped out of the top 10: Jeff Bailey