NWS: The Showdown Lowdown 2005-07-28

THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 27, 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 27, 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: 846. Previous ranking: 1. The best way to keep the lead in points racing is to win and that is exactly what Jefferson did last weekend at the Magic Metals 125 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway. The two-time defending champion collected his second win of the season to go along with a pair of second-place finishes this season. Jefferson is looking to become the first driver to win three consecutive championships in the Northwest Series, as well as, join three-time title winners Ron Eaton and Garrett Evans. In fact, Jefferson could become just the fifth driver among all four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series to garner three straight titles.

No. 2 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 767 (-79). Previous ranking: 2. A return to the scene of his first Northwest Series victory was what Riehl needed. The return visit to Yakima got him back in the groove with a fourth-place finish after a pair of sub-par outings. The Jefferson team is showing no signs of letting up and the 79-point deficit may seem like Mt. Everest, but Riehl and his team need only to search their recent memory for motivation. A year ago, Jefferson, himself, overcame a larger differential when it appeared that Garrett Evans was showing no signs of a slip.

No. 3 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 765 (-81). Previous ranking: 3. Harding looks to have hit his 2005 stride. He followed up his first win in a couple of seasons with a second-place showing at Yakima. It looked for a while that Harding, once again, had a better handling car than Jefferson. In the end, though, Harding could not work his way past Jefferson's rear quarter panel proving the old racing adage of catching a car in front is one thing while passing it is another. It could be interesting to see what Harding would do if he were to win a second series championship this season. Would it be the perfect time to hand the reins to his son, Shane, or let the competitive juices flow?

No. 4 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 752 (-94). Previous ranking: 4. As badly as Jefferson wants that third championship, Evans may want his fifth title even more. Five championships spread over three decades would further cement Evans into racing immortality in the Pacific Northwest. Evans and his team feel the black cloud of losing motors in each of the last two races, but the silver lining is that they have been able to maintain their position in the standings. Evans is one of two drivers to post a top-10 finish in every race this season with Jefferson being the other.

No. 5 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 734 (-112). Previous ranking: 6. Like the Energizer bunny, Bruce and his team continue to roll on in 2005. They posted their second top-five effort of the season with a finish in fifth in Yakima. Both of those top fives have come at Yakima Speedway for the No. 8 team. Bruce's best points finish in the Northwest Series was third in 1998 and he currently sits just 31 points from that mark. Bruce and Riehl, in second place, are the only two drivers in the current top seven to have not won a Northwest Series championship.

No. 6 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 World's Gym/Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 723 (-123). Previous ranking: 5. The Lewis team will put everything together and that looms large for every other team. Lewis has won multiple races in every season since 1996 and there is no reason in the world to believe that he won't win two events in the second half of the season. He finished eighth in Yakima, but the series heads to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. where Lewis has won in seven of his last 19 Northwest Series visits.

No. 7 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 712 (-134). Previous ranking: 7. Dillon may be the only driver in the top 10 more under the radar than Bruce. Dillon has not been flashy this season, but he has been solid. Aside from leading the first 57 laps in Wenatchee on July 2, Dillon has simply done his job and turned laps. Only Jefferson, Bruce and Dillon have completed every one of the 625 laps so far this season.

No. 8 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Mike Olson Dodge Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 710 (-136). Previous ranking: 8. The race for the Northwest Series' Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Award is far from over, but Barkshire has moved out to the early lead. For the fourth time in five races, he was the top-finishing rookie this past Saturday at Yakima. He finished ninth in the race for his fourth top-10 effort of the season. Should Barkshire remain in the top 10 in points and win rookie honors, the Northwest Series would send it's Sunoco Rookie of the Year to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown for the third straight season following in the footsteps of Jason Jefferson (2003) and Travis Bennett (2004).

No. 9 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 694 (-152). Previous ranking: 10. On the track, there appears to be little difference from the way Bailey is running this year as opposed to last. That goes to show that the largest variable in the points racing equation is luck. Not being at the wrong place at the wrong time is so vital in short track racing and Bailey has been able to avoid the trouble he seemed to find at every turn last year, a season that saw him finish 13th in points. He notched his third top 10 of the season in Yakima with a sixth-place effort, which looks more like his 2003 form that saw a finish of eighth in the final standings.

No. 10 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 691 (-155). Previous ranking: 9. Still fighting to recapture the magic of his rookie season, Bennett moved closer by equaling his season-best finish of seventh at Yakima. This came on the heels of his first career Bud Pole Award in the event prior. Despite bouncing around the bottom half of the top 10 in points, where just 33 points separate sixth and 10th, Bennett remains nearly as consistent as he was a season ago. Last year, he was the only driver in the series to complete every lap and this season he is just one lap off the pace.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 652 (-194). Previous ranking: 11. No one hopes more than Bender that there is no place like home. The series heads to Evergreen Speedway, his home track, where the No. 18 team hopes to regain the form from their wire-to-wire win at Magic Valley Speedway in early June.

New to the top 10: None

Dropped out of the top 10: None


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