NWS: Top 10 at a glance 2004-08-23

The Showdown Lowdown NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 23, 2004) - 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 23, 2004) - 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 second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on November 11-13.

No. 1 - Garrett Evans , East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Vickrey Racing. Points: 1420. Previous ranking: 1. It was not the best performance of the season for the #64 team, but it was enough to hold onto the points lead with just three races remaining on the schedule. Evans' right rear tire had just five pounds of air pressure upon returning to the garage area after the race, which dashed his hopes of padding that lead. Evans logged a ninth-place finish in the Frank's Chevrolet 125 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway last Saturday to keep alive his streak of posting a top-10 finish in every event this year. He and his crew feel that they will need at least one more win this season to solidify Evans' run at his fifth Northwest Series championship.

No. 2 - Jason Jefferson , Naches, Wash. (No. 97 Mike Olson Dodge/Simmonson Automotive Dodge), Team: Simmonson Racing. Points: 1372 (-48). Previous ranking: 3. For the third race in a row, last season's runner-up in points moved up one slot in the standings. Jefferson moved up a notch thanks to a fourth-place finish at Yakima. It was a night that got off to a rocky start for the #97 team by being forced to start at the back of the field due to a rules violation. NASCAR officials impounded the cars immediately after qualifying meaning that only certain work could be done and only in the presence of a NASCAR official. Jefferson's crew did not adhere to those guidelines causing a race start from the back of the pack instead of the outside pole position. The 2003 Rookie of the Year, though, is still within striking distance of the championship. The series next races on September 4 at TriCity Raceway in West Richland, Wash. Earlier in the season at that track, Jefferson thoroughly dominated the field en route to his first of three victories this season.

No. 3 - Travis Bennett , Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting/Zeb's Truck Stop/Knudson Lumber Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 1371 (-49). Previous ranking: 2. Like Evans, Bennett has finished in the top 10 in each of the Northwest Series races this year. The leading Auto Meter Rookie of the Year contender in the series finished seventh at Yakima. However, for the first time since May, Bennett does not occupy the number two spot in points. The bright side for Bennett is that for the first time in four races he did not finish looking at the back of Evans' car enabling him to trim eight points off that lead.

No. 4 - Jeff Jefferson , Naches, Wash. (No. 42 Sunfair Chevrolet/LeMay Car Museum Chevrolet), Team: Morgan Racing. Points: 1337 (-83). Previous ranking: 5. The defending champion would like nothing more than to repeat as series champion and he took a step in the right direction at Yakima last Saturday night. He began by winning his fourth Bud Pole Award of the season and then went on to post his third win of the season. Jeff is now tied with younger brother Jason with three victories to lead the Northwest Series this season. Jeff also leads the series in Bud Pole Awards this season.

No. 5 - Gary Lewis , Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Sign Factory USA Pontiac), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 1314 (-106). Previous ranking: 6. Lewis calls it a coincidence, but his season stood true to form in Yakima. He did not win the pole; therefore he posted a solid finish of third in the Frank's Chevrolet 125. In the three races in which he won the Bud Pole Award his average finish is 18th while the other six races have netted and average finish of just over third. There certainly is not a correlation, but an interesting trend nonetheless. The run at Yakima Speedway was his fifth top-five of the season. He trails Jeff Jefferson by one (4-3) in the season battle for pole awards.

No. 6 - Pete Harding , Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Harding Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 1310 (-110). Previous ranking: 4. For the second time in four races Harding has finished out of the top 10 after looking to be a serious title contender. He finished an uncharacteristic 13th at Yakima Speedway, a track that has been very good to him over the years. He posted finishes of third and second in the two previous events at the venue. Harding has logged five top-five finishes in 2004 and the veteran Canadian driver seems a lock for one of the 10 invitations for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

No. 7 - Brandon Riehl , Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 1301 (-119). Previous ranking: 8. It was truly an historic night for Riehl as he finished a Northwest Series career-best second at the Frank's Chevrolet 125. Riehl's maturation behind the wheel of the #69 Chevy is more and more evident every race. While leading in the race's early going and being pressured by eventual winner Jeff Jefferson, Riehl opted not to take an unnecessary risk that early in the contest. As it turned out, he never could mount a challenge on Jefferson, but was able to bring the car home in second place. After finishing 11th in points last season, Riehl looks for his first berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.

No. 8 - Wes Rhodes , Lacey, Wash. (No. 6 Knight Fire Protection Chevrolet), Team: Foulkes Racing. Points: 1269 (-151). Previous ranking: 7. Rhodes and his team are having a bit of a late season swoon. After posting top-10 finishes in five of the season's first six races, they have finished out of the top 10 in two of the last three events. That includes a 12th place effort at Yakima Speedway coming off their season-best finish of fourth in Kalispell, Mont. However, the next two races are at track that Rhodes finished in the top five earlier in the season.

No. 9 - Joe Benedetti, Auburn, Wash. (No. 2 Bret Chevrolet/RaceCals Chevrolet), Team: Benedetti Racing. Points: 1249 (-171). Previous ranking: 10. Benedetti is getting hot at the right time. With his finish of fifth at Yakima, Benedetti has now logged top-10 performances in each of the last three events. Two of those three solid runs have been top-five finishes. Ninth in points is a high-water mark for the #2 team this season as they get a more firm grasp on one of those ten invites to the Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. However, Steven Howard in 10th is just three points behind and John Bender in 11th is only 48 points away from Benedetti.

No. 10 - Steven Howard , Roy, Wash. (No. 38 Great Northwest Homes/Seddon Marketing Group Chevrolet), Team: Howard Racing. Points: 1246 (-174). Previous ranking: 8. Howard is looking to stop a little slide in that he has finished outside of the top 10 in each of the last two events coming off a stretch that saw him post three consecutive top-10 performances. He finished 11th at Yakima on the heels of an 11th-place finish at Kalispell. Like Rhodes, the next two tracks have been good to Howard in 2004. He finished in the top 10 earlier in the season at both TriCity Raceway and Evergreen Speedway.

On the bubble:

No. 11 - John Bender , Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Reece Asphalt Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 1201 (-219). Previous ranking: 11. Bender finished sixth at Yakima and it was his first top-10 performance since finishing seventh at Yakima Speedway back on May 29. Team Bender certainly hopes to build on that success over the season's final three races and garner one of those 10 coveted invitations to the Showdown. They are just 45 points out of the 10th place.

New to the top 10: None

Dropped out of the top 10: None

Largest jump in the top 15: Six Drivers (+1)

Largest drop in the top 15: Pete Harding (-2)


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