NWS: Top 10 list 2006-07-19

THE TOP 10 LIST NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. The...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. The top 10 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 fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, October 20-21 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. This special post-season invitational event will be broadcast on SPEED and awards competitors nearly $500,000 in prize money.

No. 1 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Moore-Lewis Racing. Points: 827 Previous ranking: 1. At the end of the day, it was a 43-point flat tire. Lewis was in the midst of another top-five run last Saturday on Evergreen Speedway's 3/8-mile inner oval when a flat tire forced him to the pits to make a change. The result was a lost lap and his first finish outside of the top two this season. He brought an 80-point lead over Travis Bennett into the race and went home with a working margin of 37 points. Lewis now heads to Yakima Speedway where he already has a victory this season and four in his career.

No. 2 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting/Knudson Lumber/Farmer's Insurance Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 790 (-37). Previous ranking: 2. For the second time this season and the third time in his Northwest Series career Bennett posted a second-place finish. Second isn't bad and certainly served him well in his pursuit of points leader Gary Lewis by knocking off more than half of the deficit. Bennett knew that, as well, but second is not what he is after. With four top-five runs this season, what he seeks is that first victory in the series. "If we stay focused, it will come, but I sure hope that it comes sooner rather than later. We're so close, I can taste it," says Bennett.

No. 3 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 713 (-114). Previous ranking: 7. Riehl went to Evergreen Speedway to right the ship under the tightest of guidelines. Basically, he was giving himself one race to break a slump that saw him finish 27th and 19th in consecutive races and fall from second in points to seventh. That's a pretty tall order when dealing with the delicate balance required on the 3/8-mile surface at Evergreen Speedway. He more than accomplished his task. Not only did he halt his downward spiral, he collected his second win of the season. Riehl has finished in the top five at Yakima Speedway in five consecutive races there including a pair of wins a season ago.

No. 4 -- Jay Sauls, Puyallup, Wash. (No. 20 Tri-State Restaurant Supply/Canyon Auto Paint Supply Chevrolet), Team: Sauls Racing. Points: 681 (-146). Previous ranking: 3. Coming off his victory in Wenatchee, Sauls was reminded rather rudely that racing in the Northwest Series can be quite the rollercoaster ride. He wins in just his fourth series start and is on top of the hill, but the ride quickly moves down that hill leaving Sauls with a season-worst finish of 21st. It wasn't a disastrous night in the championship point standings, but that sort of performance will have to be avoided in Yakima where he finished 14th on June 17. Sauls lost the lead to Mike Longton in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings, but is still the highest ranked first-year driver in the hunt for the series title.

No. 5 -- Mike Longton, Moxee, Wash. (No. 37 Key Financial/Owens Enterprises Chevrolet), Team: Longton Motorsports. Points: 671 (-156). Previous ranking: 5. Longton overdrove his car in time trials last Saturday evening at Evergreen Speedway, a mistake easily and commonly made on the tricky track. However, he took advantage of a 10-car invert and started on the pole. He lead the race's first 62 laps and seemingly had enough car underneath him to give a good solid shot at his initial win in the Northwest Series. Unfortunately, a lapped car made contact with Longton sending his hopes and car spinning out of contention. He rebounded to finish a respectable 14th thus holding onto his fifth-place ranking in points. As a result of his effort, he did re-gain the top spot in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings, with a slim one-point edge on both Jay Sauls and Shane Mitchell.

No. 6 -- Shane Mitchell, Orondo, Wash. (No. 99 Mitchell Trucking & Paving/Coca-Cola Chevrolet), Team: Mitchell Motorsports. Points: 669 (-158). Previous ranking: 8. Mitchell has been the man on the move up the charts. He has used three consecutive top-10 runs to move from 19th in points, where he sat after the race on June 10 at Magic Valley Speedway, to his current sixth-place position. After finishing on the podium in the previous two events, his eighth-place effort at Evergreen may have seemed a bit mundane, but if he keeps gaining ground in points like he has, then no complaints will come from the Mitchell camp. He is the third of three Sunoco rookies in the top 10.

No. 7 -- Wilbur Bruce, Lakewood, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 669 (-158). Previous ranking: 6. Although Bruce has slipped a little over the last two events; there is not a more consistent team in the Northwest Series. Their mettle was put to the test at Evergreen last weekend. The No. 8 squad was faced with replacing their motor after the second practice session. The ramifications of that could have been far reaching. They missed qualifying which gave them a starting position of dead last in the 25-car field. Starting at the tail end is rarely a good thing especially on a track which passing is difficult, to say the least, and the motor may be suspect. Bruce and his team put forth a yeomen's effort and turned in a 13th-place finish.

No. 8 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/SPE Racing Engines Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 667 (-160). Previous ranking: 4. It's a good thing the next race is this weekend, because last weekend is one that the Barkshire team wants to forget. They suffered some damage to their car that started seventh on the grid and never were able get it right again. The finish of 22nd is the worst of Barkshire's Northwest Series career. Even though that produced a fall from fourth to eighth in the standings, the bright side is that they are still just 14 points out of that fourth-place ranking.

No. 9 -- Steven Howard, Roy, Wash. (No. 38 Great Northwest Homes Chevrolet), Team: Howard Motorsports. Points: 652 (-175). Previous ranking: 11. Howard equaled his best-ever finish of third in a Northwest Series car last Saturday at Evergreen Speedway. He also turned in a third-place performance at Tri-Cities Raceway in the 2004 season. It was also his first top five since that 2004 season. It was the third consecutive top-10 finish moving Howard into the top 10 in points for the first time this season. The Howard team is aiming at a return to the top 10 at year's end. They had finished there in both 2003 and 2004, but slipped to 12th a season ago.

No. 10 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 OSO Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 630 (-197). Previous ranking: 13. Bender has used back-to-back top-10 performances to move into the top 10 in points for the first time in four races. Their finish in sixth ties a season-high for the perennial top-10 team. To go along with their three top 10s, the No. 18 team has a pair of finishes worse than 20th, so finding that ever important consistency is the concern and they are seemingly on their way. Yakima Speedway, the next stop on the circuit, is the site of one of Bender's four Northwest Series victories.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 612 (-215). Previous ranking: 9. Evans' team will be one of purpose and determination this weekend in Yakima. The four-time series champion has just one top-10 finish this season and his finish in 23rd last weekend at Evergreen Speedway is his worst since placing 23rd at Magic Valley Speedway on September 13, 2003. Evans leads the all-time list of winners at Yakima Speedway with six in Northwest Series competition.

New to the top 10: Steven Howard and John Bender

Dropped out of the top 10: Garrett Evans and B.J. Tidrick


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Drivers Shane Mitchell , John Bender , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire