NWS: Top 10 list 2006-08-03

THE TOP 10 LIST NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 2, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top 10 drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. The top...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 2, 2006) - This is a glance at the current top 10 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: 1157 Previous ranking: 1. It's not what Lewis wanted in the final NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series race at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., his home track, but the results were good, nonetheless. It was a race that he wanted to win, but his sixth-place finish helped him expand his championship point standings lead over Travis Bennett to 88 points. If this looks familiar, that's because it is. A season ago heading into the second visit to Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho, Jeff Jefferson held an 86-point advantage over second-ranked Pete Harding. Watching that lead evaporate, as Jefferson did, is what Lewis looks to avoid. If the first visit to Magic Valley is any indication, then Lewis is in good shape. He passed polesitter Eddy McKean on the first lap and led all 125 laps en route to his first victory this season.

No. 2 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting/Knudson Lumber/Farmer's Insurance Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 1069 (-88). Previous ranking: 2. Just when Bennett thought the demons that tormented him last season had been exorcised, they, once again, reared their ugly heads. His was one of the cars to stop for fuel early last Saturday and was working his way back through the field when contact between Brent Harris and B.J. Tidrick set off a series of events that effectively ended Bennett's solid run. He ended up finishing in 18th thus losing valuable ground in his quest for the championship. He, however, did turn in a good fourth-place effort in Twin Falls earlier in the season, so he will look to build upon that performance down the home stretch of the season.

No. 3 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 1048 (-109). Previous ranking: 3. Except for a brief two-race sabbatical, Riehl has finished on the podium in every other race this season. Without those pair of sub-par performances, there is no telling how close he could be to Lewis with three races to go in the season. However, even with the little bobble, Riehl is within reach of the title. A year ago at this point, he was 99 points behind Jefferson and was able to take the points lead into the final race of the season. He used a pair of top-five runs in the consecutive 200-lap events in 2005 to make up the ground.

No. 4 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/SPE Racing Engines Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 992 (-165). Previous ranking: 4. Barkshire continued to chase his first Northwest Series victory by leading 54 laps last Saturday at Evergreen. He finished a season-best third. He has now led the field for a total of 277 laps this year, but has yet to reach pay dirt. While he desperately wants to win a series event before season's end, he was pleased with the results last weekend. "I didn't have the car to win this one, but we're right there," he says. He turned in the second of his five top-five runs this season earlier at Magic Valley Speedway.

No. 5 -- Shane Mitchell, Orondo, Wash. (No. 99 Mitchell Trucking & Paving/Coca-Cola Chevrolet), Team: Mitchell Motorsports. Points: 949 (-208). Previous ranking: 5. Mitchell took care of business last Saturday at Evergreen, plain and simple. He is pretty much on the outside looking in with regard to the overall championship which leaves remaining in the top 10 in points and the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Award as his chief concerns. With his 10th-place finish he stayed in the fifth position in points and was able to extend his lead in the rookie standings in the process. He now has a six-point advantage on Jay Sauls.

No. 6 -- Jay Sauls, Puyallup, Wash. (No. 20 Tri-State Restaurant Supply/Canyon Auto Paint Supply Chevrolet), Team: Sauls Racing. Points: 935 (-222). Previous ranking: 7. After winning in Wenatchee in just his fourth series start, Sauls has finished the last two races outside of the top 20 heading into last weekend's Evergreen race. However, he turned in an extremely strong fourth-place showing to dispel any rumors that he made a deal with the devil for that victory. He started on the pole after the invert and led the first 68 laps before losing a bit of handling on his racecar and surrendering the lead to Barkshire. Sauls turned in his first Northwest Series top-10 run earlier this season at Magic Valley Speedway.

No. 7 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 922 (-235). Previous ranking: 8. What hasn't been said about the four-time champion, he slipped out of the top 10 in points following his worst finish in three seasons on the 3/8-mile track at Evergreen on July 15, but has fought back with vengeance. That poor performance apparently awoke the sleeping giant as he has roared to life with consecutive top-five finishes to seize the seventh position in the championship point standings. Magic Valley is the site of the last of his all-time record 50 career wins coming on June 12, 2004

No. 8 -- Wilbur Bruce, Lakewood, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Rent 'N Roll/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 889 (-268). Previous ranking: 6. This driver may have to become "Wilbur Bruce, The Magnificent" this week and pull a rabbit out of his hat. Already working with a back-up motor in his car, he once again experienced engine woes at Evergreen. The primary motor is in Wisconsin awaiting repair with the secondary, possibly, soon to follow. The repairs have left the Bruce team with a large measure of uncertainty. He is the defending champion of this Saturday's race in Twin Falls along with being dangerously close to the bottom end of the top 10 in points making this event "high noon" for the No. 8 camp.

No. 9 -- Steven Howard, Roy, Wash. (No. 38 Great Northwest Homes Chevrolet), Team: Howard Motorsports. Points: 876 (-281). Previous ranking: 13. Not knowing for sure, but Howard must be a roller coaster enthusiast. In the last four events, he has gone from 10th up to third down to 27th and back up to eighth. With that has come a similar ride in the point standings. His top-10 run in Monroe moved him from 13th to ninth in the standings. The Howard Motorsports gang has to be seeking some measure of consistency in order to make the field for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, an event they missed for the first time last season.

No. 10 -- Brent Harris, Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 0 R&S Construction Pontiac), Team: Harris Motorsports. Points: 859 (-298). Previous ranking: 12. Harris had a string of three consecutive top-10 finishes snapped at Evergreen, but his 14th-place finish was enough to get him back into the top 10 in points. Considering that the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender did not make the field for the first race this season at Magic Valley Speedway makes his holding of the 10th-place ranking all that much more impressive. He and his team, however, must perform better in Twin Falls this time around to stay there.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- Mike Longton, Moxee, Wash. (No. 37 Key Financial/Owens Enterprises Chevrolet), Team: Longton Motorsports. Points: 853 (-304). Previous ranking: 9. Three races ago, Longton sat atop the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings and occupied fifth place in the point standings, but two straight finishes outside the top 20 have forced him out of the top 10 in driver's points. The fact that he is only six points in back of Harris and he turned in a 10th-place effort in June at Magic Valley has to provide optimism for some reversal of fortune.

New to the top 10: Steven Howard and Brent Harris

Dropped out of the top 10: Mike Longton and B.J. Tidrick


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Drivers Shane Mitchell , Jeff Jefferson , Gary Lewis , Jeff Barkshire