NWS: Top ten 2005-07-12

THE SHOWDOWN LOWDOWN NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 12, 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 12, 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: 666. Previous ranking: 1. Consistency is the name of the game in points racing. Jefferson chalked up his third top-five and fourth top-10 finish of the 2005 season last weekend at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. His finish as runner-up to Pete Harding allowed the defending champion to stretch out his points lead as he looks to become the first driver to win three straight Northwest Series championships. A year ago after four races, Jefferson sat 11th in points over 100 points behind the leader Garrett Evans.

No. 2 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 607 (-59). Previous ranking: 2. His hot streak to begin the season is becoming more of a distant memory. Riehl has turned cold over the past two events. Last Saturday at Evergreen, he spent more time being a chief mechanic than he did behind the wheel of his car. Practice brought a broken trailing arm bracket, qualifying brought a faulty transmission and the race produced a damaged front end. Riehl looks to tip the scales the other way when the series returns to Yakima (Wash.) Speedway, the site of his first series win to start this season.

No. 3 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Yale Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 595 (-71). Previous ranking: 10. Harding is having a yoyo season thus far in 2005. He has bounced from third in points to 10th and now back to third thanks to his first victory in 27 races last Saturday night at Evergreen Speedway. A late caution in that race prevented the veteran Canadian driver from demonstrating how dominant his car was. Prior to that yellow flag, He had opened a lead of nearly a straightaway on Jefferson. The win was the 17th of Harding's series career. His son, Shane, is eagerly awaiting the chance to take over the reins of the No. 39 car, but said after the race, "He's never going to get out of that car."

No. 4 -- Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee, Wash. (No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet), Team: Evans Racing. Points: 587 (-79). Previous ranking: 3. Just two drivers in the Northwest Series have finished in the top 10 in each of the four events so far this season. Jefferson is one and the other is Evans, who is seeking an unprecedented fifth title. Evans did drop one spot this week, but it could have been much worse. Evans brought a fresh motor in his primary car last Saturday and it performed admirably...for a lap and a half...before breaking. Scavenging parts off the back-up car did not produce any better results, so Evans ran the back-up car in the race. All things considered, 10th place isn't all that bad.

No. 5 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 581 (-85). Previous ranking: 8T. The Lewis team saw how much fun the Evans and Riehl crews were having working on their cars all the way up to race time, they thought they might join them. Lewis bounced his car off the wall during his second qualifying lap leaving the crew with some work to do. That work turned out to be pretty decent. Lewis was relegated to starting in the rear of the field due to post-impound work on the car, but he still drove through the pack and finished third in the race. He has been the man on the move over the last three races, Lewis has moved from 12th to eighth to fifth in points.

No. 6 -- Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma, Wash. (No. 8 Quality Rentals/Six Robblees Chevrolet), Team: Neil Weiner Racing. Points: 579 (-87). Previous ranking: 5. Bruce rebounded from a 12th--place finish in Wenatchee with a sixth-place effort last week at Evergreen. Bruce continues to impress with his strong season, to date. Given an opportunity to run an entire season by Neil Wiener, Bruce is making the most of it with one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Bruce is seeking his first berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

No. 7 -- John Dillon, Eagle, Idaho (No. 25 Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet), Team: Dillon Motorsports. Points: 578 (-88). Previous ranking: 6T. Dillon is quietly putting together a solid season. His fifth-place finish last week was his second of the season. The 1990 series titleholder is also looking for his first invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Along with Jefferson and Bruce, Dillon has completed every lap this season.

No. 8 -- Jeff Barkshire, Auburn, Wash. (No. 46 Hooker Harness/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge), Team: Barkshire Racing. Points: 572 (-94). Previous ranking: 4. Barkshire posted his third top 10 of the season with an eighth-place finish at Evergreen. It's not often that a finish of eighth results in a drop of four spots in points, but that is the case this week with Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings leader. Last week, 23 points separated fourth from 12th while this week that same total of 23 is the distance between third and eighth.

No. 9 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 545 (-121). Previous ranking: 12. Back in the top 10 in points after a week out of it, Bennett showed signs that his bout with a sophomore slump, of sorts, may be over. He won his first Northwest Series career Bud Pole Award last Saturday on the biggest, fastest track the series visits. He followed that up with a solid top-10 run to make the jump from 12th in the championship point standings.

No. 10 -- Jeff Bailey, Kennewick, Wash. (No. 27 Sharp & Preszler Construction/Craig Racing Engines Chevrolet), Team: Bailey Motorsports. Points: 544 (-122). Previous ranking: 6T. Bailey fought hard to finish 14th last weekend at Evergreen Speedway and by doing so he kept himself in the top 10 in points. Points racing is about getting all that you can every time out. Bailey has been as up and down as Harding this season. In order this season, he has finished fifth, 15th, sixth and 14th. The trend indicates a finish of seventh in Yakima on July 23.

On the bubble:

No. 11 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Natural Concepts Landscaping Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 534 (-132). Previous ranking: 8T. Bender does get the tag of "falling out of the top 10" this week, but there's no need for panic in the Bender camp. Just 11 points separate Bender in 11th and Bennett in ninth.

New to the top 10: Travis Bennett

Dropped out of the top 10: John Bender


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