The Showdown Lowdown NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 28, 2004) - This is a glance at the current top ten drivers in the championship standings in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. At...
The Showdown Lowdown
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 28, 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: 1117. Previous ranking: 1. Evans logged his seventh top-10 finish in as many starts with an eighth-place effort in the Frank's Chevrolet 125 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway. Five of those seven have been top-five performances. Evans' fifth Northwest Series title is far from locked up, but few drivers have been able to slice into the lead due to his consistency this season. To maintain this pace, Evans will need a better result than he historically has gotten at the series' next stop, Montana Raceway Park in Kalispell, Mont. Evans has just one top-five finish, a second, at that track coming in the inaugural race in 1998.
No. 2 -- Travis Bennett, Ellensburg, Wash. (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting/Zeb's Truck Stop Chevrolet), Team: DS Racing. Points: 1070 (-47). 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 ninth in the Frank's Chevrolet 125. For the first time in 2004, he was not the top-finishing rookie as Bryan Wiener edged him out in sixth place. It was the second consecutive race that the second-ranked Bennett finished one spot behind points leader Evans.
No. 3 -- Pete Harding, Surrey, B.C. Canada (No. 39 L.P. Body Shop/Harding Forklift Chevrolet), Team: Harding Racing. Points: 1036 (-81). Previous ranking: 8. Harding got back on track by finishing in the runner-up slot at Yakima after a disappointing finish of 15th in the previous event. The pervasive feeling in the garage area prior to the race was that Harding would rebound due to his past success at Yakima Speedway. Harding, over the years, has won five Northwest Series events at the track. He had a few chances to get around eventual race winner Tom Sweatman for that sixth victory, but the high track temperatures prevented him from getting the grip that he needed.
No. 4 -- Jason Jefferson, Naches, Wash. (No. 97 Mike Olson Dodge/Simmonson Automotive Dodge), Team: Simmonson Racing. Points: 1032 (-85). Previous ranking: 5. Last season's runner-up showed some of the driving that took him to victories in the season's first two races with a finish in fourth in the Frank's Chevrolet 125. It was the first top-five performance for Jefferson since winning those two events to start the year. Jason finished fourth in Kalispell last season, so the #97 team may be one to watch.
No. 5 -- Gary Lewis, Bothell, Wash. (No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Sign Factory USA Pontiac), Team: Lewis Racing. Points: 1022 (-95). Previous ranking: 3. Lewis turned in a 10th-place finish in Yakima for his fifth top 10 of the season. It was the first of those that was not a top-five performance this season. He won the Kalispell race in 2002 and holds the series record for qualifying at the 1/4-mile oval in the Rockies at 70.489 mph.
No. 6 -- Brandon Riehl, Boring, Ore. (No. 69 Aero Turbine/Darrell's Economy Muffler Chevrolet), Team: Hanson Racing. Points: 997 (-120). Previous ranking: 6 (tie). Riehl finished in 11th at Yakima Speedway, but was still able to hang onto the sixth in the points race. Riehl missed the top 10 for just the second time in 2004. 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. 7 -- Jeff Jefferson, Naches, Wash. (No. 42 Sunfair Chevrolet/LeMay Car Museum Chevrolet), Team: Morgan Racing. Points: 987 (-130). Previous ranking: 4. Jefferson won his third Bud Pole Award of the season in the Frank's Chevrolet 125. However, that was the end of the good news for the defending series champion. After drawing a 10-car invert to start the race, Jefferson was forced to park his car for the evening after just 27 laps due to a mechanical problem.
No. 8 -- Steven Howard, Roy, Wash. (No. 38 Great Northwest Homes/Seddon Marketing Group Chevrolet), Team: Howard Racing. Points: 986 (-131). Previous ranking: 9. Howard equaled his season-best with a fifth-place finish at Yakima Speedway. With his second top five of the season, the series' youngest driver set a new career season-best after having run just two full seasons and two partial seasons in the Northwest Series.
No. 9 -- Wes Rhodes, Lacey, Wash. (No. 6 Knight Fire Protection Chevrolet), Team: Foulkes Racing. Points: 982 (-135). Previous ranking: 6 (tie). Very little went right for Rhodes and his team at Yakima Speedway. The #6 team had to replace a motor during practice, which forced them to miss qualifying and start at the tail of the field. That may have been the good news of the night because on lap 109 Rhodes went off the track coming out of turn two and sustained major damage to the motor his team spend the afternoon putting into the car. His three top-five finishes this season is a personal season-best over his six years in the Northwest Series.
No. 10 -- Joe Benedetti, Auburn, Wash. (No. 2 Bret Chevrolet/RaceCals Chevrolet), Team: Benedetti Racing. Points: 948 (-169). Previous ranking: 11. Benedetti is back in the top 10 in points after spending two weeks in the 11th spot. He posted his second top-five finish of the season with a third-place showing in the Frank's Chevrolet 125. Benedetti started on the pole after Jeff Jefferson drew for the 10-car invert. Benedetti led the race's first 45 laps before being overtaken by eventual winner Tom Sweatman.
On the bubble:
No. 11 -- John Bender, Snohomish, Wash. (No. 18 Oso Lumber/Reece Asphalt Chevrolet), Team: Kearney Racing. Points: 930 (-187). Previous ranking: 10. Bender finds himself on the outside looking in for a berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, in which the top 10 finishers in points will gain an invitation. Bender placed a disappointing 15th at Yakima Speedway as his team was chasing mechanical problems in the early stages of the event. Those problems forced them to go several laps down which is a lethal blow in short-track racing
New to the top 10: Joe Benedetti
Dropped out of the top 10: John Bender
Largest jump in the top 15: Pete Harding (+5)
Largest drop in the top 15: Jeff Jefferson (-3)