NWS: Wenatchee II: Season finale preview

SHANE MITCHELL RIGHT AT HOME IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 11, 2006) -- The next challenge is never too far away in racing rookie drivers often take on the biggest challenges. However,...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 11, 2006) -- The next challenge is never too far away in racing rookie drivers often take on the biggest challenges. However, true racing rookies are hard to come by unless they are turning laps at the local go-kart track.

Orondo, Washington's Shane Mitchell takes the lead in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings into the final NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series event, but he is no rookie behind the wheel of a racecar.

The rookie class in the Northwest Series this season was as deep and talented as any there has ever been in this series or perhaps in any series. Twelve drivers enrolled in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year program and all they have done is win two races, earn four Bud Poles, finish in the top five 10 times and 35 times in the top 10.

"It's a pretty competitive group of rookies," said Mitchell. "But we've all spent our share of time behind the wheel and we all know what we're doing."

Apparently so, with those kind of results. Mitchell has chimed in with two top fives, 5 top 10's and a Bud Pole on June 17 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway.

"These guys came in here and were a factor from day one," says 2004 Northwest Series Rookie-of-the-Year Travis Bennett. "It's really pretty amazing. The level of competition is really high in this series and these guys are winning poles and races."

This year's rookie class has taken on a special challenge in the final season of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division. Many wanted to see how they stacked up against the likes of Garrett Evans, Gary Lewis and Pete Harding before the season concludes. The Elite Division will be discontinued in 2007 as part of NASCAR's restructuring of its regional touring series.

"That's pretty much what it was for us," said Mitchell. "I've heard about these guys and watched them race. You know they are the best out there around here and we wanted to see how we compare. I think we've fared pretty well. It took us a couple of races to get our feet under us and see how things worked, then, we were fine. We were able to relax and race, just like always."

All rookies build their teams and cars from the ground up. The Mitchell team built there car from the seat up. They started with the seat and built the entire Mitchell Trucking & Paving/Coca-Cola Chevrolet around it, piece by piece.

Mitchell's handiwork has fared very well because what started as 12 drivers eyeing the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year title has been reduced all the way down to a virtual five-way free-for-all for the award in the final race of the season this Saturday at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in East Wenatchee, Wash. Mitchell currently holds a two-point lead on Jay Sauls and has an eight-point advantage on Jason Fraser, Mike Longton and B.J. Tidrick. With as many as 10 Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contenders possibly entered into the event, all five have a realistic shot at the prize. There is a wild card thrown into the equation, as well. Each driver's worst two performances of the 2006 season will be thrown out before final calculations are made.

"I knew all along that it would come down to the final race and maybe the final lap," says Mitchell of the battle for rookie honors in the Northwest Series.

Ticket information for the Wenatchee 125 can be obtained by calling Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval at (509) 886-5801 or by logging onto www.wvso.com.


What: Wenatchee 125 (Race No. 10 of 10 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).

Where: Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval, E. Wenatchee, Wash.

When: 8:30 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006

Track layout: 1/4-mile oval
Race length: 125 laps/31.25 miles.

Posted awards: $52,833

2005 winner:  Jeff Jefferson.

2005 polesitter: Brandon Riehl.

Top 10 in points: 1. Gary Lewis--1487; 2. Brandon Riehl-- 1334; 3. Travis Bennett--1324; 4. Jeff Barkshire--1264; 5. Garrett Evans-1219; 6. Jay Sauls--1215; 7. Shane Mitchell-1197; 8. B.J. Tidrick-1175; 9. Steven Howard--1148; 10. Wilbur Bruce--1145

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 9/16 - 12:00 p.m. Registration opens; 3:00-4:45 p.m. Practice; 6:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying; 8:30 -- Wenatchee 125

-credit: nascar

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