Jeff Jefferson Dominates KKRV 125 EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 3, 2004) - There is an old saying about people preferring to be lucky rather than good. Saturday night at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval Jeff Jefferson was both in the NASCAR AutoZone...
Jeff Jefferson Dominates KKRV 125
EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 3, 2004) - There is an old saying about people preferring to be lucky rather than good. Saturday night at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval Jeff Jefferson was both in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. He led from wire-to-wire to collect the win in the KKRV 125 and his second of the season. It was the first race that a driver led from start to finish in the Northwest Series since John Bender pulled the trick on May 10, 2003 at Evergreen Speedway on the 3/8-mile track.
The 2003 series champion from Naches, Wash. initially was not happy with the No. 42 LeMay Auto Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet's qualifying effort, but the luck of the draw would later work in his favor.
Brandon Riehl ticked off the fastest lap in qualifying in his Aero Turbine/Darrel's Economy Muffler Chevrolet at 69.811 mph on the 1/4-mile short track. It was the first career Northwest Series Bud Pole Award for the Boring, Ore. resident. "This is a big thrill," said Riehl. "It just shows the progress that this team has made over last year." Last season was Riehl's first in the series after being a Late Model competitor at several tracks.
Per series rules, the fastest qualifier selects, by random draw, a six, eight or 10-car invert for the start of the race. Riehl selected the number eight sending the eighth-fastest car in qualifying to the pole. That car belonged to Jefferson, which spelled trouble for the rest of field. Prior to climbing into the car to start the race, Jefferson hinted that he might not have to look back. He didn't.
"This car was awesome tonight, all year for that matter," said the victorious Jefferson. "I really have to thank Chuck Carruthers, my crew chief, and the rest of the team for a really fast car."
Jefferson beat second-place finisher Gary Lewis to the line by just over a half of a second, but the winner always knew where Lewis was. "My spotter kept me informed of where I was in relation to the cars behind me. I knew when Gary got around Wes (Rhodes) for second and he would be driving hard to catch me," stated Jefferson. "But I kept hearing that he was four or five car lengths back. At that point, I just wanted to drive clean and not make a mistake because this place will bite you if you are not careful."
Lewis started in the fourth position in the Sign Factory USA/Sandblasters Pontiac and spent much of the race working to get into a position to race for the win. However, the Bothell, Wash.-based driver was never able to mount a serious challenge on Jefferson. "My car was pretty good, but Jeff's was very good," was all Lewis could say after the dominating performance by Jefferson.
Third place went to the series championship points leader Garrett Evans, out of East Wenatchee, Wash. Evans drove the Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevy to its fifth top-five finish of the season in six events. Evans, like Riehl, was victimized by the eight-car invert after posting the second-fastest time in qualifying and relegated to starting in the seventh position leaving the local hero too much traffic to work through to contend with Jefferson. Riehl was able to follow Evans through the field and notch his second top-five finish of the season.
Other than Evans, perhaps the most consistent driver on the circuit this season has been Travis Bennett, who brought the Bowman's Electro Painting/Zeb's Truck Stop/Knudson Lumber Chevrolet home in the fifth position. In addition to his consistency, the Ellensburg, Wash. product has been a most pleasant surprise for the series after taking over the driving duties for the DS Racing team from two-time series champion Kevin Hamlin. The apparent Auto Meter Rookie of the Year winner has posted four top-five and six top-10 finishes this year. His consistency is demonstrated by the fact that he is the only driver in the top five of the points standings to have not won an event in 2004.
Tom Sweatman, Jeff Bailey, Jason Jefferson, Steven Howard and Rhodes rounded out the top 10.
Sweatman collected the Featherlite "Most Improved Driver" Award given to the driver who improves his finishing position the most over the previous event. Sweatman, who hails from Cosmopolis, Wash., had some contact and suffered enough damage to the suspension on the Yakima Implement Chevrolet to knock him out of the Evergreen 125 on June 26 at Evergreen Speedway for a finish in 18th. With the sixth-place effort in this race, Sweatman recorded his second top-10 finish of the season.
Jody Tanner, of Portland, Ore., earned the POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award, given to the driver who improves his position the most over the course of the race, in the Jody's Bar and Gill/IronTech Chevrolet. Tanner took a provisional start in 18th and was able to log a finish of 12th in the event giving him an improvement of six slots on the 1/4-mile track where passing can sometimes be less than easy.
The championship points race remains tight in the Northwest Series at the season's midway point. By virtue of finishing two spots ahead, Evans boosted his lead over Bennett to 43 points, but nine other drivers are within 200 points of the four-time series champ in Evans.
As the season embarks on the downhill side of the schedule, every race team is starting to look to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be held at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in November where the top 10 drivers from each of the four NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division series will convene to see who the best of the best is. In the tight Northwest Series standings, four drivers, Bender, Joe Benedetti, Bailey and Shane Biles are separated by a slim 65 points for that tenth and final slot in the Showdown.
The Northwest Series takes a short break in July, but will return on July 24 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway to begin the second half of the season.