JEFFERSON SNEAKS TO WENATCHEE 125 WIN EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 2, 2005) -- In several of his prior ten NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series victories there was no mistake that Jeff Jefferson had the best car. He would turn the ...
JEFFERSON SNEAKS TO WENATCHEE 125 WIN
EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. (July 2, 2005) -- In several of his prior ten NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series victories there was no mistake that Jeff Jefferson had the best car. He would turn the quickest laps in practice and sometimes not participate in each practice session, win the Bud Pole Award and drive through the field after the post-qualifying invert. That was not the case Saturday night in the Wenatchee 125 at the Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in East Wenatchee, Wash. Jefferson worked under the radar a bit on this night to collect his first win of the season.
"I knew we had a strong car in practice," said the defending and two-time series champion. "It didn't qualify well, but the race set-up was on the money." Jefferson can usually be counted on to post on the fastest qualifying time, but he posted just the seventh fastest lap. So, he did capitalize on the 10-car invert to gain a start in the fourth position giving the No. 42 LeMay Museum/Morgan Transport Chevrolet less traffic to work through.
The key was to remain patient. Passing can sometimes be easier said than done at the 1/4-mile short track. Jefferson, a native of Naches, Wash., followed John Dillon for 86 laps before beating him to the bottom of turn three on lap 87 getting Dillon out of the preferred line. He completed the pass before crossing the start/finish line and it was clean sailing from there as no other driver provided a threat over the race's final 37 laps.
"Patience is the name of the game at this track," said Jefferson. It appeared at times that he was growing impatient with Dillon as Jefferson firmly planted the nose of his car on Dillon's rear deck lid for each of those 86 laps. He would look inside and out each and every lap trying to get around the 1990 series champion Dillon. "I really was not getting impatient at all," Jefferson said. "The car was great and I knew that I could get around him once he gave me a chance. He was a little high heading into three and I was able to my nose underneath and that was the chance I was looking for."
By virtue of the win, Jefferson was able to take over the lead from Brandon Riehl in the championship point standings. Jefferson is pursuing an unprecedented third consecutive Northwest Series title. Sitting atop the points, at least last year, is not common ground for Jefferson. He did not hold the lead until after the final race last season after a few poor finishes early in the campaign. "It's a little early to be overly concerned with points, but I prefer the pressure of being the leader to being the pursuer. This way, all I have to do is take care of my business and not hope for bad things to happen to the guys ahead of me," he said.
While Jefferson's 11th career series victory was the headline story, the feel good story of the night belonged to Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Jeff Barkshire of Auburn, Wash. He started sixth on the grid and ran amongst the leaders all evening long. In just his third career Northwest Series event, he crossed the finish line in second place. As he did that, he followed Jefferson by just .658 seconds. More impressive was his company at the time. He followed the two time champion Jefferson and was just in front of Garrett Evans and Gary Lewis. Those drivers account for seven titles out of the 20 awarded in Northwest Series history.
"It was an honor to race with those guys," said Barkshire. "I've been watching these guys race for years and it was really a thrill." Barkshire has posted back-to-back top-five finishes in his Hooker Harness/Pure Power Lubricants Dodge moving him from 11th to fourth in the point standings.
Three was the number of the night for Evans at his home track. He finished third for the third time in the last four races at WVSO. Evans was pleased with the performance of his No. 64 Leonard Evans Hyundai/Signature Financing Chevrolet. "We had a great qualifying effort, but the 10-car invert got us a little," said Evans. "That gave us more traffic to work through. The crew gave me a great car and we're pleased with the results."
While Jefferson is trying to become the first driver to win three straight championships in the Northwest Series, Evans is seeking to extend his all-time record of four titles to five. Evans sits just 43 points behind Jefferson in that quest.
Lewis continued his progress by posting consecutive top-five finishes in the last two events. The Bothell, Washington-based driver brought his Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet across the line in fourth place.
Finishing fifth was the veteran Dillon, out of Eagle, Idaho. The driver of the Frontier Equipment Company Chevrolet led the most laps of the evening with 57.
The top 10 was rounded out by Jeff Bailey, 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year Travis Bennett, Riehl, Roger Habich and Rick Suran.
John Bender, of Snohomish, Wash., won the Bud Pole Award by touring the track in 12.810 seconds (70.258 mph). He was the final qualifier of the 29 cars attempting to make the 22-car field and posted that time in the second of his two qualifying laps. He just beat Evans' time of 12.845 seconds keeping the four-time champ from his 64th career pole award. Instead, Bender collected the second of his Northwest Series career.
The POWERade "Power Move of the Race" Award, given to the driver who improves his position the most over the course of the event, was won by Bennett, who races out of Ellensburg, Wash., in his No. 33 Rainbow Enterprises/Knudson Lumber Chevy.
The Featherlite "Most Improved Driver" Award was won by Steven Howard of Roy, Wash. in the No. 38 Great Northwest Homes/Seddon Marketing Group Chevrolet. This award is given to the driver who improves his finishing the position the most from the results of the last race.
Chuck Carruthers was the Lunati "Crew Chief of the Race" Award winner. He leads the crew for Jefferson's team.
The Northwest Series is back on the track next Saturday, July 9, at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. for the Evergreen 125 presented by Oso Lumber. Tickets are available by calling the speedway office at 360-805-6100 or by logging on to www.evergreenspeedway.com.