NWS: Yakima II: Round nine preview

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (July 16, 2003) - Since 1985, Yakima Speedway in Yakima, Wash. has been a fixture for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. This Saturday, July 19, the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series returns for the...

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. (July 16, 2003) - Since 1985, Yakima Speedway in Yakima, Wash. has been a fixture for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. This Saturday, July 19, the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series returns for the 33rd time in the running of the Franks Chevrolet "125" as drivers and teams chase their title dreams.

For most drivers the chase for the championship is all about consistency. Those that have been consistent find themselves at the top of the standings and a possible invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in November Irwindale, Calif. But first, the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series drivers will have to tackle the tricky layout at Yakima Speedway in Saturday's 125-lap race and vie for their share of $42,372 in posted awards in race nine of the 14-race championship series.

With the series championship looming on the horizon, three local area drivers eye the prize and hold down the top three positions in the standings after eight of 14 races on the series schedule.

Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. is enjoying his best year on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and leads the point standings. Hart has claimed victories in the last two events and looks to put an exclamation point in his bid for his first series crown.

Hart initially joined the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series back in 1992 after winning a track championship at Yakima Speedway in 1990. He backed that up with another champion in 1991 in the former Tri-Track Series. With confidence and two championships under his belt he set his sights on NASCAR's Regional series.

Hart spent much of 1992 learning the cars and the tracks of the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series making 12 starts. In those races, Hart managed four top 5 and seven top 10 performances, but opted to return to Yakima's weekly show at seasons end.

Hart honed his skills at Yakima and other area tracks and returned the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series in 1998 where he has raced full-time since. Hart's first win came in 1999 and has finished in the top five final point standings four out of the last five years driving a Chevrolet sponsored by Yakima Implement.

"I think it is always good to come home to race, especially when you're on top," Hart said. "We have had a great car all season and have been able to race hard without problems. Yakima (Speedway) is a tough track and Jason (Jefferson) will be real strong there, he has been the guy to beat the last couple of season at Yakima."

No one will concede the race this weekend to Jason Jefferson, but he holds plenty of the secrets to speed at the half-mile race track. Over the past three seasons at Yakima Speedway, Jefferson has tallied nearly fifty Late Model Victories and three track championships. In his first full season on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series he has one win, five top five and six top ten performances and sits just 62 points behind Hart in the championship standings.

"I am really excited about racing at Yakima," Jefferson said. "All my family and friends are here and I have had a lot of fun over the past couple of season in the Late Models. I am more pumped up about this race then any this season. After the race last week at Evergreen, I have momentum. Chris (Hart) is a great racer and a friend. I have always looked up to him and what has been able to do behind the wheel. It is going to be fun over the final races to race him for the championship."

Sitting third in the standings, just three points behind his younger brother is Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash. Jefferson is no stranger to victory lane or special awards at Yakima Speedway. Jeff Jefferson is the two-time season Bud Pole Award winner in 2001 and 2002 on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and the 2001 winner of the Apple Cup. He has also tasted victory three times on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, most recently at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval back in May.

In only his second full season on the series, Jefferson is enjoying his best season. In eight starts, he has one win, three top five and six top ten finishes and has completed 1004 laps out of 1005 contested to date. Teamed with car owner Rick Allison and crew chief Chuck Caruthers, Jefferson is poised to make a run at the series title.

"It sure would be nice to win the championship," Jefferson said. "Over the years I have not really had the backing to win a championship locally, or on one of the tours. We have won races and been competitive everywhere we have gone, and this season we have run competitively. Don't count us out."

The Franks Chevrolet "125" is set to take the green flag at 8:30 pm PDT this Saturday, July 19 with three local boys trying to make good.

THE INSIDE LINE

. The race within the race . Jason Jefferson tops the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after seven events. Jeff Bailey, Rod Schultz Sr., Brandon Riehl, and Ken Smith, round out the top-five Rookies.

. Bill Lawrence holds the one lap qualifying record at Yakima Speedway with a time of 18.286 seconds/98.436 mph set back in April of 1995. Garrett Evans has six Bud Pole Awards at Yakima.

. Pete Harding holds the race record for the 125-lap distance with a time of 50 minutes, 15 seconds at an average speed of 74.626 mph set May 29, 1993.

. Chevrolet has scored 21 victories at Yakima Speedway, with Pontiac winning five times and Ford claiming four victories.

. Chris Hart (1999), Gary Lewis (1996, 2000, 2002), and Kevin Hamlin (2002) are the only drivers in the current NASCAR Top 10 that have victories at Yakima Speedway.

. Yakima Speedway has several interesting statistics: Most drivers on the lead lap with 17 in 1999. Most caution laps run with 67 in 1993. Fewest Drivers on the lead lap with 3 in 2001.

. Leanne Tanner was the first female driver to compete in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series in 1998 at Yakima Speedway.

. Driver to keep your eye on: Rod Schultz Jr. inches closer to the NASCAR Top 10 each week and currently sits in the 17th position. Schultz Jr. has two straight top ten performances.

. Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR Elite Division in 2003 and will award 32 tires to eligible car owners at each series event. Hoosier will also award two tires to the highest eligible Rookie-of-the-Year candidate's car owner.

. Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JR Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Powerade, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Race Gas, Victory Circle Chassis, and Wix Air Filters.

MOVING UP

. Rick Suran of Estacada, Ore. moved into the NASCAR Top-10 for the second time this season after finishing 9th last weekend at Evergreen Speedway. Suran sits 10th in the overall point standings.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

. I think we gave the fans there monies worth tonight."- Kevin Hamlin (No. 33 Bowman's Electro Painting Chevrolet). Describing the race at Evergreen Speedway last week.

PAGE FROM THE PAST
Roger Habich picked up his first only series win on July 15, 1995 at Yakima Speedway. Habich led Chad Bennett, Martin Rosler, Ken McMahon, and Jody Tanner to the line. Habich's margin of victory was one second over Bennett and the race took one hour, 7 minutes, and 46 seconds to complete. Ron Eaton won the Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 18.714 seconds/96.185 mph. Eaton led the series over rookie-of-the-year leader Gary Smith by 82 points.

Fast Facts

What: Frank's Chevrolet "125. Race 9 of 14 for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
Where: Yakima Speedway, Yakima, WA.
When: 9:00 p.m. PDT, Saturday, July 19.

Track layout: 1/2-mile banked paved oval.
Race length: 125 laps, 62.50 miles.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 am Registration Opens, 11:00 am Haulers Enter, 12:00 am Inspections Begins, 2:00 pm Mandatory Crew Chief's Meeting, 2:15 pm Qualifying Draw, 2:30-5:00 pm Alternating Practice, 5:15 pm Mandatory Driver's and Crew Chief's Meeting, 5:15 Mandatory Rookie Driver's Meeting, 6:30 pm Time Trials, 7:15 pm Non-Qualifiers Race, 7:30 Trophy Dash 8:00 pm Mandatory Spotter's Meeting, 9:00 pm Frank's Chevrolet "125".

Track contact: Ron Bennett (509) 248-0647. Ticket information: Tickets are available at the track or online at www.yakimaspeedway.com

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Jefferson , Gary Smith , Jeff Bailey , Jason Jefferson , Kevin Hamlin , Gary Lewis , Ron Bennett