NWS: Yakima III: Penultimate round preview

LEWIS ON THE BRINK OF SECOND CAREER CHAMPIONSHIP IN NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 25, 2006) -- If the Aero Exhaust 200 to be held September 3 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway unfolds in...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 25, 2006) -- If the Aero Exhaust 200 to be held September 3 at Yakima (Wash.) Speedway unfolds in Gary Lewis' favor, then he could clinch the 2006 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series championship, which would be his second career title.

Bringing his "A game" has not been a problem for Lewis, the 1998 Northwest Series champion, this season. He's won three events and finished in the top three in three others. He has completed all but one of the 1,133 laps the Northwest Series has logged this season. Out of that lap total, he has led a series-best 327 of them. That's nearly 29 percent.

Despite knowing that he could possibly wrap up his second Northwest Series championship in Yakima, Lewis, a resident of Bothell, Wash., hasn't focused on the different scenarios.

"We haven't sat down and crunched any numbers," said Lewis. "We'll show up there with the same mindset we always show up with and that is to win the race. If we do that, then we'll see where everybody stands and go from there."

Yakima Speedway has been kind to Lewis this year. Two of his three wins have come on the speedy half-mile oval and he would love to complete the trifecta.

"It would be great to pull off the Yakima sweep especially with what could happen," said the driver of the No. 73 Nutter Racing Engines/Victory Circle Chassis Chevrolet.

While the possibility exists that the championship could be clinched in Yakima, in all likelihood, he will still have to take the green flag in the September 16 series finale at Wenatchee Valley's Super Oval in East Wenatchee, Wash.

It is here that Lewis and his team will have to formulate a plan of attack. If for some reason he finds himself in a position that he cannot start the race at Wenatchee, then Lewis would no longer control his own destiny or even lose the title. A bizarre turn of events would have to take place for this scenario to come into play and Lewis believes it to be impossible.

"There's no doubt that strange things can happen, but I know that we'll be prepared to handle anything that could arise," he said. "We carry enough parts and pieces with us to fix or replace anything on the car and we'll do whatever is needed to get to where we need to be. That, I'm sure of."

Every team in the Northwest Series had their sights set on the 2006 championship as soon as they began preparations last off-season, but Lewis took his aim last November at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown which wrapped up the 2005 campaign.

Last season was described by Lewis as horrible. Normally, finishing ninth in the championship point standings is an effort of which to be proud, but not for the No. 73 team. They failed to win a race for the first time since the 1995 season. Not only had they won an event in each of the last nine years, they won multiple events in each of those seasons.

Come November, though, they circled the wagons at the Toyota All-Star Showdown, determined to prove that they were still a force to be reckoned with. Lewis finished the event in fifth place and Lewis, once again, had momentum on his side.

"The [NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown] is what turned us around," said Lewis. "It swung the pendulum the other way and we've been riding that wave since then.

"The power of momentum in this or any sport is the X-factor," said Lewis. "We have done nothing different this year than we have in any year. It just goes to show how much momentum, luck and timing with having success, or not, in this sport."

Ticket information for the Aero Exhaust 200 can be obtained by calling Yakima Speedway at (509) 248-0647 or by logging onto www.yakimaspeedway.us.

Fast Facts

What: Aero Exhaust 200 (Race No. 9 of 10 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).

Where: Yakima Speedway, Yakima, Wash.

When: 7:30 p.m. PDT (approx.), Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006; 2 -- 25-lap qualifying races 7:30 PDT (approx.), Sat. Sept. 2, 2006

Track layout: 1/2-mile oval
Race length: 200 laps/100 miles.

Posted awards: $60,933

2005 winner:  Brandon Riehl.

2005 polesitter: Jeff Bailey.

Top 10 in points: 1. Gary Lewis -1322; 2. Brandon Riehl--1228; 3. Travis Bennett--1169; 4. Jeff Barkshire--1104; 5. Jay Sauls--1073; 6. Shane Mitchell--1073; 7. Garrett Evans--1049; 8. Steven Howard--1010; 9. Pete Harding--1000; 10. Mike Longton--999

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 9/2 - 10:00 a.m. Registration opens; 2:30-4:30 p.m. Practice; 6:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying; 7:30 p.m. 2 -- 25 lap qualifying races. Sun., 9/3 -- 2:00 p.m. Registration opens; 4:00-4:30 p.m. Practice; 7:30 -- Aero Exhaust 200

-credit: nascar

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