DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 9, 2004) - Apparently, the sophomore jinx has bitten NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series driver Jeff Bailey this season after a rookie year in 2003 that saw him finish eighth in the point...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 9, 2004) - Apparently, the sophomore jinx has bitten NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series driver Jeff Bailey this season after a rookie year in 2003 that saw him finish eighth in the point standings.
The 2004 season has been an inconsistent one for the Kennewick, Wash. driver. Bailey has logged three top-10 efforts this season and, at times, has looked like he was ready to join the upper crust of teams in the series. At other times, however, he has battled the bad luck of mechanical difficulties or getting caught up in accidents and looked to be an ordinary team.
"We're working hard to stop the roller coaster this season," said Bailey. "Actually, we've recently changed our entire set-up and gone with a bigger sway bar and things like that which, I think, has us on the right road."
Those are similar changes that current series points leader Garrett Evans made coming into this season to spark his championship run. "If you want to be as fast as the leaders, then you need to make the changes no matter what you're used to or more comfortable with," said Evans earlier in the season.
Bailey knows that there is a slight learning curve on the new equipment, but he can already feel the difference. "I can see the difference in times," said the driver of the Sharpe and Preszler Construction/Frank and Son Auto Body Chevrolet. "Now, if we can get some good luck I think we can make some noise over these last few races."
As the series heads to Yakima (Wash.) Speedway this Saturday, Bailey is anxious to get some more work in with the new set-up. "I really like the track at Yakima a lot. It has two grooves allowing side-by-side racing," Bailey says.
"Now, we have not had great success there for one reason or another, but I still like going there."
Bailey, like many drivers, enjoy racing at Yakima due to its speed. "It is a fast track, but speed is not the issue for us there. The speed is there. We just need to get into and out of the corners faster," he says.
The inconsistency of this season has caught the #27 team off guard in certain ways. They finished eighth in points a year ago and earned an invitation to the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, held at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, in which they were the highest-finishing Northwest Series car. "We know that racing is a constantly changing thing, but this year is every bit as surprising as last," he said.
The changes last year came as a result of the level of competition. "My last season in Late Model racing I won like nine races, so I thought moving into the Northwest Series would not be that big of a deal," he says. "Boy, was I wrong. It was a real eye-opener. In Late Models you have maybe two or three guys who can win, but in this series, there are around 10 guys who can win any race.
"I had to make some adjustments early on because in my second race in this series I finished third and thought I was going to be really good," Bailey states. "I have now come to realize how hard top fives are to come by in this series. The cars are all so evenly matched that it comes down to the little things. They end up making the difference whether it's luck or a mistake."
His second year has proven to be every bit as challenging as his first, but that does not deter Bailey from his goals. "We came into the season just like everyone else wanting to win a championship, but once we realized that was a little over zealous," he says. "We just focused on getting into the top 10 in points to get back to Irwindale. None of the Northwest guys did real well last year and we want to be part of the group that goes down there this year to show everyone that we can race."
There is some work to be done for Bailey and his team to achieve that goal. With four races left in the season, he sits in 13th place, 88 points behind Joe Benedetti in 10th. "We've got our work cut out for us, for sure. It's not a hole that we cannot climb out of, though," he said.
Everything in life is about growing and learning. Jeff Bailey and his racing team are committed to winning and are willing to undergo whatever changes necessary to find success.
What: Frank's Chevrolet 125 (Race No. 9 of 12 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).
Where: Yakima Speedway, Yakima, Wash.
When: 8:45 p.m. PDT (approx.), Saturday, August 14, 2004.
Track layout: 1/2-mile oval.
Race length: 125 laps/62.5 miles.
2003 winner: Event not held.
2003 polesitter: Event not held.
Top 10 in points: 1. Garrett Evans 1282, 2. Travis Bennett 1225, 3. Jason Jefferson 1212, 4. Pete Harding 1186, 5. Jeff Jefferson 1157, 6. Gary Lewis 1149, 7. Wes Rhodes 1142, 8. Brandon Riehl 1131, 9. Steven Howard 1116. 10. Joe Benedetti 1094.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): 10:00 a.m. Registration opens, 2:30-5:00 p.m. Practice, 6:00 p.m. Time Trials.