SWS: Irwindale: Round five preview

* Irwindale Event Prelude to NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown *Points Leader Rip Michels, an Irwindale alum, Still Rolling *Three races to go to decide 2006 title * M.K. Kanke Has Hot Hand DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 9, 2006) -- With the ...

* Irwindale Event Prelude to NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown

*Points Leader Rip Michels, an Irwindale alum, Still Rolling

*Three races to go to decide 2006 title

* M.K. Kanke Has Hot Hand

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 9, 2006) -- With the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown a little more than two months away, competitors on the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series are anxious for a return to Irwindale Speedway, located just East of Los Angeles. The second annual 100-lap Stock Building Supply-sponsored event begins the countdown of the final three races of the Southwest Series' final season.

Former Irwindale Speedway champion and current Southwest Series point leader Rip Michels, of San Fernando, Calif., returns to the track where he has garnered a great deal of success over the years. Michels won the 2003 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional title and has amassed more than 30 wins at the half-mile paved oval, more than any other driver since the track opened in 1999.

"This season we have finally found the kind of consistence it takes to run up front in this series," Michels said. "You just don't come to the Southwest Series and dominate. I am really looking forward to this weekend at Irwindale. My sponsor, Stock Building Supply, is sponsoring the race and hosting a special home improvement show for the fans. This is the race I really want to win."

While Michels enjoys the point lead for the second race in a row, former Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean, from Jerome, Idaho, is hoping that a solid run at Irwindale could boost his chances in pursuit of a second series title. Michels holds a slim five point advantage over McKean going into the final three races of the season.

"This is by far one of the toughest years in the series," McKean said. "I really think it will come down to the final lap in the final race. Everyone is motivated and driven to win the final championship that there is no room for error. We have been consistent and Irwindale has been a hit or miss track for us in the past. We have a great car for the event and we plan to run in the top five and challenge for the win."

When you think of the Southwest Series and historical records, you need look no further than M.K. Kanke, from Frazier Park, Calif. Kanke has come back strong in 2006 and has the hottest hand in the series after claiming two straight victories in the last two events. "It has been a great year for us so far," Kanke said.

"Everybody is talking championship, but we are just focus on winning and having fun," Kanke continued. "The points will take care of themselves, as they always have. We are simply focused on winning and we know we can get a third [win] at Irwindale this weekend."

Kanke sits fourth in the championship standings after five events, just 49 points behind Michels. Kanke has two wins and four top-10 finishes this season.

Eric Holmes, from Escalon, Calif., has been one of the busiest drivers on the West coast, attempting to not only win the Southwest Series title, but also the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series championship. Holmes currently sits third in the Southwest Series point standings, just six points out of the point lead, while in the AutoZone West Series he is second in the standings just five points behind leader Mike David.

Holmes is also poised to be the first driver to simultaneously qualify for both the Elite and Grand National portions of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown since the inception of the event. "Alan (Beebe, car owner) has provided me the opportunity race both series' this year and we have had pretty good success thus far," Holmes said. "Heading to the [Toyota All-Star] Showdown is pretty much a lock for us at this point, but trying to win two championships is going to be very tough."

With only three races to go all teams are squarely focused good finishes that will put them solidly inside the top ten for an invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown that will be staged back at Irwindale in mid-October. While the top five are set to battle for the championship, Greg Voigt, David Mayhew, Jim Pettit II, Thomas Martin, Stephan Sadler, and Kevin Vernon all hope to maintain their standing in the top ten. Ninety-six points separate fifth through tenth with Kevin Clark, Eric Richardson, and Brandon Lovelock less than 50-points outside the top 10.

The Stock Building Supply "100" is set to take the green flag at 8:45 p.m. Saturday night in a race that could determine this year's Southwest Series champion.


* Alumni Spotlight... Former Southwest Series competitor Kevin Harvick has a run away point lead in the NASCAR Busch Series after claiming is fifth win of the season last Saturday night at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Harvick also holds down the fourth points in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Standings. Burney Lamar finished 16th in the NASCAR Busch Series event with Ron Hornaday finishing 23rdand Auggie Vidovich finishing 34th. Hornaday finished 3rd in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at ORP while Matt Crafton finished 20th.

* Home Improvement... The Stock Building Supply home improvement show at Irwindale this weekend will have displays from many of the nation's largest manufacturers and distributors of the top brand name power tools, windows, doors, decking, siding, fasteners, connectors, paint, and more, will be the prelude to a great night of Southwest Series stock car racing at Irwindale Speedway running from 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM Saturday night.

Along with this spectacular racing event, Stock Building Supply will host the 2nd annual Irwindale Home Improvement Show at the speedway prior to the start of the racing. "This year we will have close to 40 vendors representing all aspects of the building industry," stated Rick Smith, Los Angeles Market Manager for Stock Building Supply. "Last year's event was very successful and we will have 50% more vendors than last year. We expect a huge crowd and along with this home improvement show, we will have some of the best short track racing in the country, all in one night," stated Smith.

"This is a very different approach to our normal marketing pattern and we believe that the fans are going to get tremendous value for their hard-earned money. The event last season was a huge success and we wanted to make it bigger and better this year," Smith continued.

* Points ... The closets points battle in recent Southwest Series history is shaping up with Michels (805) holding a razor thin five point advantage over McKean (800). Holmes (799) sits third while Kanke (756) resides in third. Greg Voigt rounds out the top five in the standings just 139 markers out of the lead.

* Bud Pole Awards...2001 Southwest Series champion Craig Raudman holds the mark for career Bud Poles awards at 29. Kanke has 28 career poles to his credit and eyes that record heading into this weekend's event.

* Sunoco Rookie of the Year race... David Mayhew currently holds down the sixth position in the championship point standings and is the current Sunoco Rookie point leader over Eric Richardson, Brandon Loverock, and Cody Pruitt.

* 289 and Counting...That is how many career Southwest Series starts Bob Lyon from Aqua Dulce, Calif. has. Lyon has started more races than any other competitor in series history. His Southwest Series career started back in 1987.

* Winning at Irwindale...David Gilliland has three Southwest Series victories at Irwindale since it opened in 1999 M.K. Kanke and Burney Lamar have two wins apiece with six other drivers claiming one victory.

* Track Records...Bryan Germone holds the qualifying record at Irwindale with a quick lap of 17.363 seconds, while M.K. Kanke holds the 150-lap race record after his victory in 2001.

* Keeping Pace...Rip Michels has completed 616 of the 616 laps completed thus far this season, while Eddy McKean has completed 615. M.K. Kanke has led the most laps this season (129) taking the point in two different races. 17 drivers have entered all five events so far while eleven drivers have started all five races. Ten drivers had led laps in 2006.

* History Lesson...David Gilliland edged Kevin Vernon to claim his fourth victory of the 2003 campaign. Eric Holmes, Eddy McKean, and Auggie Vidovich rounded out the top five finishers in the 150-lap event. Vernon was the top finishing rookie competitor in a race that was completed in just under one hour. Vernon also won the Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 17.931 seconds around the ultra-fast half-mile paved oval. Vidovich left Irwindale with a 72-point advantage over Jim Pettit II with four races left on the schedule. Vidovich went on to win the series title in 2003.

Fast Facts

What: Stock building Supply "100"

Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.

Who: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series

When: Sat., August 12 at 8:45 p.m.. (Pacific Time).

Posted awards: $56,584

Race length: 100 laps, 50 miles
Track layout: 1/2-mile oval.

Pre-Race Schedule (All Times Local): Haulers Enter 9:00 a.m., Registration begins 10:00 a.m., Practice 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.(Alternating), Bud Pole Qualifying 5:00 p.m., 5:45 p.m. On-Track Autograph session, Stock Building Supply "100" 8:45 p.m.

Tickets: $20 for adults.

Online Info: irwindalespeedway.com or nascarregionalracing.com

-credit: nascar

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Drivers Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Mike David , Eric Holmes , Bryan Germone , David Gilliland , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Rip Michels , Kevin Clark , David Mayhew