SWS: Irwindale: Round six preview

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Makes First Trip of Season to Irwindale Speedway * Riehl Rolling into Irwindale * Pettit Tops Point Standings * Rookie Battle Heats up after CNS * Lewis Searching for Southern Exposure *...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Makes First Trip of Season to Irwindale Speedway

* Riehl Rolling into Irwindale

* Pettit Tops Point Standings

* Rookie Battle Heats up after CNS

* Lewis Searching for Southern Exposure

* Voigt's Victory Vision

* Alumni Spotlight: Crafton Tops Alumni List After Weekend

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 16, 2005) -- Greg Voigt of Santa Barbara, Calif. knows that his first NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series victory is just around the corner and he hopes that victory comes Saturday night at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. Voigt, the 2000 Late Model champion at the marquee Southern California half-mile paved oval, has a lot of experience, but it will take a lot more than experience to visit victory lane.

"I love racing at Irwindale," Voigt said. "It has taken our team a lot longer to be competitive in the Southwest Series than I could ever have imagined. We are now qualifying well and finishing consistently, so there would be no better place to get my first win."

Though experience is a key element at any race track, luck always has a lot to do with how a race is won. "There are a lot of champions and exceptional drivers in this series and you have to have luck and I mean good luck in order to come out on top."

For Jim Pettit II, the defending Southwest Series champion and current series' point leader, Irwindale Speedway has been a mixed blessing for the Prunedale, Calif. driver. Scoring only two top five finishes at Irwindale in his last eight starts has not set well with Pettit, in spite of a runner up finish in the 2003 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. "Talk about luck or the lack there of," Pettit said. "You just have to be right here. This tracks races like a super speedway and if you are the slightest bit off then you are at the back."

While Voigt and Pettit look for luck at Irwindale, Brandon Riehl of Portland, Ore. hopes he can continue steam roller performance. Riehl has reeled off two wins, two Bud Poles, and a second place performance in his last three NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division starts. His parade started at a Northwest Series race in Yakima, Wash. where he claimed his first career victory. Then he traveled to Colorado National Speedway and picked up win number two. Last week in Twin Falls, Idaho he finished second after claiming the Bud Pole Award and starting the race from the eighth position.

"This has been a dream year," Riehl said. "It has taken our team some time to adapt to coil over cars from running big springs Late Models, but it is finally coming together. I am having a bunch of fun and really looking forward to this weekend's event."

Having competed at Irwindale in last year's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, this will be Riehl's first trip during the regular season. "I was not planning on going to Irwindale as the budget is really tight," Riehl said. "But my sponsor Aero Turbine wanted us there. We have had a good sting of luck and I hope we can continue the momentum."

Another Northwest Series regular making the trip to Irwindale will be former series champion Gary Lewis of Bothell, Wash. Lewis wants to get more experience at Irwindale Speedway in preparation for the Showdown at the end of the season. "I really did not perform well here the last couple of years at the Showdown," Lewis said. "I need more track time and I know it will payoff for the team. The track is as nice as I have ever seen and to run well against the Southwest guys is an important benchmark."

Irwindale Speedway has hosted thirteen Southwest Series races since 1999 in which three drivers have claimed multiple wins. M.K. Kanke scored two wins both back in 2001 along with Burney Lamar who took the top spot two times (02' & 04'), while David Gilliland tops the record books with three trips to victory lane in 2002 and 2003.

The Advantage Ford "100" is race number six of the 14-race championship series and the first of two visits the Southwest Series will make to Irwindale Speedway this season.

Southwest Series Notes:

* Joe Herold, a five year veteran of the Southwest Series was dealt a devastating blow two weeks ago when his transporter burnt to the ground carrying all his equipment and cars after a suspected axel malfunction. Herold was on his way to Colorado for round five of the series. The entire Southwest Series roster has offered up equipment and resources to compete the rest of the season. At this time Herold's plans are unclear.

* Brandon Riehl is one of the hottest drivers in the country after scoring two wins and a second place finish in his last three races. He also claimed two Bud Pole Awards during that time. He currently leads the Northwest Series point standings and is tenth in the Southwest Series.

* Alumni Spotlight: Matt Crafton tops the Southwest Series Alumni list after he finished fifth at Texas this past weekend in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition. Ron Hornaday finished sixth in the truck series event while Brandon Whitt finished 15th. Kevin Harvick finished 8th at Pocono last weekend in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series action while reigning champion Kurt Busch finished 22nd. Hornaday also competed with the NASCAR Busch Series at Nashville finishing 14th.

* Frank Maronski Jr. holds the race record for a 100-lap event at Irwindale at 36 minutes and 26 seconds set back in 1999. Former series champion Bryan Germone holds the one lap qualifying record with a quick lap of 17.363 seconds/103.669 mph set in May of 1999.

* Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Standings: Don Campbell and Dustin Jones are the only two rookies to compete in all five events thus far this season. Campbell holds a slim lead in the Sunoco Rookie standings after five races. The Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year will be crowned based on rookies' best eight performances during the 2005 season.

* Lunati to honor top crew chief: Lunati, a subsidiary of Kentucky-based Holley Performance Products, will award a gift certificate valued at $50 off a purchase of $250 or more, or a $100 off a purchase of $500 or more, to the winning crew chief at each NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series race in 2005.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Race #6 of 14

Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.

When: Saturday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m. (approx.).

Posted awards: $ 49,394

Race length: 100 laps, 50 miles
Track layout: half-mile paved oval.

Pre-Race Schedule: Haulers Enter 9:00 a.m., Registration begins 10:00 a .m., Alternating Practice 1:00p.m - 3:00 p.m., Bud Pole qualifying 5:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. Advantage Ford "100".

Top 10 Drivers: 1. Jim Pettit II 794, 2. Burney Lamar 782, 3. Auggie Vidovich 778, 4. M.K. Kanke 730, 5. Greg Voigt 690, 6. Eddy McKean 677, 7. Jeff Jefferson 673, 8. Thomas Martin 650, 9. Greg Pursley 626, 10. Brandon Riehl 601.


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Drivers Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Jeff Jefferson , Brandon Whitt , Greg Pursley , Don Campbell , Bryan Germone , David Gilliland , Joe Herold , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Thomas Martin , Gary Lewis