SWS: Irwindale: Round six preview

AutoZone Southwest Series Drivers Eye Irwindale Prize DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 24, 2004) - Only two NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series drivers have visited Irwindale Speedway's victory lane more than once, David Gilliland (3) and...

AutoZone Southwest Series Drivers Eye Irwindale Prize

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 24, 2004) - Only two NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series drivers have visited Irwindale Speedway's victory lane more than once, David Gilliland (3) and M.K. Kanke (2). Three other active drivers look to add a second Irwindale triumph to their record, while a host of first time hopefuls will fill the pit area. This Saturday, May 29, NASCAR's fastest rising stars will return to Irwindale Speedway for the running of the AutoZone "150" presented by Southern California Pipe Trades.

Current 2004 point leader Craig Raudman from Bakersfield, Calif., is fresh off a second place finish in the series' last stop at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif., May 8, and is the only driver to complete each of the 625 laps contested so far this season. This will be the series' only stop at the marquee Southern California facility before the second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown scheduled for November 11-13.

With the midway point of the season fast approaching, this race will hold significance for the teams of the Southwest Series as many will look to find a set-up that they can use in November and position themselves into the NASCAR Top 10. More than 35 drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for one of 30 starting positions in Saturday's 150-lap race and vie for their share of $53,744 in posted awards in race six of the 14-race championship series.

It is often said that home track experience is important when trying to compete with the veterans of the Southwest Series. Nowhere will that experience be greater then Irwindale for multi-time champions Rip Michels of Mission Hills, Calif. and Todd Burns from Riverside, Calif.

Both Michels and Burns have succeeded at the highest level of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series competing at Irwindale Speedway over the past several seasons. Each has claimed more than 20 victories, multiple track championships, and NASCAR regional titles, with Burns claiming the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series ShorTrack Division National championship in 2003. "This has been a real humbling experience," Burns said. "I was nearly unbeatable for a couple years in the Late Model division at Irwindale, but moving up to the 'Tour', well, the results thus speak to how difficult this series is."

Michels agrees with Burns. "I used to think I had it going my way," Michels said. "The Southwest Series is the toughest competition I have ever faced. These guys all are all champions and have won more races then I have competed in. So if anybody thinks that they can just move up to the tour and be the king, you can't"

While Michels and Burns hope to put their extensive Irwindale experience to work this Saturday, other notable drivers that are looking for a solid finish at Irwindale Speedway. Dan Holtz of Pacific Palisades, Calif. sits fifth in the standings and has one top five finish at Irwindale. Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho, the 2002 defending series champion, has two top five finishes this season and sits third in the overall standings. Local 'hotshoe' Ben Walker Sun Valley, Calif. would like nothing to parlay his track experience and deliver win number one to Clarence Broussard, and Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. who nearly stole the show in last November in the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Shown.

The AutoZone "150" presented by Southern California Pipe Trades is set to take the green flag at 8:00 pm PST this Saturday, where track experience will duel with series experience at a track that plays host to the best in NASCAR.


* The race within the race . Rip Michels tops the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year leader board for the fifth race in a row. Nick Lynch, and Todd Burns round out the top-three rookies.

* How many cars? More than 35 cars have pre-entered the AutoZone "150" presented Southern California Pipe Trades.

* Nine drivers have victories at Irwindale Speedway since 1999. Drivers include: Burney Lamar, David Gilliland, Craig Raudman, M.K. Kanke, Rocky Nash, Matt Crafton, Greg Pursley, Frank Maronski, and Kurt Busch. Kanke and Gilliland are the only drivers to score multiple wins.

* Craig Raudman is the only driver to complete every lap run this season (625).

* Driver's to keep your eye on: Rip Michels and Todd Burns. Both drivers have each posted over 20 wins at Irwindale and multiple championship's over the past several seasons.

* 15 drivers have started all five races contested so far this season, and the AutoZone Southwest Series has averaged 36 cars per event through the first five races of the season.

* Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division in 2004 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.

* AutoZone Southwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Competition Cams, CV Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, G-Force, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JR Pistons, Mac Tools, Mechanix Wear, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, Powerade, Quarter Master, Raybestos Brakes, and Timken. MOVING UP

* Burney Lamar of W. Sacramento, Calf. has moved up in the NASCAR Top-10 after a third place finish at Stockton May 8. Lamar sits in the 6th position, 150 points out of first place. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

* Speaking about the health and fitness tips he has been providing some of his fellow competitors. "Everybody is looking for an edge, but ask good as these guys are, I might have shot myself in the foot." - Dan Holtz (No. 23 Rialto Concrete Products Ford).


Craig Raudman claimed the victory after passing Auggie Vidovich on lap 123 and held on for his third win of the season September 1, 2001 at Irwindale Speedway. Scott Lynch, Darrell LaMoure, Frank Maronski Jr., and Jimmy White rounded out the top five finishers in the 150-lap event. Scott Brandt was the highest finishing rookie with a sixth place finish. The race took one hour, one minute, and 15 seconds to complete at an average speed of 73.469 mph.

Fast Facts

What: The AutoZone "150" presented by Southern California Pipe Trades. Race 6 of 14 for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.

Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.
When: 8:00 p.m. PST, Saturday, May 29.

Track layout: 1/2-mile paved oval.
Race length: 150 laps, 75 miles.

Posted awards: $53,744

2003 winner: David Gilliland
2003 Bud Pole winner: JR Patton

Qualifying Record: Bryan Germone, Chevrolet, 17.363 seconds, 103.669 mph, May 15, 1999.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday 5/29 9:00 am Haulers Enter, 10:00 am Registration and Inspection Begins, 12:00 noon Mandatory Rookie Driver's meeting, 12:00 pm Qualifying Draw, 1:00-2:00 pm Practice, 2:30-3:00 pm Practice, 3:30 pm Mandatory Driver's/Crew Chief's Meeting 5:00 pm Time Trials, 6:00 pm On-Track Driver Autograph Session, 7:00 pm Qualifying Race, 8:00 pm The AutoZone "150" presented by Southern California Pipe Trades.


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Drivers Kurt Busch , Matt Crafton , Scott Lynch , Greg Pursley , Bryan Germone , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Burney Lamar , Darrell LaMoure , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich , Ben Walker , Rip Michels