SWS: Phoenix: Round one preview

* Pettit is Looking For Three-peat in 2006 * Schrader Set to Battle Series Regulars in Season Opener * Dillon Dedicated in Return to Form * NASCAR Northwest Series Legend Evans Slated to Tackle Both NW and SW Series This ...

* Pettit is Looking For Three-peat in 2006

* Schrader Set to Battle Series Regulars in Season Opener

* Dillon Dedicated in Return to Form

* NASCAR Northwest Series Legend Evans Slated to Tackle Both NW and SW Series This Season

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (January 17, 2006) Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. has spent the last twenty-five years chasing his NASCAR dreams. Along the way he has won championships at the local and regional levels on both dirt and asphalt tracks making him one of the most accomplished racers among his peers. You might have never heard of Jim Pettit II but his name is firmly etched in the NASCAR record books.

After claiming his second consecutive NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series title last season, a mark duplicated by only Ron Hornaday Jr., Pettit is squarely focused on a third consecutive title.

"When we won the first Southwest Series title we were excited," Pettit said. "But that really made us hungry to win back-to-back titles. Now we are determined to be the only three-time Southwest Series champion."

Pettit may have the early advantage as the Southwest Series regulars gear up for their 21st and final season of action this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona at the 29th annual Copper World Classic. More than 40 of the top Touring Late Model drivers from around the country are expected as they vie for one of 42-starting positions and their share of $127, 887 in posted awards.

John Dillon of Eagle, Idaho returned to action in the Northwest Series last season after a fifteen year hiatus. Making only occasional starts during the past fifteen years, Dillon posted an 8th place final points finish up North earning him an invitation to the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Dillon left racing for all intents and purposes after posting one of the most dominating championship performances back in 1990. Dillon won eight times in fifteen races claiming 12 top five and 15 top ten performances en route to the title.

Away from racing Dillon built a business in the auto wrecking industry that he hoped would someday fund his racing passion. After several successful years building the business Dillon sold the enterprise and started another. Dillon now operates on of the largest and most successful forklift companies in the Mountain States and is coming back to racing with renewed passion and dedication.

"After my championship in 1990, the opportunities to advance were not like they are today," Dillon. "Timing is everything. Who knows what would have happened if it was 1994 and I won the championship. I knew if I was going to continue racing I would need to have the resources necessary to compete and most of the top running teams out here were funded by successful businessmen."

"After the 1990 championship I just felt it was the right time to go back to work so to speak," Dillon continued. "I enjoy racing as much today as I did back then, but today I am so much more involved in the technology side of things. It is exciting to develop new set ups and work with different shock configurations."

Phoenix holds a special place in the careers of most West Coast drivers and Dillon has a love/hate relationship with the track. "Racing at PIR is the ultimate thrill ride," Dillon said. "The track really suits my driving style as it tends to tighten up as the race progresses meaning that you need to start with a loose racecar. I like driving a loose racecar, but mechanical woes have often sidelined our efforts in the past. This weekend we are hoping to change all that."

Dillon plans several Southwest Series starts this season but will concentrate his efforts on a title run in the Northwest Series in a year that he hopes he will return to his winning ways.

Another Northwest Series competitor hoping to make his mark on the Southwest Series this season is four-time champion Garrett Evans of East Wenatchee, Wash. Evans has seen victory lane at Phoenix back in 2000 and is preparing to contest the full slate of Southwest Series races along with the entire Northwest Series schedule.

"With the realignment of the tours I just want to race as much as I can this year," Evans said. "I enjoy racing at Phoenix and after our recent test I think we have a real good shot at a good finish."

Auggie Vidovich, Eddy McKean, Greg Voigt, Greg Pursley, Rip Michels, and M.K. Kanke all return this season after top ten points finishes last season. Kanke sits second on the all-time Southwest Series win list with 20 victories needing only one win to tie Rick Carelli.

Vidovich returns to the #11 Centrifugal Technologies Chevrolet this season in pursuit of a second championship after three runner-up championship finishes since 2000.

McKean returns for his sixth Southwest Series season in 2006. During the past five years no other driver has amassed the consistency that McKean has found at PIR. With three wins on the desert mile, McKean has also claimed nine top three finishes. McKean has his sights set on another series championship in a career that has seen him finish no worse than fifth in the final standings in each of the last five years.

"Winning the title back in 2002 was a real big deal for me, my family, and my team," McKean said. "Jimmy (Pettit) may have the momentum on his side going into this year, but it is much too early to etch his name on the trophy."

When asked how come he is so comfortable at Phoenix McKean says it is about feel. "Some racetracks you just find a feel for it," McKean said. "I have always felt real comfortable in the car and that means a lot a Phoenix."

Ken Schrader, a veteran driver of more than thirty years and pilot of the Famed Wood Brothers #21 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, claimed two USAC Championships prior to his move to NASCAR in 1985. Schrader joins the Southwest Series regulars this weekend as the winningest driver in the history of Phoenix International Raceway; Schrader has 15 victories at the desert's one-mile paved oval. His most recent victory came last November in the Arizona Lottery "125", NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series event.

PIR is a one-mile superspeedway with turns one and two banked at 11 degrees, while turns three and four are banked nine degrees with two degrees of banking in the dogleg. The track has hosted 33 previous Southwest Series events.

Three other divisions will join the Southwest Series this weekend. Racing begins at Noon on Sunday, January 22 with the FastSigns Southwest USAC National/Western Midget Feature (25 laps) followed by the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series (100 laps), the FastSigns Southwest USAC Silver Crown Feature (50 laps). The final event of the afternoon is the United Rentals 125, NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series (125 laps).


What: Copper World Classic Southwest Series "100" (Race No. 1 for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series).

Where: Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.

When: 1:00 p.m. PT (approx.), Sunday, January 22, 2006

Track Layout:  One-mile paved oval.

Race Length: 100 laps/100 miles.

Posted Awards: $127,887.

2005 Winner:  Burney Lamar

2005 Polesitter: Field set by rulebook

Top 10 Final 2005 Point Standings: 1. Jim Pettit, 2. Auggie Vidovich , 3. Eddy McKean , 4. Burney Lamar , 5. Nick Lynch, 6. Greg Voigt , 7. M.K. Kanke, 8. Rip Michels , 9. Greg Pursley, 10. Thomas Martin.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri. 1/20: 2:00-6:00 p.m. Registration opens, 6:00 p.m. Haulers Enter. Sat. 1/21: 7:00 a.m. Garage opens, 8:00 a.m. Rookie meeting, 8:45 a.m. Driver's/Crew Chief meeting, 12:30 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Practice, 2:00 -- 3:00 p.m. Practice, 3:15 p.m. Qualifying Draw. 6:00 p.m. Garage Closes, Sun. 1/22: 7:00 a.m. Garage Opens, 8:00 a.m. Qualifying (2-laps), 10:00 a.m. Driver's Autograph Session, 1:00 p.m. Southwest Series "100".


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Drivers Ken Schrader , Rick Carelli , Greg Pursley , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Rip Michels