NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Stars Harvick and Vickers Take on Southwest Series Regulars on Road Course DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2004) - Over the years, Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. has become a favorite stop on the schedule, and this year's...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Stars Harvick and Vickers Take on Southwest Series Regulars on Road Course
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2004) - Over the years, Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. has become a favorite stop on the schedule, and this year's the race at the picturesque road course will challenge the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series regulars as several NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars will join the field. This Saturday, June 26, the AutoZone Southwest Series returns to the wine country of Northern California for the running of the Snap-On Tools "200".
The second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown that will be staged later this year looms large on the minds of many Southwest series driver's as they enter the race at Infineon this weekend. With 42 starting positions in the event, a bad day could spell trouble in their quest for an invite to the prestigious event that will pit the best of the best in all four of NASCAR's AutoZone Elite Divisions November 11-13 at Irwindale (CA) Speedway.
More than forty-five drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for one of 42 starting positions in Saturday's 200K race and vie for their share of $92,971 in posted awards in race seven of the 14-race championship series. The event will feature NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers trying upstage series' regulars for the second year in a row. Harvick won last year's event and Vickers will be making his series' debut.
The twisting-turning 1.99 mile road course of Infineon Raceway will present many challenges to drivers who primarily turn left and may well serve as the most important race of the season as the field is likely to be filled with many unfamiliar faces.
Jim Inglebright of nearby Fairfield, Calif., the three-time winner of the event and crowd favorite, likes his chances. "Nothing in racing is easy," said Inglebright. "I have had a lot good luck here and I know we have a good setup for this place. Winning our fourth race at Infineon is certainly our goal."
The most recent winner on the series, Burney Lamar of W. Sacramento, Calif., feels this could well be the most critical event of the season in his quest for his first series title. "If you look at our finish here in 2002, it was the difference in the championship," Lamar said. "I have learned a lot since then and a top ten finish is what is important."
Current Southwest Series point leader Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. looks to extend his hot streak on the series by posting another top five finish at Infineon Raceway. Raudman has five top five finishes in six starts and leads Jim Pettit II by 47 markers heading in to this pivotal event.
"I have had some good runs here in the past and feel we have the team to beat right now," Raudman said. "
Rip Michels of Mission Hills, Calif. is leading the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year standings but finds himself in new territory as he will tackle Infineon Raceway for the first time in his career. "When you graduate to this level of racing there are no easy races," Michels said. Michels currently sits 12th in the standings after six events, but knows a poor performance at Infineon could be a major setback for a top ten final points finish.
"I just have to qualify and the race will take care of itself," Michels added. "We have a great car and a great team and I am looking forward to this new challenge."
2003 AutoZone Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich is making a rare 2004 appearance and hopes the race at Infineon can be a springboard for future racing success. "We are looking forward to racing on this challenging road course," Vidovich said. "This track provides us an opportunity to utilize the skills I acquired while racing in several karting series'. We are looking forward to an exciting race Saturday afternoon for all our fans and sponsors who have supported us here at Infineon Raceway".
Former AutoZone Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho is looking forward to a return trip to Infineon. "We have had top ten runs go away from us with five laps to go the past couple of years," McKean said. "The road courses are a lot of work, but they are a lot of fun to drive. I think we will be real good this time out."
Other notable drivers that eye a good finish at Infineon include M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. who sat on the Pole in 2002 and will attempt to get his 2004 campaign back on track. Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, Calif. is runner-up to Raudman in the standings and finished 14th at Infineon last season. Eric Holmes of Escalon, Calif. continues his bid for a first series championship as he currently sits 5th in the standings and looks to improve upon a 9th place finish at Infineon last year. Also joining the fray will be road racing ace Boris Said in Ken Schrader's familiar #99.
The Snap-On Tools "200" is set to take the green flag at 1:00 pm PDT this Saturday with Kevin Harvick hoping to steal the show, but the Southwest Series regulars do not plan to lay down at this pivotal race for the 2004 championship.
THE INSIDE LINE
* The race within the race ... Rip Michels tops the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after six events. Nick Lynch and Todd Burns are second and third respectively.
* How many cars? More than 45 cars have pre-entered the Snap-On Tools "200".
* Jim Inglebright has three straight victories at Infineon Raceway (00, 01, 02) and will attempt to four wins in five years. Inglebright has also been tapped to drive the AOL #30 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event this weekend.
* Driver to keep your eye on: Todd Souza won the Bud Pole Award in last year's event at Infineon Raceway and hopes to showcase his road racing prowess this weekend. Souza looks to make a move in the standings up into the NASCAR Top 10 from his current 13th position.
* 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, Flowmaster, G-Force, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JE Pistons, Mac Tools, Mechanix Wear, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, Powerade, Quarter Master, Raybestos Brakes, and Timeken.
* Doug McCoun of Prunedale, Calif. moved back into the NASCAR Top-10 after two top ten and one top five performances in six events. McCoun, the 1985 NASCAR DODGE Weekly Series National Champion, finished 18th in last year's event at Infineon.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
* "Road racing certainly puts all your skills and ability to the test." - Dan Holtz (No. 23 Rialto Concrete Products Ford).
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Eleven years ago Ron Hornaday Jr. claimed the victory in the 50-lap event staged on the old 2.52 configuration. Hornaday drove the familiar #97 Palmdale Chiropractic Oldsmobile to a 12.200 second victory over Ken Pederson.