SWS: Sears Point: Round six preview

NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series drivers look to get their season on the right (left) track DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 18, 2003) - Over the years, Infineon (Calif.) Raceway has become a favorite stop on the schedule, and this...

NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series drivers look to get their season on the right (left) track

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 18, 2003) - Over the years, Infineon (Calif.) Raceway has become a favorite stop on the schedule, and this year's the race at the picturesque road course will offer added incentive for the NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series drivers. This Saturday, June 21, the Featherlite Southwest Series returns to the wine country of Northern California for the running of the Snap-On Tools/Jelly Belly "200".

In April, NASCAR, Toyota, and Irwindale Speedway announced the Toyota All-Star Showdown that will pit the best of the best in all four of NASCAR's Elite Divisions November 6-8 at the Southern California short track. The event will be broadcast live Saturday, November 8 on SPEED Channel. With a NASCAR Top 10 final points finish on the minds of many drivers at the midway point of the season, a good performance at Infineon makes the future look bright.

In order to get an invite to the Toyota All-Star Showdown, drivers will have to finish in the top ten final point standings in their respective series. Through five races this season, the Featherlite Southwest Series drivers have only had to turn left but this race at Infineon Raceway will determine if drivers are on the right track. More than forty-five drivers 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 six of the 14-race championship series.

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.

Jim Inglebright of nearby Fairfield, Calif., the three-time winner and defending champion of the event, 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 four in a row is definitely our goal."

The most recent winner on the series, David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif., missed last year's event, as he ran a limited schedule, but would like nothing more than to back it up with a win this weekend. "We have a great team and we are capable of winning," Gilliland said. "This series is so competitive that anything is possible at any given event. Kenny Shepherd helped us out testing and we feel real good about our car and our chances."

Kenny Shepherd of Merced, Calif. finished in the runner-up spot last year and will make his first start of the season this weekend at Infineon Raceway. "I can't wait to get this race started," Shepherd said. "This is an important event for my sponsors and we hope to get the win this time out. We were so close last year only to have it slip away. I have not felt this way about a race in 15 years."

JR Patton of Las Cruces, NM is riding high after a third place finish and a move into the NASCAR Top 10 after the race at Irwindale Speedway two weeks ago. He also knows that in order to stay in the top ten he has to complete every lap. "I do not have much experience on road courses," Patton said. "I just need to make the race and finish."

Current 2003 Featherlite Southwest Series point leader Auggie Vidovich Jr. knows the view from the top is makes each race a little easier to prepare for. "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 have been competitive with the other teams in this series all season. We have been testing well, running strong and our team is looking forward to an exciting race Saturday afternoon for all our fans and sponsors who have supported us here at Infineon Raceway".

Defending Featherlite Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean from Jerome, Idaho is looking forward to a return trip to Infineon. "We had a tire go down last year," 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 last years event and will attempt to qualify for his first race of the 2003 season. Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wisc., hopes to have another good run at Infineon. Menard led much of the race last year until he had to pit for fuel late in the race. Menard will also make his NASCAR Winston Cup Debut on Sunday in Andy Petree's Chevrolet.

The Snap-On Tools/Jelly Belly "200" is set to take the green flag at 1:00 pm PDT this Saturday with Jim Inglebright hoping to sweep the event for the fourth time and all others looking to make their own mark.


. The race within the race. JR Patton tops the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after four events. Thomas Martin, Frank Deiny Jr., Greg Voigt, and Kevin Vernon, round out the top-five Rookies.

. How many cars? More than 45 cars have pre-entered the Snap-On Tools/Jelly Belly "200" with several drivers looking to make their first start of the season. Drivers include M.K. Kanke, Paul Menard, Jim Inglebright, Wes Banks, and Kenny Shepherd.

. Jim Inglebright has three straight victories at Infineon Raceway and will attempt to race in three races this weekend. The Featherlite Southwest Series on Saturday, The NASCAR Winston West Series Saturday night in Tri-City, Wash., and the NASCAR Winston Cup event on Sunday.

. Jeff Bailey, a Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year contender on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series will attempt to make his first start in the Featherlite Southwest Series and on a road course.

. Darrell LaMoure of Phoenix, Ariz. welcomes NAPA Auto Parts and Yerf-Dog Fun Karts as sponsors to his team in 2003. LaMoure continues to bring awareness regarding missing children to fans through his Racing for the Missing program. At each series race this season LaMoure and Yerf-Dog will raffle a Yerf-Dog Fun Kart at the race. Proceeds will be spilt between the Racing for the Missing program and the track's selected charity.

. Driver to keep your eye on: Todd Souza has three straight top ten finishes including a win this season. Souza has climbed into a 5th place tie with Dan Holtz, just 57 points out of second place.

. Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR Elite Division in 2003 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.

. Featherlite Southwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JR Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Powerade, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Race Gas, Victory Circle Chassis, and Wix Air Filters.


. Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. moved back into the NASCAR Top-10 after a runner-up finish at Irwindale Speedway. Raudman, the 2001 series champion, looks to make a run at the series championship.


. "I am as excited for a race as I have ever been." - Kenny Shepherd (No. 9 Mt. Dew Chevrolet).


Ten years ago Ron Hornaday Jr. claimed the victory in the 50-lap event staged on the old 2.52 configuration. Hornaday drive the familiar #97 Palmdale Chiropractic Oldsmobile to a 12.200 second victory over Ken Pederson.

Fast Facts

What: Snap-on Tools/Jelly Belly "200". Race 6 of 14 for the NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series.
Where: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, CA.
When: 1:00 p.m. PDT, Saturday, June 21.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thursday 6/19 12:00 pm Haulers Enter, and Registration begin, 1:00 pm Garage opens and inspection begins, 6:00 pm garage closes. Friday 6/20 7:00 am Garage Opens, 8:00 am Mandatory rookie meeting, 8:10 am Qualifying draw, 8:30 am Mandatory Crew Chiefs meeting, 9:00-11:15 am Practice, 1:30 pm Time Trials, 5:15 pm Final Practice, 7:00 pm Garage Closes. Saturday 6/21 7:30 am Garage Opens, 10:45 am Mandatory Driver and Crew Chief Meeting, 11:30 am Mandatory Spotter's Meeting, 1:00 pm Snap-On Tools/Jelly Belly 200.


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Drivers Ron Hornaday Jr. , Andy Petree , Paul Menard , Jim Inglebright , Jeff Bailey , Wes Banks , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Darrell LaMoure , Craig Raudman , Kenny Shepherd , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Todd Souza