SWS: Stockton II: Round four preview

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Returns to Historic Stockton 99 Speedway for the Final Time * Michels Leads Point Standings for the First Time * Is Track Position Key? * Mayhew Heads Sunoco Rookie Class * Alumni ...

NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Returns to Historic Stockton 99 Speedway for the Final Time

* Michels Leads Point Standings for the First Time

* Is Track Position Key?

* Mayhew Heads Sunoco Rookie Class

* Alumni Spotlight: Hornaday Tops Series Alumni with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Victory

* History Lesson: Steve Johnson Sets Series Qualifying Record

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 12, 2006) -- For the final time, the historic quarter-mile of Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton, Calif. will host the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series this Saturday, July 15. Stockton is celebrating 61 years of providing motorsports entertainment in California's central valley and has hosted 24 Southwest Series races since the series was formed back in 1986.

Ron Hornaday Jr. tops the record books with three victories on the tricky quarter-mile paved oval, while Auggie Vidovich, Craig Raudman, Rick Carelli, Troy Beebe, Dan Press, and Ken Boyd have all claimed two wins apiece in Southwest Series competition. Stockton has always been stingy with victories and since the track returned to the series schedule in 2002, only Vidovich has claimed consecutive victories since 2002, which he accomplished last season before moving onto the NASCAR Busch Series this season. Hornaday's wins were consecutive (92-93) and Dan Press had two back-to-back victories (88-89).

For Jim Pettit II, the defending Southwest Series champion, Stockton is considered his home track. The Prunedale, Calif. native scored his first Southwest Series victory and first Bud Pole Award there. "I have had a lot of success at Stockton over the years," Pettit said. "It is a special place to race and I have always had a lot of fans there. It is going to be hot all day while we practice, but when the sun goes down the track is going to change quite a bit. I hope my experience here is the difference. We also need a lot of luck, something that we have not had much of this season."

Rip Michels from San Fernando, Calif. leads the Southwest Series point standings for the first time in his career after a second place finish in his last outing two weeks ago at Altamont Motorsports Park. He knows his slim ten point advantage over 2002 series champion Eddy McKean could quickly evaporate at Stockton where the racing is always unpredictable. "Anything can happen at Stockton," Michels said. "I have been really good there and I have been really out to lunch."

While track position is an important element in any race, it does not mean you are relegated to a poor finish if you start at the tail end of the field. Back in 2002, local Stockton ace Ron Strmiska Jr. qualified for the race by finishing second in the 20-lap non-qualifiers race and started the 125-lap feature 22nd. Strmiska took his time to work through the field and on lap 124 took the lead from eventual runner-up Burney Lamar to claim his only Southwest Series victory.

While Pettit may be the fan favorite this weekend to the Stockton 99 faithful, Frazier Park, Calif. driver M.K. Kanke is a man on a mission after claiming his 21st career victory two weeks ago at Altamont Motorsports Park. The win allowed Kanke to close the gap to just 69 points as he sits fourth in the overall standings after four races.

Stockton has not been one of Kanke's better tracks, as he has claimed only four top five finishes over the years but loves racing on this type of track. "I really enjoy these small tight bullrings," Kanke said. "This type of track is about a great setup and driver ability. Stockton is a lot of fun but nerve racking just the same and I know we have a car that can win this weekend."

While Auggie Vidovich dominated both races last season leading nearly all laps in both races, total dominance is not likely to be in the cards this year. Along with the Southwest Series regulars several local drivers will be on hand an attempt to qualify for the $53,834 event including Steve and Jeff Belletto, Ryan Foster, and Steven Miller.

The AutoZone "100" presented by Havoline is race number five of the 2006 campaign but is a crucial event for the series regulars as each driver is jockeying for an invite to the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be staged in October. Victory at Stockton this weekend could well determine this year's series champion.

The Southwest Series event at Stockton is set to take the green flag at 9:00 p.m. this Saturday night in what is sure to be a memorable evening at the historic racing facility.

Southwest Series Notes:

* Jim Pettit II continues partner with Racing for the Missing, a division of the Nation's Missing Children Organization (NMCO) for the 2006 racing season. Pettit will feature a missing person on his car at each series event this season. At Stockton, Pettit will bring awareness about Kathryn Buckley and Rodney Parker.

* Steve Johnson set the one lap Bud Pole qualifying record of 13.232 seconds/68.017 mph at Stockton 99 Speedway for the Southwest Series back on May 12, 1990. That mark still stands today. Troy Beebe won that race and Johnson finished a disappointing 19th. Johnson redeemed himself later in the season when the series returned in August by claiming the victory over fast qualifier M.K. Kanke.

* Alumni Spotlight: Ron Hornaday claimed the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory this past weekend at Kentucky Speedway for his series leading 29th career victory. Former Southwest Series Rookie-of-the-Year Burney Lamar is leading the rookie standings in the NASCAR Busch Series and sits 15th in the overall standings. Jeff Burton will take over the seat this weekend at New Hampshire providing feedback to the team. Lamar will be back in the seat for the next event. 1999 Southwest Series champion Kurt Busch finished 8th at Chicago to move within 132 points of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series top 10.

* M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park, Calif. is second on the all-time Bud Pole Award list with 28 career fast times. His last Bud Pole Award came last season at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. Kanke also is tied for first on the all-time win list with 21 career triumphs after his win two weeks ago at Altamont Motorsports Park. Kanke has 85 top five and 127 career top ten finishes to claim the series records in both those categories.

* Bob Lyon of Aqua Dulce, Calif. has started 288 career Southwest series races dating back to 1987. Lyon will attempt to make career start 289 this weekend. Lyon did not make the race at Altamont after a practice crash damaged his Chevrolet beyond repair dropping him from 10th to 19th in the point standings two weeks ago. Lyon has four career victories and 44 top five and 92 top ten finishes over the years. Lyon's last victory came in 2000.

* Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year Standings: David Mayhew holds a ten point advantage over Brandon Loverock in the Sunoco Rookie standings after four races. Eric Richardson, Cody Pruitt, and Terry Lawrence round out the top five in the rookie standings heading into the Stockton event.

Fast Facts

What: AutoZone "100" presented by Havoline, NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series Race #4 of 9

Where: Stockton 99 Speedway, Stockton, Calif.

When: Saturday, July 15 at 9:00 p.m. (approx.).

Posted awards: $ 53,834

Race length: 100 laps, 25 miles
Track layout: Quarter-mile paved oval.

2005 Race Winner: Auggie Vidovich
2005 Race Bud Pole Winner: Burney Lamar

Pre-Race Schedule: Registration begins 10:00 a.m., Practice 2:00 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m., Bud Pole qualifying 5:30 p.m., AutoZone "100" 9:00 p.m.

Top 10 Drivers: 1. Rip Michels 645, 2. Eddy McKean 635, 3. Eric Holmes 629, 4. M.K. Kanke 576, 5. Greg Voigt 532, 6. David Mayhew 521, 7. Jim Pettit II 507, 8. Thomas Martin 496, 9. Stephan Sadler 454, 10. Kevin Vernon 442.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Burton , Kurt Busch , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Eric Holmes , Burney Lamar , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Steve Johnson , Ryan Foster , Rip Michels , David Mayhew