AutoZone Southwest Series Returns to Tucson for Final Short Track Clash of the Season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 20, 2004) - The magic number is two. Two drivers and two races left to decide the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest...
AutoZone Southwest Series Returns to Tucson for Final Short Track Clash of the Season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 20, 2004) - The magic number is two. Two drivers and two races left to decide the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series championship. This Sunday, October 24, NASCAR's Stars of Tomorrow will return to Tucson Raceway Park in Tucson, Arizona for the running of the Star Nursery.Com "150" presented by AutoZone. The event was originally scheduled for September 18, but was rescheduled to inclement weather. With the series championship hanging in the balance, Tucson will be the stage for an old fashion shootout.
Tucson Raceway Park for many years was a cornerstone of West coast racing and staged the "Winter Heat" series in the early 90's that helped propel the NASCAR careers of Greg Biffle, Ron Hornaday, and Kevin Harvick. Current Southwest Series drivers are hoping for success of their own as the series closes in on the championship.
Current 2004 point leader Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. leads second place Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. by 39 points going into the final two races. Pettit has three wins this season and has completed all but two laps run this season. He also has a streak of ten top ten finishes in twelve starts this season that has the series best drivers chasing the former NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champion. Pettit also knows you are only as good as your last race. With the top ten drivers of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division's four Late Model series' getting an invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be staged at Irwindale Speedway November 11-13, Pettit is seeking not only the championship but a win at this prestigious All-Star event after a runner-up finish last year.
"I am really looking forward to going back to Tucson this week," Pettit said. "With the championship as close as it is every race counts and a strong run at Tucson will go along way. But in the end, as it usually does, the championship will not be decided until we finish the last lap to Phoenix in two weeks."
With the Toyota All-Star Showdown only two races away, this race will hold significance for the teams of the AutoZone Southwest Series as they jockey for a position in the top ten standings. More than 28 drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for one of 24 starting positions in Sunday's 150-lap race and vie for their share of $44,894 in posted awards in race thirteen of the 14-race championship series.
Mathematically there are four drivers that can still claim the title, but it is Raudman who is closest and stands the best chance to upset Pettit's bid for his first series title. Raudman trails Pettit by 39 points after a disappointing finish in the last event at Mesa Marin (Calif.) Raceway. Raudman is looking to close the gap on Pettit.
"It's crunch time," Raudman said. "There is no messing around. Jim (Pettit) is really going to have to have problems to catch him. We just need to go out and do the best we can and let the finishes speak for themselves."
After a disappointing middle part of the season, 2002 AutoZone Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho is looking for a repeat performance at TRP. McKean won last year's event to score his first short-track win and is on a hot streak, finishing in the top three in the series last three races.
"Tucson is a great place to race," McKean said. "I love the race track and the fans will see a great show."
Other notable drivers that are looking for a solid finish at Tucson Raceway Park include Doug McCoun who needs a strong run at TRP after two disappointing finishes that have dropped the veteran to tenth in the overall standings. Danny Burson, Nick Lynch, and Nick Lynch are within 117 points of the top ten and all need solid finishes in order to gain a top ten spot in the standings and an invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
The Star Nursery.Com "150" presented by AutoZone is set to take the green flag at 2:00 pm PDT this Sunday, where a showdown in the old west will set the stage for who will be the new sheriff.
THE INSIDE LINE
* The race within the race ... Rip Michels tops the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after twelve events. Nick Lynch trails Michels by 14 points heading into the final two races. Michels needs only to start the final two races in order to claim the rookie title.
* How many cars? More than 28 cars are expected for the Star Nursery.Com "150".
* 17 drivers have victories in 20 races staged Tucson Raceway Park since 1993. M.K. Kanke, Ron Eaton, and Ron Hornaday are the only driver's to score multiple wins.
* Jim Pettit II and Craig Raudman have completed the most laps run this season (1,511 of 1,513 contested so far this season).
* Driver to keep your eye on: Bob Lyon has started more Southwest Series races (263) then any other driver. Lyon currently sits 15th in the standings.
* 10 drivers have started all twelve races contested so far this season, and the AutoZone Southwest Series has averaged 34 cars per event through the first twelve 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.
* Nick Joanides of Woodland, Hills, Calif. has moved up to 12th place in the standings just 116 points outside the NASCAR Top-10.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
* "Despite out performances this season I am having fun. This series is as tough as anything out there." - Richard Johnson (No. 47 Radcap Products Chevrolet).
What: The Star Nursery.Com "150" presented by AutoZone. Race 13 of 14 for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.
Where: Tucson Raceway Park, Tucson, Ariz.
When: 2:00 p.m. PDT, Sunday, October 24.
Track layout: 3/8-mile paved oval.
Race length: 150-laps, 56.25 miles.
Posted awards: $44,894
2003 winner: Eddy McKean
2003 Bud Pole winner: Thomas Martin
Qualifying Record: Jim Inglebright, Chevrolet, 14.434 seconds, 93.529 mph, September 25, 1993.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday 10/23 4:00 pm Haulers Enter, 4:00 pm Registration and Inspection Begins, 8:00 pm pits close. Sunday 10/24 8:00 am Registration and pits open, 9:00-10:30 am noon Practice, 12:00 noon Qualifying, 1:30 pm Qualifying Race, 2:00 pm Star Nursery.Com "150".