SWS: Tucson: Round 11 preview

AutoZone Southwest Series Drivers Enter Version of the Final Four at Tucson Saturday Night DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 12, 2004) - The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has its Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. College basketball has the final ...

AutoZone Southwest Series Drivers Enter Version of the Final Four at Tucson Saturday Night

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 12, 2004) - The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has its Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. College basketball has the final four tournament, and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series will have its own version of the championship chase. This Saturday, September 18, 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. Three of the final four series races will be contested in the copper state.

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. has three wins this season, and while his streak of eight top ten finishes in ten starts this season has the series best drivers chasing the former NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional champion, Pettit 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 event after a runner-up finish last year.

"I am really looking forward to Tucson this week," Pettit said. "My team has really battled through some adversity this year and winning at CNS last month proved how strong the team is. I have not had the finishes at Tucson that I would have liked, but I love racing there. The fans are great and the track produces great side-by-side action."

With the Toyota All-Star Showdown only four 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 30 drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for one of 24 starting positions in Saturday's 150-lap race and vie for their share of $44,894 in posted awards in race eleven of the 14-race championship series.

2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich returns to the series this weekend after running only a partial schedule in 2004. He last tasted victory at TRP in 2000 and looks to repeat that performance this Saturday on the progressive-banked paved oval. TRP has long been known for great side-by-side racing and if a driver is going to win, he has to have a car that works equally well in each groove.

"I like TRP," Vidovich said. "The racing is always great. There is action no matter where you race. This would be a great place to pick up my first win of the season, but I know the rest of the guys are thinking the same thing."

The driver chasing Pettit in the championship standings is Craig Raudman from Bakersfield, Calif. Raudman trails Pettit by 25 points and relinquished the top spot for the first time in five races after a 12th place finish at CNS in August.

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 has always run good at TRP in the past.

"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 has piloted Clarence Broussard's Chevrolet into the sixth position in the standings after another top-ten performance at CNS. Danny Burson, Nick Lynch, and Bob Lyon are within 59 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. Long-time series standout M.K. Kanke is scheduled to return to the series and debut a brand new car as he prepares for 2005.

The Star Nursery.Com "150" presented by AutoZone is set to take the green flag at 8:30 pm PDT this Saturday, where the final four races will create a shootout for the Showdown.

THE INSIDE LINE

* The race within the race ... Rip Michels tops the Autometer Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after ten events. Nick Lynch trails Michels by 13 points heading into the final four races.

* How many cars? More than 28 cars have pre-entered 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 has completed 1,244 of 1,246 contested so far this season.

* Driver to keep your eye on: Bob Lyon has started more Southwest Series races (262) then any other driver. Lyon currently sits 13th in the standings.

* 11 drivers have started all ten races contested so far this season, and the AutoZone Southwest Series has averaged 34 cars per event through the first ten 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.

MOVING UP

* Danny Burson of Albuquerque, NM has moved up to 11th place in the standings just 48 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).

PAGE FROM THE PAST

Jim Inglebright topped Roy Testa by 1.6 seconds September 25, 1993 to win the Valvoline 100 at TRP. Inglebright had a career day capturing the win, Rookie honors, and the Bud Pole Award. Bob Lyon, Doug George, and Ron Hornaday Jr. rounded out the top five finishers. There were five lead changes among four drivers with Ron Hornaday Jr. leading the most laps (33). The race took 32 minutes and 20 seconds to complete at an average speed of 69.588 mph. Hornaday left the race with a 213 point advantage over Doug George in the championship standings. Darrell LaMoure of Phoenix, Ariz. finished 16th.

Fast Facts

What: The Star Nursery.Com "150" presented by AutoZone. Race 11 of 14 for the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.

Where: Tucson Raceway Park, Tucson, Ariz.
When: 8:30 p.m. PDT, Saturday, September 18.

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 9/18 10:00 am Haulers Enter, 10:00 am Registration and Inspection Begins, 12:00 noon Mandatory Rookie Driver's meeting, 12:15 pm Mandatory Driver's/Crew Chief's Meeting, 12:15 pm Qualifying Draw, 1:30-3:00 pm Practice, 5:00 pm Time Trials, 6:00 pm Fan Photo & Autograph Session, 7:00 pm Qualifying Race, 8:30 pm Star Nursery.Com "150".

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Richard Johns , Jim Inglebright , Danny Burson , Darrell LaMoure , Doug McCoun , Jim Pettit II , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , Rip Michels