SWS: Tucson: Round eleven preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 17, 2003) - Tucson Raceway Park has held the spotlight for many young drivers looking to move up NASCAR's ladder system. During the early 1990's TRP's Winter Heat Series propelled Greg Biffle, Ron Hornaday, and Kevin...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 17, 2003) - Tucson Raceway Park has held the spotlight for many young drivers looking to move up NASCAR's ladder system. During the early 1990's TRP's Winter Heat Series propelled Greg Biffle, Ron Hornaday, and Kevin Harvick into NASCAR stardom. This Saturday, September 20, NASCAR's Stars of Tomorrow will return to Tucson Raceway Park for the running of The John Baker "150".

Drivers, friends, and family will remember John Baker in his hometown at his hometown race track. John Baker was a devoted family man with a keen eye for business, and a passion for racing. Darrell LaMoure remembers Baker as a tough competitor. "If you didn't know John, he was a disciplined man with a strong character, his confident smile and the way he carried himself. I remember on many occasions his sense of humor being dry but his own, his attitude around his competitors, no fear and yet one of the kindest human beings I've met. Finally his aggressive nature was second to none ask anyone who competed against him."

Current 2003 point leader Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. has yet to win this season, but his streak of nine top ten finishes in ten starts this season has the series best drivers chasing the twenty-two year old driver. As announced in April, the top ten drivers of the NASCAR Elite Division's four Late Model series' will get an invite to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be staged at Irwindale Speedway November 6-8. Vidovich looks to collect his first victory of the season at TRP and secure his invitation to the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

With the Toyota All-Star Showdown only four races away, this race will hold significance for the teams of the Featherlite 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 $44,871 in posted awards in race eleven of the 14-race championship series.

Auggie Vidovich 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."

A driver looking to do just that is David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif. Gilliland has been the hottest driver in the series as of late where he has collected four victories in the last six races. Gilliland has vaulted to fourth in the point standings where he sits just 192 points behind Vidovich.

"Most of the season we were just thinking top ten," Gilliland said. "Now we are thinking title. I know it will be a long shot as Auggie has very consistent all season. We tested here last week and learned a few things that will certainly help us this weekend. If the championship is out of reach, then our next order of business is the Showdown."

After a disappointing outing last weekend in a Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series race, 2002 Featherlite Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean of Jerome, Idaho is looking for a little redemption. McKean finished third at TRP in 2001 and is looking to continue his march back up the standings.

"We have been pretty good the last couple of races after going back to our old car," McKean said. "I am really looking forward to this weekend at TRP. I love the race track and the fans will see a great show."

Another past champion hoping to have a good performance Saturday night is Craig Raudman of Bakersfield, Calif. Raudman has four top five finishes at TRP would like nothing more than to pick up his first win of the season and improve his points position.

Other notable drivers that are looking for a solid finish at Tucson Raceway Park include Doug McCoun, Mike Ledbetter, and Danny Burson who are locked in a fierce battle for a top ten spot in the standings and invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Two local drivers are looking to make their first start of the season in front of their hometown fans. Branden Bonnett, and Curtis Lansing. Bonnett attempted to qualify for the series' last event at Irwindale.

The John Baker "150" is set to take the green flag at 8:30 pm PDT this Saturday, where an old west shootout may well determine who will be at the "Showdown".

THE INSIDE LINE

* The race within the race . JR Patton tops the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader board for the fourth race in a row after nine events. Danny Burson, Thomas Martin Greg Voigt, and Frank Deiny Jr. round out the top-five Rookies.

* How many cars? More than 30 cars have pre-entered the John Baker "150".

* 16 drivers have victories in 19 races staged Tucson Raceway Park since 1993. M.K. Kanke, Ron Eaton, and Ron Hornaday are the only driver's to score multiple wins.

* Auggie Vidovich Jr. is the only driver to complete every lap run this season (1352).

* 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: David Gilliland has four wins this season including the last event at Irwindale Speedway August 30.

* 12 drivers have started all ten races contested so far this season, and the Featherlite Southwest Series has averaged 38 cars per event through the first nine races of the season.

* 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. MOVING UP

* Mike Ledbetter of Ceres, Calf. has moved up to 12th place in the standings just 63 points outside the NASCAR Top-10. QUOTE OF THE WEEK

* "Look out; we are not out of this yet." - Dan Holtz (No. 23 Rialto Concrete Products Ford).

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 John Baker"150". Race 11 of 14 for the NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series.
Where: Tucson Raceway Park, Tucson, Ariz.
When: 8:30 p.m. PDT, Saturday, September 20.

Track layout: 3/8-mile paved oval.
Race length: 150 laps, 56.25 miles.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday 9/20 9:00 am Haulers Enter, 10:00 am Registration and Inspection Begins, 11:30 am Mandatory Rookie Driver's meeting, 11:45 am Mandatory Driver's/Crew Chief's Meeting, 12:15 pm Qualifying Draw, 1:30-2:15 pm Practice, 2:45-3:30 pm Practice, 5:00 pm Time Trials, 6:00 pm Fan Photo & Autograph Session, 7:00 pm Qualifying Race, 8:30 pm The John Baker "150".

Ticket information: Available by calling (520) 762-9200.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jim Inglebright , Danny Burson , David Gilliland , Dan Holtz , Darrell LaMoure , Mike Ledbetter , Doug McCoun , Craig Raudman , Thomas Martin , Auggie Vidovich , John Baker