WS: Altamont II: Season finale preview

* Series Veteran Hopes To Capture His First Series Championship * Four Drivers In Top Five Locked In Tight Points Battle * Seven Altamont Races Produce Seven Different Winners DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand ...

* Series Veteran Hopes To Capture His First Series Championship
* Four Drivers In Top Five Locked In Tight Points Battle
* Seven Altamont Races Produce Seven Different Winners

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series championship will be decided in the season finale Dan Gamel RV Centers 200 at Altamont Motorsports Park near Tracy, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 15.

Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) jumped into an early lead in the championship standings this season and has maintained a steady pace throughout the year in hopes of capturing his first series title. He holds a commanding 95-point lead over two-time series champion Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) heading to Altamont and can wrap up the title by finishing 22nd or better there.

David acknowledges the odds are in his favor, especially considering that Altamont is his home track and that he took the win when the series visited the half-mile oval early this season. But with Duncan second in points, David is not taking anything for granted.

"We've got Duncan behind us and he's come from behind before," David said. "We can't let our guard down. He's got the experience. He's won championships before coming from behind in the last race. So, it's not automatic by any means."

Despite his sizeable points lead, David does not plan to change his strategy for the event. "We're going to approach it like we have every race this year, to do as well as we can and try to win the race," said the 40-year-old Modesto, Calif., driver. "Our main plan this year was just to go to every race track and run well. I think we've done that. That's why we're going to try to not deviate from what we've been doing."

David has had podium finishes in seven of 12 races this season. He has not failed to finish a race all season and considers that possibility as his biggest threat in this final event. "What would devastate our program would be a parts failure or an early crash or something," David said.

A year ago, David went to Altamont for the final race with a 47-point deficit. After suffering a flat tire and finishing 13th, he watched as his long-time friend and competitor Eric Holmes overcame problems to win the championship. Now David hopes to take the title home.

The West Series championship has been the focus of David and car owner Randy Lynch since joining the circuit. "It's a goal that we set out when we started this thing," said David, who won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in 2002. "That was one of our goals to win this championship. It would be gratifying. It would mean a lot."

NEWS & NOTES

The race -- The Dan Gamel RV Centers 200 is the 13th and final championship race on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule for 2007. It is the second of two series events hosted by Altamont Motorsports Park this year -- with the series making an earlier visit in April.

The track -- Altamont Motorsports Park is a semi-banked, half-mile paved oval with turns banked 12 degrees and four degrees banking in the straights. The track has hosted 14 West Series events overall, dating back to 1966.

Close battles among top five -- There is an extremely tight battle among four of the top five drivers in the championship standings heading into the final event of the season. Just 37 points separate the four drivers in second through fifth place. Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) is second in the standings with 1,753 points. He has a 34-point lead over Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Twisted X Boots/Red Line Oil Ford) with 1,719. Borneman is just one point ahead of Brian Ickler (No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) with 1,718. Jason Bowles (No. 22 Sunrise Ford/Turbo Torq Ford), meanwhile, is just two points back from Ickler, with 1,716.

Second half momentum -- After encountering various setbacks that denied him a top-10 finish in the first six races, Brian Ickler and his Bill McAnally Racing team have come on strong in the second half of the season. Ickler's six consecutive top-10 finishes heading to Altamont include three wins, a runner-up finish and two sixth-place finishes.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year title -- Jason Bowles has topped the large field of talented rookies in the challenge for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. The 24-year-old Ontario, Calif., competitor was the highest-finishing rookie in six of the 12 races completed and leads the standings with 89 points. Two members of the freshman class are deadlocked for the runner-up spot, meanwhile. Eric Richardson (No. 20 GreenFrogRoastingCo.com Chevrolet) of Bakersfield, Calif., and Alex Haase (No. 88 Motorway Auto Group of El Paso/Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet) of Las Vegas are tied with 74 points each. Rounding out the top five of the Sunoco Rookie standings are Ryan Foster with 57 points and Moses Smith (No. 18 Hasa Pool Products/White Flyer Chevrolet) with 55 points.

Series newcomers -- Several California drivers are slated to make their debut in the West Series at Altamont. Heading that list is 21-year-old Ross Strmiska (No. 84 Motorway Auto Group of El Paso Chevrolet) of Stockton. The third-generation driver is locked in a battle this year for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship in the Western Late Model class at Madera (Calif.) Speedway. Other newcomers from the Golden State on the entry list include Jason Gilbert (No. 14 Gilbert Motorsports Chevrolet) of Dublin and Ryan Black (No. 04 REF Motorsports Ford) of Alta Loma.

Series return -- A Northern California driver making his return to the series after many years is Jason Fensler, who will be driving the entry of car owner Tony Oddo.

Competing for Showdown spot -- This event offers the last chance for drivers in the series hoping to earn a starting spot in the 2007 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Only Grand National race winners and champions of the NASCAR Developmental Series will be locked in to the field. All others must race their way in. (A special graphic listing drivers who have secured a spot in this year's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown is available at www.nascarmedia.com and is updated each Tuesday.)

Exciting finish at Altamont in April -- Fans witnessed a dramatic finish when the West Series visited Altamont in April. A fierce last-lap battle for the lead between Johnny Borneman and Justin Lofton (No. 66 Lofton Cattle/Cometic/Klotz/Eibach Ford) ended in a spectacular turn three crash, leaving Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) to lead his only lap of the race and score the win.

Last year's event -- In the season finale at Altamont a year ago, Austin Cameron scored his second win of the season -- while Eric Holmes clinched the series championship. Although Holmes led more than half of the event, his title chances were threatened late in the race when the right rear tire on his car developed a slow leak. However, he was able to pit under caution, remain on the lead lap and finish fifth. Holmes' closest challenger for the title going into the event was Mike David. But he saw his title hopes fade when he suffered a similar fate with a flat tire in the first half of the race. Mechanical problems later left David to finish 13th. Cameron, who started fifth, steadily moved to the front. He slipped past Holmes for the lead on lap 113. Although Holmes battled back, he eventually relinquished the lead when he headed to the pits on lap 185. Cameron won by 1.794 seconds over Scott Gaylord, with Johnny Borneman taking third.

No recent repeat winners -- The seven most recent West Series races at Altamont Motorsports Park, dating back to 1995, produced seven different winners.

Front runners at Altamont -- Three drivers -- Ray Elder, Jim Insolo and Jack McCoy -- lead series competition at Altamont, with two wins each. In the modern era (since 1971), Insolo leads in terms of top-five finishes, with four. Insolo, Elder and Scott Gaylord are tied for top-10 finishes -- with four each.

Bud Poles at Altamont -- Sean Woodside has the most Bud Pole Awards in the modern era, with three. Woodside also tops the charts in terms of laps led in that era, running out front for 463 laps.

Many faces in West Series competition at Altamont -- In the 11 series races at Altamont since 1971, 143 different drivers took the green flag.

How they compare -- Among drivers who have competed in four or more series races at Altamont, Jim Insolo had the best average finish of 2.25.

Experience among current drivers -- With six each, Jack Sellers and Scott Gaylord have the most starts at Altamont since 1971.

Manufacturers tied for wins -- Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford are tied for the most wins at Altamont, with four wins each.

Race distance -- The 14 series races overall at Altamont varied in distance. The first series visit in 1966 was a 100-lap event, followed by a 150-lap race later that year. Drivers ran 200 laps there in 1968. Two Altamont events in 1973 and two in 1974 were all 100 laps in distance. Races in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 were 200 laps -- as was last year's event and the one earlier this season. A second visit in 1997, meanwhile, went 250 laps.

BIRTHDAYS

Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of September include Todd Burns, who turned 34 on the 4th; Carl Harr, who turned 54 on the 9th; Bobby Hillis, who turned 46 on the 10th; Nick DeFazio, who turns 24 on the 12th; and Brian Ickler, who turns 22 on the 17th.

FAST FACTS

What: Dan Gamel RV Centers 200, NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #13

Where: Altamont Motorsports Park, Tracy, Calif.
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15

Track layout: .5-mile paved oval.
Distance: 200 Laps, 100 miles.

Posted Awards: $129,962

TV: SPEED (enhanced replay, Sept. 26, 9 a.m. PT)

2006 winner: Austin Cameron.
2006 polesitter: Eric Holmes.

Pre-race schedule:
Saturday -- Practice, 10-11 a.m., 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Qualifying, 3:30 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Bobby Hillis , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Mike David , Carl Harr , Eric Holmes , Austin Cameron , Jason Bowles , Ryan Foster , Justin Lofton , Brian Ickler , Kyle Busch
Teams Kyle Busch Motorsports