Intense Championship Chase Develops Early in NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 21, 2004) - An intense chase for the championship has quickly developed this season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West...
Intense Championship Chase Develops Early in NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 21, 2004) - An intense chase for the championship has quickly developed this season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series - with a crop of talented young rookies challenging seasoned veterans for the 2004 honors.
Just 111 points separate the top 12 drivers in the championship standings, with three races completed in the West's oldest stock car racing circuit. Five of those drivers are also challenging for the Auto Meter Rookie of the Year Award. Four veterans atop the standings, meanwhile, share a common bond with them and with each other as former rookie titlists.
Scott Lynch (No. 08 Yerf-Dog/Orleans Racing Dodge) gained both honors last year, becoming just the second driver in the history of the series to win the championship in his rookie year. With such a tight battle in the championship standings this year, the chase for the championship is wide open, Lynch pointed out. "If you look at the standings, it's so close that within one race anybody in the top seven or eight could walk out as the points leader," he said. "I think it's going to be a big challenge this year. It gets more and more competitive every year."
In the same manner that he challenged veterans as a rookie a year ago, Lynch says newcomers to the series this year are increasing the competition. "I was in their place last year, trying to make my mark in the series by winning races and winning awards," he said. "The more competition you have out there, it's better for the series and it's better for the fans. Most of all, it's better for other drivers because the more competition you have the better you have to be. It forces you and your team to do the best every lap of every race."
The driver who wins the most races this year will not necessarily be the one to win the championship, however, Lynch predicted. "I think whoever is the most consistent and can finish in the top five is who is going to win the championship this year," he said. "We just need to finish in that top five every single race. If we can be consistent in that manner, it will at least put us in position to be there at the end for the championship run."
Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil Chevrolet) of Lamont, Calif., leads the championship standings with 466 points. Duncan, who won the rookie title in the series in 2000 and finished as the runner-up in the championship standings last year, has one top-five and three top-10 finishes this season. Matching him with 466 points is series veteran Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) of Lakewood, Colo. Gaylord has two top-five and three top-10 finishes in the first three races.
Battling for the rookie title as well as the overall championship is David Gilliland (No. 88 Honda Cars of Corona Chevrolet) of Riverside, Calif. In addition to scoring his first career series win, he has two top-10s and has accumulated 460 points. Despite being a rookie, Gilliland is not a newcomer to the series. He was the champion crew chief when his father, Butch Gilliland, won the series title in 1997.
Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) of Modesto, Calif., is fourth in the standings with 458 points. The 2002 Rookie of the Year has two top-five and three top-10 finishes this season. He is followed closely by Lynch of Burley, Idaho. The 24-year-old defending champion, who took advantage of an off-weekend last week in the West Series schedule to make his debut in the NASCAR Busch Series, has 427 points - with back-to-back third-place finishes in the most recent races.
One marker back with 426 points is Austin Cameron (No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet) of El Cajon, Calif. Cameron, who won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1998, has one top-five finish this season. He is trailed by Tim Woods III (No. 54 Chino Hills Ford Ford) of Chino Hills, Calif. Woods has 380 points and a top-10 finish in the first three races. Canadian Daryl Harr (No. 71 WestWorld Motorsports Chevrolet) of St. Albert, Alberta, is eighth in the standings with 369 points and a top-10 finish, also. He and his father, Carl Harr (No. 02 WestWorld Motorsports Chevrolet), are part of the talented class of freshman drivers. Carl of Edmonton, Alberta, is 10th in the standings with 364 points and a top-10 finish. The pair are separated by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Ken Schrader (No. 99 Federated Auto Parts Pontiac), who is ninth in the standings with 365 points after winning two races this year in the West Series.
Rookie teammates from Performance Motorsports hold down the next two positions in the championship standings, meanwhile. Jose Luis Ramirez (No. 17 Cardenas/Del Valle/Guerrero Ford) of Mexico City, Mexico, is 11th with 364 points - while Nick DeFazio (No. 77 Mission Foods/West Coast Choppers Ford) of Newport Beach, Calif., is 12th with 355 points.
Other drivers who have competed in the first three races this season include David Eshleman (No. 11 Cardenas/Rush Truck Center Chevrolet) of Fontana, Calif., with 336 points; Gene Woods (No. 7 Circle K/Monster Energy Drinks Dodge) of Ontario, Calif., with 318; Steve Schaefer (No. 33 FirstLine Chevrolet) of Granite Bay, Calif., with 312; Bobby Hillis (No. 27 Fierce Creature Racing Chevrolet) of Phoenix, Ariz., with 306 and Jack Sellers (No. 15 Aramark Chevrolet) of Sacramento, Calif., with 276.
The next event on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule is the Havoline/NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Stockton 99 Speedway Dodge Country at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway on May 29.