WS: Fontana: Round 12 preview

NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, WEST SERIES NEWS & NOTES -- FONTANA * Thompson Hopes Success At Southern California Track Continues * Teams Prepare For Inaugural NASCAR Race On Road Course At California Speedway * David Leads Championship...

NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, WEST SERIES NEWS & NOTES -- FONTANA

* Thompson Hopes Success At Southern California Track Continues

* Teams Prepare For Inaugural NASCAR Race On Road Course At California Speedway

* David Leads Championship Standings By 125 Points With Two Races Remaining

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 7, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series has visited California Speedway each year since the Fontana, Calif., track opened a decade ago. Drivers are in for a new adventure this season, however, as they tackle the speedway's 21-turn, 2.8-mile road course.

Ten years after a Grand National West Series race served as the inaugural NASCAR event at California Speedway in 1997, a West Series race will mark the first NASCAR event on the road course there -- with the California 125 on Saturday, Aug. 11.

With two road course events already under their belts this year, drivers are quickly adapting to the challenge of hustling their 3,300-pound stock cars around left and right corners.

Brett Thompson (No. 61 Pets Best Insurance/Thompson Motorsports Chevrolet) has always done well on the 2-mile superspeedway at Fontana, with top-10 finishes in all five of his starts there. The 30-year-old driver from Jerome, Idaho, hopes his success continues on the road course.

"We're looking forward to this race," Thompson said. "I'm pretty excited about it. I've been learning a lot about road course stuff the last few races, at Miller (Motorsports Park) and Sonoma. It's getting more and more fun. I'm getting better. We're learning more about the car and what changes we need to make to go fast."

It's been a learning experience for both driver and crew, according to Thompson. "It's all new to most of my guys," he said. "My crew chief, (Lonnie Rush Jr.) fortunately, has a lot of time on road courses. But for the rest of my guys, it's been an adjustment. And for me to be able to tell them what (the car) is doing and what we need to do, it's been a big adjustment."

Thompson has also worked to adapt his driving style to road racing, he said. "I just constantly tell myself, 'Take your time on entry and drive it off.' I'm big on the kind of tracks where you can drive the car in hard and it doesn't affect you on the exit," he said. "I overdrive the corners. That's the way I am. I've been doing my best not to do it. I've learned a lot the last couple of races and I'm getting better. I'm looking forward to Fontana. I think we'll have a good run there."

A good finish at California Speedway would help ease some of the frustration Thompson felt after his most recent road course event.

"I had a real upsetting race at Miller," he said of last month's event at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. "I thought we could have done a lot better, but we ended up getting crashed early on."

Problems in that race, coupled with mechanical trouble in his first road race a year ago at Infineon Raceway, have limited Thompson's opportunity to gain road racing experience. "We had motor problems last year (at Infineon), so I really didn't get a chance to learn anything or do anything there," he said. "I considered Sonoma this year as my first time to run a road course."

The result was an 18th-place finish, on the lead lap.

Meanwhile, Thompson hopes his experience on the 2-mile superspeedway at Fontana will benefit him, because a portion of the big track is incorporated into the road course. "I've always been really good in turns one and two at California," Thompson said. "When I pass cars, it's usually there. It's just a corner that suits me well. That's probably going to be a big part of the track -- where you're going to make your most passes, is down the straightaway and through there. I'm not sure how many other passing points we'll have."

With only two races remaining on the schedule for the West Series, Thompson knows the importance of a top finish in this event. A good performance would also help him overcome some of the frustration he encountered after starting the season strong.

"We should have finished better in several races," Thompson said. "We've been up in the top five almost every race. Looking back, at Phoenix we were fifth with two laps to go and ran out of gas. At Colorado, we were up to third at one point and got spun out. There's been several races I felt that got taken away from us. With good finishes there, we would have been easily in the top five in points right now. I need to make some big jumps in the next two races. I need to get up there. My goal would be to finish in the top five in points this year."

To finish in the top five of the championship standings would be a career-best mark for Thompson. Ironically, it could come in a year that started off without a definite game plan.

"When we started off the season, we weren't sure what the plan was," Thompson recalled. "We had several (drivers) interested in running partial seasons. We started running good and I was having too much fun. I didn't want to turn it over just yet. We canceled those plans and decided to run the whole season."

NEWS OF NOTE

* The race -- The California 125 is the 12th event of a 13-race schedule for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series in 2007. It is the third of three road course events for the series this season.

* The track -- California Speedway's road course is a 21-turn layout that utilizes a portion of the big D-shaped oval. The West Series competed in 11 races on the 2-mile superspeedway at Fontana, between 1997 and 2006. This will mark the first series event on the road course there, however.

* Wide open championship battle -- Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) of Modesto, Calif., leads the championship standings by 125 points over two-time series champion Mike Duncan (No.9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet) -- with 11 races complete and two to go. David can clinch the championship by finishing 11th or better in the two remaining races. His average finish for the first 11 races this season is 7.4.

* Leading Sunoco rookie candidate -- Jason Bowles (No. 22 Sunrise Ford/Turbo Torq Ford) of Ontario, Calif., continues to lead a talented freshman class of drivers challenging for this year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. The final standings this year will be based on a rookie candidate's 10 best finishes.

* Different set up for different road courses -- The road course at California Speedway and the road course at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, share a common characteristic -- the cars racing counter-clockwise around both courses. The third road course on the West Series schedule differs, however. At Infineon Raceway, the cars race clockwise around the track. Consequently, the way teams set up the suspensions on race cars at Infineon and the other two tracks differ greatly. Some teams use road course cars at all three tracks, with major changes to the suspension for each. Meanwhile, some teams opt to use a short track car for the left-hand road courses at Utah and Fontana.

* Final chances for Showdown spot -- Drivers in the West Series only have two remaining chances to secure a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown by winning a race. Only Grand National Division race winners and champions of the NASCAR Developmental Series will be locked in to the field for the prestigious post-season event. All others must race their way in.

FAST FACTS

What: The California 125, NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #12

Where: California Speedway, Fontana, Calif.
When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11.

Track layout: 2.8-mile road course.
Distance: 45 Laps, 126 miles

Posted Awards: $151,928

2006 winner: Inaugural RC event.
2006 polesitter: Inaugural RC event.

Records: To be established at inaugural road course event.

Pre-race schedule: Saturday - Practice, 9:30-10:45 a.m., 12:30-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:15 p.m. Note: Subject to change.

NASCAR Grand National Division,West Series Top 10:
1. Mike David 1,718, 2. Mike Duncan 1,593, 3. Johnny Borneman 1,568, 4. Brian Ickler 1,548, 5. Jason Bowles 1,526, 6. Eric Hardin 1,481, 7. Justin Lofton 1,472, 8. Brett Thompson 1,428, 9. Alex Haase 1,408, 10. Eric Richardson 1,329.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Brett Thompson , Mike David , Jason Bowles , Justin Lofton , Brian Ickler