WS: Irwindale II: Season finale preview

* Ramirez quickly adjusts during rookie season * Victory lane at Irwindale familiar to BMR team * Nine different Bud Pole winners in 11 races at Irwindale DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2004) -- Rookie...

    *         Ramirez quickly adjusts during rookie season

* Victory lane at Irwindale familiar to BMR team
* Nine different Bud Pole winners in 11 races at Irwindale

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2004) -- Rookie drivers adjust to a variety of changes when they join the ranks of the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. In addition to adapting to the different horsepower and handling characteristics of the cars this year, Jose Luis Ramirez (No. 17 Del Valle/Rayere Ford) has also had to adapt to a different country and different language.

The 25-year-old driver from Mexico City has quickly adjusted, however. He is 11h in the championship standings as the series prepares for its season finale, the NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Southern California Pipe Trades, at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 23. The race will be televised live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, SPEED Channel will provide an enhanced replay on Dec. 25.

Bridging the two languages and adapting to oval tracks were the biggest adjustments he faced, according to Ramirez. "I think the most complicated thing that I had this year was with my team and to learn about the tracks," he said. "I had to learn to speak English and communicate between (car owner) Joe (Nava) and all my team." That communication is key to adjusting the chassis for a fast car, he said.

Ramirez also shifted from racing on road courses to competing on oval tracks this year. "I come from Mexico City, where I was driving road courses," he said. "It's a very, very different set up on a car from a road course to an oval track."

Tracks on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule range from a quarter-mile oval to a 2-mile superspeedway. Consequently, Ramirez learned techniques for competing on speedways, where drafting is important, and for racing on short tracks, which feature plenty of tight side-by-side action. His success at both were illustrated with a 10th-place finish at California Speedway and a sixth-place finish at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway. "I think the big challenge this year was to have a good finish at all the races," he said. "When you are learning on short tracks, there's going to be a little crashing, a little bumping."

Ramirez, one of five talented freshman drivers registered for this year's Auto Meter Rookie of the Year program, is pleased with his first year in the series. "My rookie season has actually been better than I had expected," he said. "It's been a good year. I have learned a lot of things."


* The race -- This event is the 13th and final race on the series schedule for 2004. It is the second of two series championship points events at Irwindale Speedway this season, with the series making its first visit in July.

* The track -- Irwindale Speedway is a half-mile paved oval with blended banking of six, nine and 12 degrees in the corners and banking of six degrees in the straights. The track has hosted 11 NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series events.

* All-Star Showdown -- In addition to Irwindale Speedway hosting two West Series events this season, top drivers in the series and from other NASCAR Touring Divisions throughout the country will return to the state-of-the-art facility for post-season action in the second annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Nov. 11-13. Austin Cameron (No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet) won the Grand National portion of last year's inaugural event.

* The championship -- This marks the third time the series has concluded its season at Irwindale Speedway. The half-mile speedway hosted the final race in 2000 and in 2001.

* Quarterly return -- Slated to return to the West Coast to compete in the season finale at Irwindale is NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series driver Dale Quarterley. The Westfield, Mass., driver made the trek west early in the year to compete in the season opener at Phoenix in January.

* Victory Lane familiar to BMR -- Irwindale's Victory Lane is familiar territory for Bill McAnally Racing and its NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored No. 16 Chevrolet. Current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Brendan Gaughan swept three West Series races on the half-mile track in 2001, en route to winning his second consecutive series championship. Austin Cameron also has three Irwindale wins. In addition to scoring his first career series win at Irwindale for his family-owned team in 1999, Cameron piloted a BMR entry to wins in 2002 and again earlier this year.

* Gaughan marks -- Gaughan holds many of the current records for series competition at Irwindale. He has won the most money in series competition at Irwindale, with $71,690, and led the most laps, running out front for 674 laps. He has the most top-five finishes, with six, and is tied with Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) and Steve Portenga for the most top-10 finishes, with seven each.

* Race records -- Cameron holds a couple of the race records, as well. He set the mark for a 150-lap race in winning earlier this year and had set the record for the 200-lap distance with his victory in 2002.

* Nine different Bud Pole winners -- The 11 visits by the series to Irwindale resulted in nine different drivers winning a Bud Pole Award. Cameron and Sean Woodside (No. 3 Jerry Springer Pontiac) are the only multiple winners of the award, with two each.

* Widespread competition -- Eighty-nine different drivers have taken the green flag in the 11 series races at Irwindale Speedway. Cameron is the only driver to compete in all 11.

* How they compare -- Among drivers who have competed in four or more series races at Irwindale Speedway, Bobby Dotter has the best average finish of 4.0 in four races. Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford) tops active drivers with an average finish of 7.40 in four races, followed by Gaylord with 8.44.

* Manufacturers' battle -- Chevrolet has been in victory lane for nine of the 11 series races at Irwindale.

* Stat of the race -- Three of the 11 series events at Irwindale were won by a driver starting from the Bud Pole position.


Drivers celebrating a birthday during the final part of October include David Cardey, who turns 29 on the 31st. One additional birthday of note -- celebrating his 64th birthday on the 28th is Joe Dehorty, known to everyone as "Spotter Joe."


On Nov. 11, 2000, Bobby Dotter closed out the year with a thrilling last-lap move through traffic to beat Matt Crafton by .024 of a second and win the season finale at Irwindale Speedway. The event, which capped off a 12-race schedule that year, attracted 37 entries. Five drivers swapped the lead 17 times, with Dotter leading only once -- at the checkered flag. A third-place finish by Brendan Gaughan secured his first of two consecutive series championships. John Metcalf was fourth, followed by Joe Bean.


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Drivers Bobby Dotter , Matt Crafton , Brendan Gaughan , Dale Quarterley , Steve Portenga , John Metcalf , Scott Gaylord , Mike David , Austin Cameron