WS: Phoenix: Season opener preview

Inglebright team loaded with experience for season opener at Phoenix DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 19, 2004) - It's been said that experience counts for a lot in motorsports. And plenty of experience is just what veteran driver Jim Inglebright (No....

Inglebright team loaded with experience for season opener at Phoenix

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 19, 2004) - It's been said that experience counts for a lot in motorsports. And plenty of experience is just what veteran driver Jim Inglebright (No. 25 Cabinet Jack/Red Line Oil/TOE Performance Ford) and his new team bring with them to Phoenix International Raceway, as they prepare for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series season opener on Sunday, Jan. 25.

The West Series race will be part of the annual NASCAR Winter Heat weekend at Phoenix, which also features NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series action.

Inglebright has joined with two long-time veterans of the sport - George Jefferson and Tony Oddo. Jefferson, who will serve as the crew chief, is a championship car owner and crew chief who has been active in the series for four decades. Among the many drivers he tutored were Derrike Cope and Chad Little. Oddo, the team's car owner, is a well-known engine builder who teamed with Jefferson for many of those successful years.

"I know these guys real well. I already know that we can work together," said Inglebright, who hails from the Northern California city of Fairfield - not far from where Oddo's engine shop is located. "We've always talked about getting together and doing something. Fortunately for me, now is that time. I'm looking forward to it."

Despite the team coming together late for this race, their collective experience provides a boost of confidence, according to Inglebright. "I'm pretty optimistic about it," he said. "I know how to get around the track. And with George and Tony . those guys have won a lot of races. I'm not concerned about what's under the hood and I'm definitely not concerned about the chassis."

Inglebright has tasted victory at PIR while competing in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series - where he was a regular for many years. Last year - his first full season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series - he scored two of his four top-five finishes at Phoenix. Inglebright considers the one-mile D-shaped track in the Valley of the Sun as one of his favorites.

"I like the track and I get around it pretty well," he said. "I like the speed. Phoenix is a track that you can aggressively drive the corners. That' s where I do better, where you can carry a little more speed off into the corners. Phoenix fits my style of driving."

NEWS & NOTES * The race . This event is the first race on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule for 2004. It is the first of two series visits to Phoenix International Raceway this season, with a return visit slated for October.

* The track . PIR is a one-mile superspeedway with turns one and two banked 11 degrees, turns three and four banked nine degrees and two degrees of banking in the dogleg. The track has hosted 15 stand-alone West Series events.

* Double duty . Among drivers doing double duty at Phoenix - competing in the West Series race and the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series event - is NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular Ken Schrader (No. 99 Federated Auto Parts Pontiac.).

* Long haul . A bonus will be available again this year for this event to drivers from the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series. Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Resort Chevrolet) of Uncasville, Conn., is slated to make the trek west for a second consecutive year.

* Most wins . Richard Petty holds the record for the most series victories at Phoenix, with three. Wins by Schrader in 2001 and 2003 make him the only other driver with more than one series victory at PIR.

* Most poles . Petty also has won the Bud Pole Award the most times in series competition at Phoenix - 1978, 1979 and 1980. Scott Lynch (No. 08 Yerf-Dog/Orleans Dodge) won the Bud Pole in both visits by the series in 200 3.

* Top finishes . Austin Cameron (No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet) holds the mark for the most top-five finishes among active drivers in the series, with four. Cameron and Kevin Richards (No. 85 Monaco Enterprises Chevrolet) are tied for the most top-10 series finishes, with six each.

* Most money . Cameron has won the most money in series competition at PIR, with $54,214. Richards remains close behind with $52,095.

* Leading the way . Petty has led the most laps of series competition at the Phoenix, running out front for 361 circuits. Among active drivers, Schrader has led the most laps, with 207.

* Return performance . Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators Chevrolet) has taken the green flag at Phoenix more than any other driver in the series. The veteran driver has competed in seven stand-alone West Series events and seven combination races with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

* Manufacturers' battle . Chevrolet has the most wins at Phoenix International Raceway among automobile manufacturers, with seven. A Dodge was in victory lane last October, however.

* Stat of the race . Four of the 15 winners at Phoenix started from the Bud Pole - including Lynch in the most recent event.

* Blow out the candles ... Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of January include Greg Pursley, who turned 36 on the 4th; Kenny Shepherd, who turned 40 on the 9th; Jeff Jefferson, who turns 32 on the 17th; Mike Duncan, who turns 42 on the 22nd; Austin Cameron, who turns 27 on the 24th; Gary Collins, who turns 44 also on the 24th; Mike David, who turns 37 on the 29th; and Jeff Davis, who turns 45 also on the 29th.

* From the archives . On Jan. 23, 1972, while Richard Petty took the victory - West Coast drivers Ray Elder, Hershel McGriff and Kevin Terris finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in a combination race at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway.

Fast Facts

What: Winter Heat 150,
NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #1
Where: Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.
When: 2:00 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25.

Track layout: 1-mile superspeedway.
Distance: 150 Laps, 150 miles.

Pre-race schedule: Saturday - Practice, 9:00-10:30 a.m. Qualifying, 12:45 p.m. Final practice, 4:15-4:45 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

Field: 32 cars possible. Fastest 26 through time trials. Two provisional positions based on final 2003 West Series championship owner point standings, two positions based on final 2003 West Series championship driver standings, one provisional position to West Series champion, one additional position based on final 2003 Busch North championship owner standings.

Records: Qualifying: Steve Portenga, March 18, 2000, 129.394 mph, 27.822 sec.; Race: Scott Lynch, Oct. 5, 2003, 114.262 mph, 1 hour 18 minutes 46 seconds.


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Drivers Derrike Cope , Ken Schrader , Richard Petty , Steve Portenga , Jeff Jefferson , Jim Inglebright , Scott Gaylord , Scott Lynch , Mike David , Kevin Richards , Greg Pursley , Austin Cameron , Hershel McGriff