* East-West drivers to battle for points in big NASCAR weekend in the Midwest * Gallegos, Mack represent Drive for Diversity effort in West Series * Ickler, Smith named to drive for Bill McAnally Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb....
* East-West drivers to battle for points in big NASCAR weekend in the Midwest
* Gallegos, Mack represent Drive for Diversity effort in West Series
* Ickler, Smith named to drive for Bill McAnally Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2007) -- Mike Olsen is plenty familiar with the NASCAR West Series drivers. The two-time NASCAR Busch East champion has gotten to know his NASCAR Grand National counterparts over the last several years through the postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
And like a lot of the drivers in both series, Olsen is looking forward to renewing acquaintances in May when the two sides meet in the middle for an historic two-race, regular-season face-off.
Teams from coast to coast will converge on the 3/8-mile oval at Elko (Minn.) Speedway on Friday, May 18. They will head approximately 240 miles south to Newton, Iowa, to face off again on Sunday, May 20, at the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway.
"I think it's going to be a great deal," said Olsen (No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet). "There are a lot of good teams and a lot of good drivers. It should make for a real good event and real tough events, both Friday and Sunday."
This marks the first time teams will compete for valuable championship points in the same event.
Visiting a track for the first time should present an equal challenge for drivers from both series, said Olsen, who added the 2006 Busch East title to the one he won in 2001.
"I should be a pretty evenly matched race as far as that goes," Olsen said. "I'm looking forward to it. Any time we can run against those guys, it's a lot of fun."
Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet), who won back-to-back West Series championships in 2004 and 2005, agrees. Success in the two events will hinge on which teams can quickly adapt to tracks they have never seen before, he said.
"It's going to be a matter of who can figure out the tracks the quickest," Duncan said. "That will be the deciding factor. None of us on the West Coast have seen these tracks. The knowledge of the facilities is probably going to play a big role in the success of how we do back there."
"I'm looking forward to going," Duncan said of seeing new fans and visiting a new part of the country.
Olsen will have extra incentive for doing well at Iowa Speedway -- with his team's sponsor, Little Trees, having a factory in Iowa.
"We should have a lot of company people there for that race," Olsen said. "I hear it's a beautiful track."
In addition to being the first combination events, with points at stake for drivers in each series, it marks the first time for each series to compete in Minnesota or Iowa. The West Series traces its history to 1954, when NASCAR came to the West Coast and began sanctioning the Pacific Coast Late Model Series.
The modern era for the Busch East Series began in 1987.
While these races mark the first combination events between the Busch East Series and the West Series, it is not the first time for either series to participate in a combination event with other NASCAR series.
The West Series (then known as Winston West) ran 67 combination events with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (then known as Winston Cup) between 1971 and 1997. The Busch East Series (then known as the Busch Grand National North Series) participated in various combination events with the NASCAR Busch Series (then known as NASCAR Busch Grand National Series) through 1991.
This season marks a new era in the NASCAR Grand National Division, with a composite body and spec engine that were introduced into competition in 2006. The combination of the spec engine, composite body and the option of running either 105- or 110-inch wheelbase cars, comprise a wide variety of cost-saving initiatives for the Grand National Division, which serves as the top developmental series for up-and-coming future stars of NASCAR. The sanctioning organization also reduced its minimum driving age to 16 for the division this year.
The West Series will kick off its 54th season at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on March 31. The Busch East Series is set to get its 2007 season underway at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., on April 28.
NEWS & NOTES
* Drive for Diversity ready to roll -- Two members of the 2007 Drive for Diversity class are headed to the West Series. Mike Gallegos of Wheat Ridge, Colo., will drive for Performance Motorsports and Lloyd Mack of Los Angeles will drive for STAR Motorsports. Gallegos -- who earned the D4D program's first pole position at Caraway (N.C.) Speedway in 2005 and finished seventh last season in the NASCAR Elite Division, Midwest Series -- is returning for his third season in the Drive for Diversity program. Mack, with two national karting champions and five California state titles to his credit, has competed the past two years at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. Gallegos and Mack are part of a seven-driver D4D class in 2007 that will involve the NASCAR Grand National Division and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
* Youth movement at Motorway Motorsports/MRG -- Alex Haase, who turns 17 this month, is headed to the Motorway Motorsports/MRG team, according to team manager Mike Naake. The Las Vegas teenager is slated to team with 18-year-old Jamie Dick in competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the West Series in 2007. Haase competed in the Super Late Model class at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year. Dick, who ran a variety of late model races in 2006, is a second-generation competitor. His father, Jimmy Dick, raced in the West Series in 1993 and 1994.
* Two seats filled at BMR -- Bill McAnally and his Bill McAnally Racing team have announced plans for two of their cars this year. On the heels of his successful rookie season with BMR, Brian Ickler of San Diego will return to pilot the No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet in 2007. Icker, who finished second in the battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award and was ninth in the overall championship standings, won a qualifying race in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown and finished fifth in the Grand National portion of that prestigious postseason event. BMR recently announced that NAPA Auto Parts, which has sponsored the team for 16 years, will continue in its role with the No. 16 Chevrolet through 2008. Joining Ickler at BMR is Moses Smith, who has been named to drive the No. 18 HASA Pool Products Chevrolet. Smith of Tempe, Ariz., registered a top-10 finish in one of three starts he made in the West Series last year. He is a former karting champion and competed in open-wheel racing from 1995-2004 -- winning a rookie title in 2001 and a championship in 2002 in the Star Mazda West Coast series.
* Brothers to split ride in 2007 -- The 2003 West Series Champion Scott Lynch and his younger brother Nick Lynch will both race in the series on a limited basis this year, according to their father and car owner, Jim Lynch. The team, which has relocated its shop to North Carolina, plans for Scott to compete in the season opener at Kyle, Texas, on March 31 and at Phoenix the following month. Nick registered a Bud Pole and a top-five finish in making four series starts last year, while Scott sat out the season.
Drivers celebrating a birthday during the month of February include Jeff Barkshire, who turned 25 on the 2nd; Eric Humphries, who turned 21 on the 3rd; Jamie Dick, who turned 18 on the 5th; James Bruncati, who turned 25 on the 8th; Andrew Myers, who turned 27 on the 8th; Justin Lofton, who turns 21 on the 18th; Alex Haase, who turns 17 on the 18th; David Eshleman, who turns 60 on the 20th; Tavo (C.T.) Hellmund, who turns 37 on the 24th; and 1997 series champion Butch Gilliland, who turns 50 on the 25th.