WWS: Irwindale: Round seven preview, schedule

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 21, 2003) - When Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series race in 1999 - the Bill McAnally Racing team struggled to a 13th-place finish. That inaugural event has ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 21, 2003) - When Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series race in 1999 - the Bill McAnally Racing team struggled to a 13th-place finish. That inaugural event has turned out to be the only time the team has not finished in the top 10 there, however.

In nine series visits to the state-of-the-art facility, the NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored team has amassed an impressive record - including a current string of four consecutive wins, seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes. The three different drivers who piloted the familiar blue and yellow No. 16 Chevrolet during the past four seasons combined for an average finish of 4.11.

BMR hopes to extend its winning streak to five when the Winston West Series returns to the half-mile Southern California track for the King Taco 200 on Saturday, July 26. The $109,114 event will be televised to a national audience on the SPEED Channel cable network. It is slated to air on a tape-delay basis at 8 p.m. ET on Aug. 18.

The team's hope for a fifth straight win is somewhat overshadowed, however, by the return of their driver Austin Cameron. After being diagnosed in April with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, Cameron was sidelined as he underwent treatment. He returns to the cockpit after missing four events.

"This is one of the most important things I have had to look forward to," Cameron said of his recent ordeal. "I've been working hard at getting through this chemo and getting rid of this cancer so that I can be strong enough to get back in the race car."

His three months of treatment has been a roller-coaster ride, according to Cameron. "Some days are good and some days I can't even get out of bed," he said. While he acknowledged he may face additional treatment, Cameron said his focus this week is on racing.

His crew, meanwhile, is looking forward to his return. "We're thrilled to have Austin back in the driver's seat," said car owner Bill McAnally. "It's great that he is making his return to competition in this event. His first career win came at Irwindale and he won there again last year. Austin has a lot of fans in the area. It's great that they will get to see him back behind the wheel of the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet."

There is more to worry about from BMR than just the one entry, however. The team presents a double threat with Jim Inglebright (No. 20 Jelly Belly/NAPA Chevrolet). Inglebright is fifth in the championship standings with one win, two top-five and four top-10 finishes. "I feel our odds our twice as nice, because both teams are so competitive this year," McAnally said of the two entries.

The Irwindale event, meanwhile, is a popular stop on the schedule for many teams. "Obviously, with the kind of success we have had, it is a favorite for us," McAnally said.

"We have been thrilled to take NAPA and our other fine sponsors to victory lane in a major market," he said. "We look forward to the opportunity to continue that success."

After finishing 13th in the first visit by the series to Irwindale, Sean Woodside drove the BMR entry to a 10th-place finish later in 1999. With Brendan Gaughan behind the wheel in 2000, the NAPA Chevrolet finished second, third and fifth in three visits to Irwindale. Gaughan swept all three events in 2001, en route to successfully defending his championship in the series. Cameron kept the team's winning streak alive in 2002, meanwhile, with a fourth straight win.


* The race . This event is the seventh of 13 races on the series schedule for 2003.

* 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 nine NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series events.

* Take notes . This will be the Winston West Series' first visit to Irwindale since the track was selected as the site of the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown in November. Teams and drivers will be paying extra attention to their notebooks this weekend, in preparation for the $500,000 nationally-televised event, which will showcase the top 15 Winston West drivers against the top 15 Busch North drivers - their counterparts in the new NASCAR Grand National Division.

* Last year's event . Although Austin Cameron (No. 16 NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hoses Chevrolet) nabbed his fourth Bud Pole Award of the season in time trials, it was Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) who dashed into the early lead. Gaylord set the pace for the first 55 laps, until being passed by Kevin Richards (No. 85 Monaco Enterprises/Jerry Springer Chevrolet). Cameron took charge through the mid-stages of the race. Quick pit stops became essential, as a long run of more than 160 consecutive laps of green flag racing forced teams to stop for fuel and fresh tires without the aid of a caution. The top spot was shuffled among several drivers as leaders darted into the pits. Cameron took command on lap 175 and held off Eric Norris, after a late-race caution.

* Dominance is Gaughan . NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan was a dominant force in Winston West Series competition at Irwindale. In addition to having the most victories, winning all three times the series visited the Southern California facility in 2001, he also had six top-five and seven top-10 finishes in eight starts. Gaughan also won the most money in series competition there, with $71,690, and led the most laps, running out front for 674 laps.

* Seven different Bud Pole winners . The nine visits by the series to Irwindale have resulted in seven different drivers winning a Bud Pole Award. Sean Woodside and Cameron are the only multiple winners of the award, with two each.

* Return performance . Seventy-four different drivers have taken the green flag in the nine series races at Irwindale Speedway. Only three drivers - Cameron, Norris and Richards - competed in all nine of those events.

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

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

* This year - six races, six different winners . The first six races on this year's schedule featured six different winners.

* Leading the pack . Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil Chevrolet) has the edge in terms of laps of competition led so far this year, running out front for 200 laps.

* Most laps completed . Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) has completed the most laps of competition, running 974 out of the 975 possible.

* Best average finish . Mark Reed (No. 3 Royal Bath & Body Products Pontiac) has the best average finish so far this season. Reed, who missed the season-opener, has an average finish of 4.2 in the five races in which he has competed.

* Leading rookie . Scott Lynch (No. 08 Yerf-Dog/The Orleans Dodge) continues to lead the standings in this year's competition for the Raybestos Brakes Rookie-of-the-Year Award.

* Power move . The six races this season have resulted in six different drivers winning the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award.

* Bonus money . A combined $50,000 from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., will be paid out through the first portion of the NASCAR Winston West Series Leader Bonus Program to the top 15 drivers in the championship standings based on the first six events. The prize money, part of the $350,000 point fund award from Reynolds' Winston brand, is to be presented to the drivers prior to the race at Irwindale.

* Karting challenge . Several Winston West Series drivers will be on hand to meet with members of the media and compete in go-karts on Thursday, July 24. The Storm Karting Challenge will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the new Storm Karting Center at Irwindale Speedway.

* Marketing . Series drivers will visit the Farmers' Market in downtown Glendora on Thursday, July 24, to meet fans and sign autographs. The event - which is being coordinated by Joe Nava, car owner of the #77 Food 4 Less/King Taco Ford - will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

* Baseball recognition . Duncan was named to the 2003 NASCAR All-Star Baseball Team earlier this month. The team was headlined by Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion and former high school baseball star, and Reggie Jackson, a 14-time All-Star with five World Series titles and a car owner in the NASCAR Busch Series. Duncan was a 10th-round selection by the Oakland A's in 1985.

* Blow out the candles ... Drivers celebrating a birthday during the upcoming month of August include Mike Grady, who turns 44 on the 9th; Scott Gaylord, who turns 45 on the 12th; and Travis Powell, who turns 39 on the 26th.

* From the archives . On Sept. 14, 1974, Sonny Easley piloted a Ford to victory at Speedway 605 in Irwindale, Calif.

What: Grand Prix 200, NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series Race #7 of 13
Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 26.

Track layout: .5-mile paved oval.
Distance: 200 Laps, 100 miles.

TV: SPEED Channel
(tape-delay, Aug. 18, 8 p.m. ET)

Pre-race schedule: Saturday - Practice, Noon-12:45 p.m., 1:15-2 p.m. Qualifying, 4 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.


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Drivers Richard Petty , Brendan Gaughan , Mark Reed , Jim Inglebright , Eric Norris , Scott Gaylord , Scott Lynch , Kevin Richards , Austin Cameron