WWS: Rookies face tough challenge for title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 24, 2003) - Competition for this year's Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series could produce one of the closest battles in the history of the series. Nine...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 24, 2003) - Competition for this year's Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series could produce one of the closest battles in the history of the series.

Nine drivers, with racing backgrounds as varied as their hometowns, have registered for this year's Raybestos-sponsored rookie program. They will compete for an award at each event, as well as the prestigious year-end title and their share of a $12,500 point fund.

This year's freshman class represents four states, as well as Canada and Japan. They include David Eshleman of Fontana, Calif.; Carl Harr of Edmonton Alberta, Canada; Daryl Harr of St Albert, Alberta, Canada; C.T. Hellmund of Austin, Texas; Takuma Koga of Nagoya, Japan; Scott Lynch of Burley, Idaho; Scott Schmidt of Fort Lupton, Colo.; Clint Vahsholtz of Woodland Park, Colo.; and Gene Woods of Ontario, Calif.

After being involved as a car owner in the Winston West Series, Eshleman took the wheel this year as the driver of the Spirit of Fontana Chevrolet, with sponsorship from Cardenas Markets, Rush Truck Center, and Burrtec Waste Industries. The former mayor of Fontana, Calif., began racing in 1970 at Riverside International Raceway. In recent years the 56-year-old Eshleman competed in late model stock cars at local tracks in Southern California.

Although Carl Harr and his son, Daryl, race as a family-owned two-car team for WestWorld Motorsports - they will be competing against each other this year for the rookie title. Both are champions in Canada's CASCAR Western Series, with 49-year-old Carl taking the title in 2001 and 20-year-old Daryl winning it in 2002. In addition, Daryl won the rookie title in 1998 and was named Most Popular in 2000. Both drivers competed in one Winston West Series race in 2001 and five in 2002.

Hellmund is one of two members of the freshman class to already taste victory in the series. In fact, the 33-year-old Texan was victorious in his Winston West Series debut - winning on the road course in Monterey, Calif., in 2001. Hellmund, who competed in various classes of racing in his home state, followed that win up with a top-five finish last year in his only other start in the series up until this season. He drives the Suzuki Motorcycles and ATV-sponsored Pontiac.

Koga, who lives near Tokyo in the city of Nagoya, started his racing career in go-karts. His resume also includes action in Formula Toyota and Formula 3 cars. He turned his focus to NASCAR competition in 2001, racing in five events that season in the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and competing in two races in the Winston West Series in 2002. The 26-year-old, who goes by the nickname of Tak, drives the Dick Midgley entry with sponsorship from "Count 15."

Lynch is a 22-year-old college senior at the University of Utah. He started racing in 1996, competing as a teenager in the NASCAR-sanctioned modified division at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho. He tackled the NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series in 1999, winning the rookie title. Running five races in the Winston West Series in 2002, Lynch notched his first major NASCAR win with a victory in the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Yerf-Dog/Mr.Gas Chevrolet owned by his father, Jim Lynch.

Schmidt, 36, began his racing career in 1995 with a three-year stint in go-karts. He went on to compete in super modifieds, before turning his attention to NASCAR. In 2002, Schmidt raced selected events in the Featherlite Southwest Series - while also competing in three events with the Winston West Series.

Vahsholtz brings with him one of the more unique racing backgrounds, having competed in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for more than a decade. The 32-year-old driver started racing motorbikes at four years of age. From 1987 to 1995, he raced motorcycles on the AMA circle-track series. Vahsholtz and his father, Leonard are probably best known for their success at Pikes Peak, however. The younger Vahsholtz has 10 consecutive wins on the mountain, the longest string of championships in the history of the event. In addition, his resume includes three Colorado Hill Climb Association titles and wins in several major motorcycle races, including a victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Woods, 45, began racing at the age of nine. In a career that has spanned more than three decades he competed in various forms for motorsports - including mini-bikes, ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles and sprint cars. Woods won a variety of titles along the way, including three U.S. Open National championships racing speedway motorcycles. He competed in five events in the Winston West Series in 2002 in the Auto Trader Magazine/CNWB.com Dodge owned by David Dginguerian.

The winner of this year's Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year title in the Winston West Series will join some esteemed company. Previous winners include Derrike Cope, Chad Little, Rick Carelli, Jim Bown and Bill Sedgwick.


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Drivers Derrike Cope , Chad Little , Rick Carelli , Scott Lynch , Daryl Harr , Carl Harr , Gene Woods , David Eshleman , Clint Vahsholtz