WWS: Season finale at Irwindale

IRWINDALE, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2000) The NASCAR Winston West Series will wrap up its 2000 season Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway with the Home Depot 300 with Brendan Gaughan on the verge of his first NASCAR championship. Thirty-four entries...

IRWINDALE, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2000) The NASCAR Winston West Series will wrap up its 2000 season Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway with the Home Depot 300 with Brendan Gaughan on the verge of his first NASCAR championship.

Thirty-four entries have been received for the $142,891 event, which will be televised to a national audience on the Speedvision cable network, airing on a tape-delayed basis at 9 p.m. ET on Dec. 2.

With a 168-point lead in the championship standings Gaughan, the 25-year-old Las Vegas driver can wrap up the championship by taking the green flag Saturday night at the state-of-the-art half-mile facility.

While Gaughan holds a significant margin in the chase for the crown, a tight battle is to be settled for the other top-10 positions in the final standings. Steve Portenga of Sparks, Nev., is second in the standings with 1,618 points. Portenga, who won at Irwindale last year, hopes to solidify his runner-up position with a return to Victory Lane in the season finale.

Bobby Dotter of Chicago, Ill., is just six points back -- third in the standings with 1,612 points. Dotter has three wins this season, including one at Irwindale in June. Two-time series champion Bill Sedgwick of Acton, Calif., is fourth in the standings with 1,565 points.

Sedgwick is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all four of the NASCAR Winston West Series races held at Irwindale. Kevin Richards of Spokane, Wash., is six points back in fifth with 1,559 points. John Metcalf of Aurora, Colo., is sixth in the standings with 1,540 points; followed by Eric Norris of Dallas with 1,494; series rookie Mike Duncan of Lamont, Calif., with 1,458; Scott Gaylord of Lakewood, Colo., with 1,426; and Joe Bean of San Diego with 1,424.

Norris picked up his first career win in the most recent event in the series last month. Bean was victorious, meanwhile, when the series visited Irwindale in August.

"Getting that first win at Bakersfield has us feeling good about our chances at Irwindale, a track we've never really been good at," said Norris, who drives the Jani-King Chevrolet. "Mike (Harvick, crew chief) tried some new stuff with our set-up in Bakersfield which obviously worked well and I think it'll pay off at Irwindale too. We'll be using the same car we won with at Bakersfield."

Norris, who has never had a solid finish at the Irwindale track, knows all that could change this week. Entering the Home Depot 300, Norris's best career finish at the track was a 10th place finish last year. This year, Norris and the team could not buy a break finishing 12th and 18th respectfully, in the previous Irwindale events.

"Given all the heartbreak this team has endured throughout the 2000 season, finishing with a good solid result at Irwindale means a lot heading into next year," Norris said. "With a little luck and a good result at Irwindale, we could finish the season fifth in points and that would be an accomplishment for the Jani-King team."

"Being patient and tire management will be keys to victory at Irwindale," said Norris, whose wife and actor father, Chuck Norris, will be at the race. "It's by far the longest race we've ever run on a short track at 300 laps, so we know what we've got to do to be at the front with 50 to go.

"It will be nice to have my wife and my dad at the race. Both of them missed our race at Bakersfield, so hopefully we can duplicate that finish."

Craig Raudman of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., will be trying to wipe out the sting of an accident in the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring Albertson's/Osco 125 at Phoenix International Raceway when he lines his No. 2 Yerf-dog Fun Karts/ITPS Chevrolet.

"The wreck at PIR was a disappointment to us," Raudman said, "but we're looking forward to Irwindale."

Raudman was a favorite to win in the Oct. 7 Featherlite Southwest Series event at Irwindale. After regaining the lead on lap 92 for what he hoped would be the final time, Raudman lengthened his lead within just 10 laps to more than 10 car lengths. However, a late race incident and residual oil on the track gave Auggie Vidovich the opportunity to pass Raudman and he ended up second.

"We expect the competition to be extremely tough on Saturday," Raudman said. "We haven't been on Irwindale in a Winston West car yet, and most of the teams will have either tested or run there at least a couple of times. That will be a disadvantage for us, but we plan to work on tire management and run as easy and smooth as we can. After our performance at Irwindale in the Southwest car, we know we have what it takes to win there."

Other series regulars entered in the season finale include Sammy Potashnick of Sikeston, Mo.; Jason Small of Bakersfield, Calif.; veteran driver Jack Sellers of Sacramento, Calif.; and rookies Troy Cline of Hawthorne, Calif.; Rick Bogart of El Cajon, Calif.; Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash.; Mike Grady of Farmington, N.M.; and Gene Christensen of Garland, Texas.

Sellers, guided by team manager and veteran driver John Krebs, will recognize United States service veterans in the Home Depot 300. Sellers' No. 15 AllSeasonsMall.com/RacingWest.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo will feature an American theme with "Thank You Vets!" on the hood for this weekend's 12th and final race of the season.

"Just like Christmas, Veteran's Day falls on the same day of the year every year, Nov. 11," Krebs said. "Being that we are racing on Veteran's Day, everyone on the team wanted to do something for the Vets to say thank you. If it wasn't for all those guys that fought for us, we might not be heading out to Irwindale and racing. The veterans gave and continue to give allowing us to continue enjoying our freedom. A tribute to the vets was the right thing to do -- actually it was the least we could do."

Both Sellers and Krebs had fathers that were vets. Krebs dad was active during WWII in the Navy and served on a LST (transport ship of tanks, equipment) that was in Pearl Harbor on VJ Day to end the war in the Pacific. Sellers' father also served during WWII.

"I grew up as a military brat," Sellers said. "My dad was a pilot and instructor in the Naval Air Force. He was a lieutenant in the Korean War, but primarily he served in World War II. Everything the vets have done for us is important and I think right now it is important to remember the men and women on the USS Cole."

This event wraps up the 47th season for the NASCAR Winston West Series, the oldest stock car racing circuit in the West.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Bobby Dotter , Jason Small , Brendan Gaughan , Steve Portenga , Rick Bogart , Jeff Jefferson , Troy Cline , Eric Norris , Scott Gaylord , Jack Sellers , Kevin Richards , Craig Raudman , Auggie Vidovich