NWS: Yakima III: Pre-race notebook
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES -- AERO EXHAUST 200 NOTEBOOK DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series heads to Yakima (Wash.) Speedway for the final time in its 22-year history.
NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, NORTHWEST SERIES -- AERO EXHAUST 200 NOTEBOOK
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2006) -- The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series heads to Yakima (Wash.) Speedway for the final time in its 22-year history. Gary Lewis could wrap up the 2006 Northwest Series championship in this event, but competition for a top-10 finish in points remains tight. The final top 10 will earn an invitation to the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown to be held Oct. 20-21 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
THE TRACK: Yakima Speedway is scheduled to host its 42nd Northwest Series event this weekend. Bill Lawrence holds the one-lap qualifying record for the 1/2-mile oval. He posted a time of 18.286 seconds (98.436 mph) on April 19, 1995. Four-time series champion Garrett Evans has won the most events of any driver with six. Jeff Jefferson and Ron Eaton, each three-time series champions, hold the career mark for Bud Poles with six each. Five former winners at Yakima Speedway (John Bender, Evans, Pete Harding, Lewis and Brandon Riehl) are pre-entered for this event.
SOUTHWEST FLAVOR: A familiar foe from Northwest Series events at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho will make his Yakima debut. The NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series' Eddy McKean will be on hand. He currently ranks third and trails point leader Rip Michels by 45 points in the Southwest Series rankings. Also, he already has a Northwest Series second-place effort under his belt in the Northwest's first visit to Magic Valley in June.
MISSION POSSIBLE: Lewis has been on a mission to win his second Northwest Series championship all season long and he could complete his task this weekend. There are several variables at work in the equation, but the possibility exists. Lewis enters the Aero Exhaust 200 at Yakima with a 94-point lead over Brandon Riehl.
THE ROOKIES: The battle for the Northwest Series' Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year award rages on. This is a battle that undoubtedly will not be resolved before the conclusion of the season's final race. Shane Mitchell still holds the top spot in the standings with 57 points. Right on his heels is Jay Sauls with 52 points. Still in the mix with 47 points each are Jason Fraser and Brent Harris. This year, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year will be awarded to the rookie driver with the highest finish in their best eight races respective to the other rookie contenders.
COZY QUARTERS: The top 10 finishers in the championship point standings earn a berth in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown and those competitors are far from being determined. Five drivers (Steven Howard, Harding, Mike Longton, Wilbur Bruce and B.J. Tidrick) ranked from eighth to 12th in points are separated by a slim 15 points. In fact, Zan Sharp in the 18th slot is very much alive at 69 points behind 10th-place Longton.
ROUND AND ROUND THEY GO: To date this season, the Northwest Series has run 1133 laps and not a single driver has completed each one. Lewis missed a single lap earlier in the campaign, but has completed the remaining 1132 to lead all competitors. Mitchell is second with 1111 laps under his belt followed by Troy Tramell with 1101 circuits around the various tracks. Lewis with his three wins on the year paces the field in laps led with 327. Riehl, who also has three victories this season, has been out front for 211 laps. Jeff Barkshire, who has yet to park his car in victory lane, has led the second-most laps (277) this season in the Northwest Series.
ALUMNI REPORT: Northwest Series graduate Greg Biffle is one of 13 drivers with a mathematical chance of clinching a spot in the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Heading into Sunday's Sony HD 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Biffle, a native of Vancouver, Wash., is ranked 12th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings. Biffle, a former race winner at California, is 251 points behind 10th-place Mark Martin.
Ticket information for this weekend's Aero Exhaust 200 can be obtained by calling Yakima Speedway at (509) 248-0647 or by logging onto www.yakimaspeedway.us.
What: Aero Exhaust 200 (Race No. 9 of 10 in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series).
Where: Yakima Speedway, Yakima, Wash.
When: 7:30 p.m. PDT (approx.), Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006; 2 -- 25-lap qualifying races 7:30 PDT (approx.), Sat. Sept. 2, 2006
Track layout: 1/2-mile oval
Race length: 200 laps/100 miles.
Posted awards: $60,933
2005 winner: Brandon Riehl.
2005 polesitter: Jeff Bailey.
Top 10 in points: 1. Gary Lewis -1322; 2. Brandon Riehl--1228; 3. Travis Bennett--1169; 4. Jeff Barkshire--1104; 5. Jay Sauls--1073; 6. Shane Mitchell--1073; 7. Garrett Evans--1049; 8. Steven Howard--1010; 9. Pete Harding--1000; 10. Mike Longton--999
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Sat., 9/2 - 10:00 a.m. Registration opens; 2:30-4:30 p.m. Practice; 6:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying; 7:30 p.m. 2 -- 25 lap qualifying races. Sun., 9/3 -- 2:00 p.m. Registration opens; 4:00-4:30 p.m. Practice; 7:30 -- Aero Exhaust 200