DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- David Gilliland (No. 88 RaceCarCeilingFans.com Chevrolet) opened the 2005 season with a win in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in January. He is optimistic he can repeat with another victory when the series returns to the Valley of the Sun for the Casino Arizona 150 on Thursday, April 21. "I think our chances are real good," he said. "Obviously, we have a real good setup there." The Phoenix event - slated as the first NASCAR race under the lights at PIR - will be followed by a NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday, Aug. 22, and a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Saturday, Aug. 23. The West Series race is to be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, SPEED Channel will provide an enhanced replay at 2:30 p.m. ET on May 13. Although Gilliland won the race and the Bud Pole Award in January, he is not content to return to Phoenix with the same car. Last year's West Series Rookie of the Year will be racing in a different car this time around, one that was recently repaired after being damaged last November. "The car we had there last time is our secondary car," Gilliland said of the January event. "We are finishing up work on our best car and will take it. We feel real good about that car. It's the car we had at the (NASCAR Toyota All-Star) Showdown. I really like that car. I really look forward to going back. I feel real comfortable and confident."
Gilliland attributed his success in January to a combination of horsepower and handling. "Obviously, we have a real good setup there and we had a new motor," the Riverside, Calif., driver said. "To be that fast, it was not just one single thing. The motor was running good and the car was working good. The weekend went very smoothly. It was a perfect weekend."
While he set the fastest time in qualifying, Gilliland was content to let Kevin Harvick charge out front and lead the race. "We're here for the championship," Gilliland stressed. "That's our first and foremost goal. He (Harvick) was there to win the race. We decided to let him go and whoever else wanted to go and make sure we saved our stuff. Our plan was to conserve and take charge the last 25 laps."
Gilliland did just that - taking the lead 22 laps from the finish and cruising to his second career series victory.
While the January race was 100 laps in distance, this event is 150 laps and will require a pit stop for fuel. "We're obviously are going to have to do some pit stops," Gilliland acknowledged. "Strategy will definitely play more of a role in this race than the last one. I prefer 150 laps because my crew chief Mike Naake is very good on calls in the pits. This gets the crew chiefs a little more involved."
Being a night race, crews will also need to be prepared to adjust the cars as conditions change, according to Gilliland. "Everybody's going to be fighting the same thing," he said. "I don't think it will change too much."
Looking beyond this event to the overall season, meanwhile, Gilliland says good preparation and "strong consistent finishes" are what it will take to win the series championship. "You've got to be able to unload like we did at Phoenix and be on top of your game," he said. "You can't be behind at any time.
"We learned a lot last year, being our rookie season," Gilliland continued. "I think we're ready. I think our team is ready. I think everybody is focused and pulling in the right direction. Hopefully, we can put everything together and come out on top. That's what we're going to be shooting for - mainly trying to be consistent. If the wins are there, we'll take them.
"I learned a lot from [2004 West Series Champion] Mike Duncan last year," Gilliland said. "I followed him a lot and watched. And I learned a lot from my dad the year he won the championship. We just keep learning. Hopefully, we can put it all toward our main goal."
Gilliland, who turned 29 earlier this month, served as the crew chief for his dad, Butch Gilliland, when he won the series championship in 1997. After a successful stint in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series, the younger Gilliland garnered the rookie title and finished third in the overall standings last year in his first full season in the West Series.
In addition to competing in the upcoming West Series race at Phoenix, Gilliland will also attempt to qualify for the NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday. "We're looking forward to it," he said. "We've got a good car and good motor and a lot of great help behind us. It's going to be a long couple of days, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end."
- The race ...The Casino Arizona 150 is the third race on the series
schedule for 2005. It is the second of two series visits to Phoenix International Raceway this season.
- The track... PIR is a one-mile superspeedway with turns one and two
banked 11 degrees, turns three and four banked nine degrees and two degrees of banking in the dogleg. The track has hosted 18 stand-alone West Series events, including this year's season-opener.
- Under the lights... The NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series
race on Thursday night will be the first NASCAR event under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway. The NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday is slated to finish under the lights and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event on Saturday is also scheduled to conclude under the lights.
- Companion event... Visiting Phoenix International Raceway with NASCAR's
premier series is nothing new for the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. Between 1988 and 1996, drivers from the West Series competed in combination events with the national series. In fact, nine West Series drivers qualified in for the Phoenix race in 1992 in what is now known as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
- Long haul ...Three drivers from the NASCAR Grand National Division,
Busch North Series are slated to make the journey to Phoenix for the Arizona Casino 150. Dale Quarterley (No. 32 EDART Chevrolet) will be making his third appearance in West Series action at PIR. Making their debut in the West Series, meanwhile, will be Ted Christopher (No. 35 Irving Oil/Mainway
Ford) and Ryan Moore (No. 74 R.C. Moore Transportation Chevrolet). In addition to winning the 2001 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national championship, Christopher has nine wins in the Busch North Series and 16 wins in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Moore is a second-generation competitor in the Busch North Series and is slated to run selected events in the NASCAR Busch Series later this year for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
- Community awareness project ... As part of a high school project,
Andrew Lewis (No. 18 BMR Chevrolet) is conducting an effort to increase public awareness of autism. In conjunction with April being Autism Awareness Month, the 18-year-old senior at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., will display an autism ribbon and the "Cure Autism Now" logo on his car at Phoenix. In addition, he plans to donate a portion of his winnings to the organization.
- Familiar face... Jason Small (No. 21 Collins Motorsports Chevrolet)
is slated to make a return to West Series competition at Phoenix. The Bakersfield, Calif., native - who moved to North Carolina a year ago - won the West Series Rookie of the Year title in 1999.
- Last year's race ... Although Mike Duncan (No. 9 Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear
Ends Chevrolet) won the Bud Pole and led the initial stages of the race last October, it was Scott Lynch (No. 08 Mr. Gas Dodge) who quickly became the one to beat as Duncan was sidelined with mechanical woes. Lynch swapped the lead with Johnny Borneman (No. 8 Borneman Plastering/Red Line Oil Ford) through much of the race. While Lynch was en route to his second series win at PIR, Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity Separators/Denver Seminary
Chevrolet) was charging to second. Borneman came home third.
- Multiple winners ... Ken Schrader (No. 99 Federated Auto Parts
Pontiac) is tied with Richard Petty for the most series wins at PIR, with three.
- Most poles ... Petty still leads the number of Bud Pole Awards in
series competition at Phoenix, winning in 1978, 1979 and 1980.
- Top finishes ... Bobby Allison holds the mark for the most top-five
finishes in the series at Phoenix, with six.
- High marks ... Austin Cameron holds the record for the most top-10
series finishes at PIR, with eight, and leads in terms of series winnings at Phoenix, with $69,334.
- Running out front... Petty continues to hold the mark for leading the
most laps of series competition at the Phoenix, meanwhile, running out front for 361 circuits.
- How they compare ... Among drivers who have competed in four or more
series races at Phoenix, the late Neil Bonnett had the best average finish of 2.2 in five races. Among current active drivers with four or more races at PIR, the average finish of 6.6 by Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery
Ford) ranks highest.
- Return performance ... Scott Gaylord (No. 00 Oliver Gravity
Separators/Denver Seminary Chevrolet) has taken the green flag at PIR more than any other driver in the series. In 10 stand-alone West Series events, his best finish was second last October. The veteran driver has also competed in seven combination races with NASCAR's premier series at PIR.
- Wins among manufacturers... Chevrolet has the most wins at Phoenix
International Raceway among automobile manufacturers, with eight.
- Stat of the race ... Five of the 18 West Series races at PIR were won from the Bud Pole, including this year's season opener in January.
On April 19, 1998, Rich Woodland Jr., edged Kevin Harvick by .016 of a second at Phoenix International Raceway to capture his first career win in the West Series. Harvick went on to score five wins that year en route to winning the series championship.
- Casino Arizona 150,
NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Race #3
- Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Ariz.
- 8:00 p.m., Thursday, April 21.
- Track layout:
- 1-mile superspeedway.
- 150 Laps, 150 miles.
- Posted Awards:
- HDNet (Live), SPEED Channel (Enhanced replay, May 13, 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 p.m. PT)
- 2004 winner:
- Scott Lynch.
- 2004 polesitter:
- Mike Duncan.
- Qualifying: Steve Portenga, March 18, 2000, 129.394 mph, 27.822 sec.; Race: Scott Lynch, Oct. 5, 2003, 114.262 mph, 1 hr 18 min 46 sec.
- Pre-race schedule:
- Thursday – Practice, 10:30 a.m.-12:35 p.m. Qualifying, 4:05 p.m. Note: Subject to change.
- NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Top 10:
- 1. David Gilliland 355, 2. Mike Duncan 330, 3. Mike David 320, 4. Scott Lynch 314, 5. Steve Portenga 303, 6. Jason Jefferson 289, 7. Andrew Lewis 253, 8. Daryl Harr 245, 9. Tim Woods III 242, 10. Brett Thompson 240.
- Track Contact:
- Mike Prusinski, (602) 252-3833