DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- Infineon Raceway outside Sonoma, California will host the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series for the 18th time this Saturday, June 25 in the running of the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream "200". The 200 kilometer event will feature a diverse field of veteran series drivers, rookies, and a few NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series stars hoping that track time will pay dividends on Sunday.
Current Southwest Series point leader Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. knows that this race is pivotal in his bid for a second consecutive championship. "This always a tough race for the series," Pettit said. "There are always several road course specialists that enter this event and with 42 starters if you have a bad day then it can hurt you in the points. Our goal is to run in the top ten and if we can finish in the top five then we will have accomplished what we needed to do."
Many share Pettit's thoughts. "This is a race can be tough if you don't stay on course," said 2002 series champion Eddy McKean. The past two season's McKean has had top ten runs going only to have on-track incidents sideline his efforts.
The Infineon race marks the halfway point of the season for the Southwest Series and an important crossroads for many drivers. Don Campbell from Campbell, Calif. has waited for this race all season. Campbell currently leads the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings after six races in his first season racing on ovals after more than ten years competing in road racing.
Campbell has been running at the finish of each Southwest Series race this season and has scored one top ten finish. Infineon raceway is where he hopes to can showcase his talents and run up front with the series regulars. "I am really getting comfortable with this type of car," Campbell said. "I am really looking forward to racing at Infineon and seeing how I compare with the veterans of the series."
The 1.99-mile layout is fast and demands precision at every turn. One driver who has mastered the Infineon layout is Jim Inglebright of nearby Fairfield, Calif. Inglebright won three straight Southwest Series events at Infineon from 2000-2002 and was a Southwest Series regular during the 1990's. "I have always felt comfortable at Infineon," Inglebright said. "This track can be a big equalizer. You just have to keep your tires on the asphalt and not make any mistakes."
No less than five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday's Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 for the Southwest Series. Michael Waltrip will drive a Chevrolet in his first start in the Southwest Series, while Kyle Busch, Travis Kvapil, Boris Said and Hermie Sadler are also set to compete. Said is the only driver who has previously competed in the Southwest Series, including a 25th place effort in last year's Snap-on Tools 200 and a runner-up finish in 2003. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular and Southwest Series graduate Kevin Harvick also won the event in 2003.
Kvapil will be driving a car prepared by Chuck Carruthers and Jeff Jefferson, two-time and defending NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series champion crew chief and driver. "We're looking forward to getting some track time in the Southwest Series," Kvapil said. "This will be my first race in Sonoma so I'll need to get as many laps in as I can."
Busch will drive for the same team, MRG Motorsports; that enabled David Gilliland to take the checkered flag at Infineon in 2004. Kyle's brother Kurt Busch won the Southwest Series race at Infineon en route to the series championship in 1999, before beginning his rise to stardom at Roush Racing.
More than 45 drivers are expected at Infineon, placing additional pressure on the teams during qualifying for one of the 42 starting spots in the $96,000 event.
Practice and qualifying for the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 takes place on Friday, June 24, with the green flag set to drop on the 64-lap feature on Saturday at 1 p.m. (Pacific). For ticket information, call 800-870-RACE or visit www.infineonraceway.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
Back in Time: Roman Calczynski scored the first Southwest Series win at Infineon back in 1987 in a 37-lap contest edging Jon Paques by one second. Jim Insolo, Ron Esau, and Bill Schmidt rounded out the top five finishers. Duke Heonshell was the top finishing rookie with a seventh place performance. Mike Chase left Infineon with a four point lead in the standings over Calczynski.
Stats: Jim Inglebright and Jon Paques each have three victories at Infineon. Ron Hornaday and Ken Pedersen have two wins apiece with seven drivers tied with one win. Doug McCoun and David Gilliland are the only active series drivers to have won at Infineon.
Blue Lizard Australian Suncream: Was developed in Australia, uses the most technologically advanced sun protective ingredients that make sure the harmful UVB and the deadly UVA rays are blocked. When applied correctly (about 1 fluid ounce applied to dry skin of the average race fan) Blue Lizard blocks over 99-percent of UVA light while providing an SPF of 30 for UVB protection and Blue Lizard keeps protecting for four hours of vigorous activity.
About Infineon Raceway: Infineon Raceway is located 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and serves as the gateway to the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country. The track hosts several nationally televised events, including NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Superbike tour, and the IRL IndyCar Series. Infineon Raceway is a year-round motorsports complex with events scheduled 340 days and 50 weekends a year. More than one-half million fans passed through the gates during the 2004 season.
- The race:
- Blue Lizard Australian Suncream "200" (Race No. 7 of the 14-race NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series season.)
- The track:
- Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (1.99-mile road course.)
- The date/time:
- Saturday, June 25, 1:00 p.m. (PT).
- Posted awards:
- Race length:
- 200 kilometers, 127.36 miles, 64 laps.
- Track layout:
- 1.99-mile Road Course
- 2004 winner:
- David Gilliland
- 2004 Pole Sitter:
- Boris Said
- Southwest Series Top 10:
- 1. Jim Pettit, II 974, 2. Auggie Vidovich 938, 3. Burney Lamar 900, 4. M K Kanke 872, 5. Greg Voigt 836, 6. Eddy McKean 815, 7. Greg Pursley 796, 8. Thomas Martin 780, 9. Nick Lynch 754, 10. Rip Michels 717
- Track contact:
- John Cardinale (707) 933-3907; email@example.com.