DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- This Saturday night the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series returns to Northern California for the first time after a 16 year absence, with the running of the Shasta "125" at Shasta Raceway Park in Anderson, Calif. The event at Shasta will be the 12th event of the 2005 campaign and could well determine this year's champion.
The last time the Southwest Series ran at Shasta, Ronald Reagan was President, Rainman won the Academy Award for best picture, and the world witnessed the events at Tiananmen Square. In 1989, Dan Press was the top dog of the Southwest Series and captured the series crown and the last Southwest Series race staged at the then 1/3-mile paved oval.
Many things have changed since April of 1989 but one constant remains, as far as the Southwest Series is concerned. Bob Lyon of Aqua Dulce, Calif. has become the ironman of the Southwest Series starting 283 career races dating back to 1987. Lyon is the only current competitor that competed at Shasta Raceway Park back in 1989. Lyon finished 6th that day in a race won by Dan Press.
"I love racing," Lyon said. "Sometimes it is hard to imagine I have been at this so long, but I still find it thrilling. The competition is as tough as ever and going back to Shasta is a real good thing for the series."
Despite the absence on the schedule over the years, the current group of series regulars is excited about the chance to return to one of California's great short tracks. Led by current point leader and defending Southwest Series champion, Jim Pettit II, the 2005 title could come down to the race this weekend.
"We all love to race," Pettit said. "The track will be the same for everyone because none of us have run here in this type of car. Ryan Foster is the guy I think we should keep our eye on as he has a lot of laps here over the last couple of years."
With the championship coming down to the final three races, Pettit is focused on what he needs to do to repeat as champion. "We just have to do what we have done all season and that is finish and finish well," Pettit said. "Pettit from Prunedale, Calif. looks to become only the second driver in series history to repeat as champion. Ron Hornaday accomplished that feat back in the 92-93 seasons.
While Pettit leads an experienced veteran contingent, Ryan Foster hopes to reap some hometown rewards. Foster a current Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year competitor on the Southwest Series has made five starts this season with one top five and three top ten finishes.
"When the Southwest Series schedule came out I was excited to see Shasta on the schedule," Foster said. "This series is tough and no one just comes in and wins, but I feel I have a great chance this weekend. We have run real well in the races I have started this year and I feel pretty confident."
Another driver looking to boost his point total this weekend is 2002 Southwest Series champion Eddy McKean. McKean used the break in the Southwest Series schedule over the past six weeks to keep his skills sharp by competing in a couple of Northwest and Midwest Series events. McKean led 129 laps at his hometown track of Magic Valley Speedway in Northwest Series action before a late race incident knocked him out of contention. He then went back to Milwaukee, Wis. to compete in the Midwest Series event were he finished fifth.
"My goal right know is to just move up in the standings," McKean said. "Catching Jim and Burney (Lamar) is a long shot so finishing as high as we can is our priority." McKean has finished in the top five final point standings in each of his four years on the series.
Another driver that got a little extra seat time during the break was Burney Lamar. Lamar, a native of the Sacramento, Calif. area moved back to North Carolina and is working for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standout Kevin Harvick. Lamar scored his second NASCAR Grand National West Series victory of the season this past week at California Speedway. It was Lamar's third start in the series.
Hoping that hometown luck proves significant is 2001 Southwest Series champion Craig Raudman. Raudman relocated his family back to the Anderson area were he grew up. Raudman will attempt to make his second start of the season in preparation for a full-time bid next season.
Pettit tops Burney Lamar in the standings by 125 points. 2003 Southwest Series champion Auggie Vidovich trails Lamar by nine points and sits third in the standings after three wins this season. The most recent winner on the series, M.K. Kanke, holds down the fourth position by one point over McKean. Greg Voigt, Greg Pursley, Nick Lynch, Rip Michels, and Thomas Martin round out the top ten in the standings with three races left to go.
Bob Lyon and Sunoco Rookie leader Don Campbell are just outside the top ten hoping that a late season charge will put them in the top ten. Both drivers are looking for an invitation to the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown that will be staged in November pitting the top ten NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division drivers from each regional series.
The Shasta "125" may well mark the turning point of the 2005 Southwest Series campaign where something old is new again. The green flag is set to wave at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, September 10 for round twelve of the 14-race championship series.
- Press Conference ... George Wade and the staff of Shasta Raceway Park will hold a press conference this Friday, September 9 at 12:30 p.m. at the racetrack. Southwest Series point leader Jim Pettit II, Sunoco Rookie competitor Ryan Foster will be in attendance. Following the press conference the racetrack will hold an open practice for all competitors and then host a barbecue for all in attendance.
- Alumni Spotlight... Kurt Busch, The reigning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and 1999 Southwest Series Champion, finished 12th at California; he will become the sixth driver to clinch a spot in the championship contest when he starts his car at Richmond. Busch has 13 top-10 finishes this year. He has competed in nine races at Richmond with one top-10 finish, an eighth in 2003. He placed 15th in this race last year and 17th in May. Busch has a 20.3 average finish at Richmond.
- Points … Jim Pettit II has an average finish position of 4.6 over the first eleven races of the season and needs to only average a fifth place finish in each of the final four races to clinch the title.
- Bud Pole Awards... Craig Raudman 29 career Bud Pole Awards to lead all series drivers. Burney Lamar has 14 career fast times and has scored three Bud Poles this season.
- Rookies... Don Campbell is the only Sunoco rookie competitor to start all eleven races so far this season and sits in 12th place in the overall standings heading into the final three races of the season Campbell is 114 points out of tenth. Dustin Jones, Stephan Sadler, Ryan Foster and David Mayhew have only run selected races this season and will also be in action this weekend at Shasta.
- 283 and Counting... That is how many career Southwest Series starts Bob Lyon from Aqua Dulce, Calif. has. Lyon has started more races than any other competitor in series history. His Southwest Series career started back in 1987. Lyon finished 6th at Shasta in the series' last event on the 1/3-mile paved oval.
- Changes at Shasta... When the Southwest Series last staged an event at Shasta Raceway Park the track was configured as a 1/3-mile paved oval. Today, the track has been lengthened to a 3/8-mile. Old notes and setups may be of little help when the series returns. Only Bob Lyon competed in the last series event staged at Shasta in April of 1989.
- History Lesson... Dan Press held off a determined Roman Calczynski to win the Stroh's 100 at the then 1/3-mile layout. Ron Hornaday, Mike Chase, and local star Roger Gannon rounded out the top five finishers. The race took just 36 minutes to complete with five caution periods for 22 laps. Calczynski started on the pole but Press past him on lap six and never looked back. Randy Laskowsky was the top finishing rookie with a 16th place effort. Ray Hooper Jr. and Dan Press were tied atop the point standings after three events in the 20-race campaign. Press went on to claim the title that year by 103 points over Mike Chase.
- Shasta "125"
- Shasta Raceway Park, Anderson, Calif.
- NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series
- Sat., September 10 at 8:30 p.m.. (Pacific Time).
- Posted awards:
- Race length:
- 125 laps, 46.875 miles
- Track layout:
- 3/8-mile oval.
- Track contact:
- George Wade, (530) 378-6789
- Pre-Race Schedule (All Times Local):
- Registration begins 9:30 a.m., Haulers Enter 10:00 a.m., Practice 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.(Alternating), Bud Pole Qualifying 5:00 p.m., Shasta "125" 8:30 p.m.
- Available by calling (530) 378-6789
- Online Info: