DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- Whenever the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series heads to Colorado National Speedway located outside Denver, Colo., a strong contingent of local drivers are on hand to test their skills against the series regulars. The local flavor always adds an exciting element and has been the recipe for many compelling races.
Qualifying will be at a premium as only 32 starting positions are available for the 150-lap event, where a full contingent of series regulars continue their pursuit of the series title heading into the second to the last point’s race of the season. Several local NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series drivers will attempt to qualify, led by multi-time track champion Roger Avants from Littleton, Colo.
Avants has competed regularly at Colorado National Speedway over the years where has earned multiple track championships and a couple of NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series regional titles. Avants has also dabbled in the Southwest Series where he won the first ever Southwest Series race back in 1986 at Saugus Speedway. He went on to finish fourth in the final standings that year and forever place his name in the series record books.
Another Colorado native hoping to make his mark on the Southwest Series is Kevin Clark from Colorado Springs. Clark is making his first full-time assault on the Southwest Series and currently holds down the tenth spot in the point standings.
Though Clark is in his first full-time season he is no stranger to the Southwest Series. Over the past ten years Clark has made over a dozen starts in the series with a handful of top ten finishes but tackling the series full-time creates some unique challenges.
“Qualifying for these races is the most challenging aspect of racing the Southwest Series,” Clark said. “I always end up racing well but we put ourselves in a hole at the start of the race. Two-tenths is the difference between starting in the top five and starting at the rear.”
With qualifying foremost on his mind, Clark will focus 80% of his time this week on setting the car up to qualifying. “We are going to go at it differently this week,” Clark said. “With this being a combination race with the Midwest and all the local guys in attendance, I really need to ensure that we start up front.”
Clark knows his way around CNS starting his racing career at the 3/8-mile facility back in 1990. Clark toyed in various classes through the mid 90’s then tried his hand at a regional modified series (GART) where he won the 1995 series title on the strength of eight wins in twelve starts. Since that time Clark has concentrated on running the bigger events across the country providing greater exposure for his sponsors.
Clark and his brother run the family business, Kenwood Car Audio, located in Colorado Springs. Recently they launched a new automotive accessory business called Drive-In Gear that has really taken off.
With the help of Sirius Satellite Radio Clark and his team are focus on running up front and receiving and invitation to the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. “This season is really all about making the Showdown and competing against the very best drivers in the country,” Clark said. “Racing in the Southwest Series is where we wanted to run given we could have run in any of the other series’. We love the race tracks on the schedule and the competition is second to none.”
“We expect to do well this weekend and create a bit of a cushion heading into Altamont,” Clark continued. “We started the season off pretty slow and had our share of issues but we have bounced back and feel real good about the rest of the year.”
One driver who was fast from the onset and has kept his momentum rolling all season is Rip Michels from San Fernando , Calif. Michels scored his first career Southwest Series victory last weekend and extended his point lead to 21-points heading into CNS.
Michels’ average finish this season is 3.2 with no finish worse than sixth. That kind of consistency may well spell the difference at seasons end. “It’s been a great year so far,” Michels said. “This series is so tough and to finally pick up a win last weekend is a real boost to the team.”
Colorado is a special event each season and Michels is excited to return to CNS. “We always look forward to going to Colorado National Speedway,” said Michels. “The fans that attend at that track are some of the best and most enthusiastic crowds we get to compete in front of all season. From a driver’s stand point it is a great racetrack with lots of room to pass. The races at the track are always exciting and we look forward to competing at this fast 3/8-mile track.”
David Mayhew from Atascadero, Calif. currently leads the Sunoco Rookie standings who will make his second start at CNS this weekend finds himself in fifth place in the Southwest Series standings after an eleventh place effort last weekend at Irwindale.
Mayhew has three top ten finishes this season and is only 90-points out of fourth place. “We learned a lot last season about how to run this series in the few races we did start,” Mayhew said. “That knowledge has helped us a lot this year along with being able to qualify consistently up front.” Mayhew finished sixth at CNS back in June.
Dan Fredrickson from Elko, Minn. leads the Midwest Series standings by ten points over perennial front runner Tim Schendel of Sparta, Wisc. Fredrickson collected his second Midwest Series victory in as many races two weeks ago in Nashville.
The United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" is the seventh race of the season for the Southwest Series and is fourth combination race with the Midwest Series since last season. This race may well determine the 2006 champion for both series. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 8:30 pm MT Saturday night.
- Alumni Spotlight ...Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Watkins Glen this past weekend. It was Harvick’s first career road course win and moved him up to third in the point standings. Former Southwest Series champion Kurt Busch won the NASCAR Busch Series event at Watkins Glen.
- Points ...Michels leads Eric Holmes by 21 points with Eddy McKean only eleven points back in third.
- Bud Pole Awards...Former series champion Craig Raudman holds the career Bud Pole Award mark at 29. M.K. Kanke has 28 and looks to equal Raudman’s mark this weekend.
- Now that is close...August 18, 2001 at Colorado National Speedway Auggie Vidovich edged Craig Raudman by .001 seconds for the closest margin of victory in Southwest Series history. Raudman went on to win the 2001 Series title while Vidovich finished second.
- Now that is Big...The event at CNS this weekend will offer the largest short track purse in series history at $76,884.
- Keeping Pace...Rip Michels is the only driver to complete all 716 laps contested this season.
- 289 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.
- A Pair...Two races is the most any Southwest Series competitor has won a CNS. M.K. Kanke, Auggie Vidovich, Rick Carelli, and Jerry Robertson have two wins apiece at CNS.
- Better than Average... Jim Pettit II has six top five finishes in the last seven Southwest races at CNS including one victory while Eddy McKean has five top five finishes in the last seven CNS races.
- Track Records...Burney Lamar holds the qualifying record at CNS with a quick lap of 15.736 seconds, while Jerry Robertson holds the 150-lap race record after his victory in 2002. Robertson is the only non-series regular to claim the victory at CNS in Southwest Series action.
- History Lesson...Mark Reed scored the win at CNS back on August 17, 1996 over local star Bruce Yackey. Brothers Craig and Chris Raudman were third and fourth respectively with Frank Maronski rounding out the top five finishers in the 126-lap event. Chris Raudman was the top finishing rookie in the event while Rick Carelli picked up the Bud Pole Award with a quick lap of 16.361 seconds. There were six lead changes among six drivers with Mark Reed leading the last 19 circuits.
- United Power/Touchstone Energy '150"
- Colorado National Speedway, Erie, Colo.
- NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest & Midwest Series
- Sat., August 19 at 8:30p.m. (Mountain Time).
- Posted awards:
- Race length:
- 150 laps, 43.75 miles
- Track layout:
- 3/8-mile oval.
- Track contact:
- Doug Greer, (303) 828-0116.
- Pre-Race Schedule (All Times Local):
- Registration begins 8 a.m., Practice 12:30-2:00 p.m., Bud Pole Qualifying 4:50 p.m., United Power/Touchstone Energy "150" 8:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate. For ticket information call: 24 hour recorded information (303) 665-4173