YAKIMA, Wash. –With two races remaining in the 2008 ARCA West Circle K Late Model Challenge Series season Wes Rhodes and his rookie of the year teammate, Jared Vorse, are locked in a hotly contested battle for the points championship.
A mere 17 points separate each driver with 350 laps of racing left in the season.
Rhodes has yet to picked up a main event victory this season but has been the model of consistency with top-5 finishes from week to week.
Vorse is one of five drivers that have earned their first career wins on the ARCA West series in 2008 and had been atop the points ladder as late as the last weekend in July. A sub-par run on July 26 in addition to Rhodes consistency have set the table for a make or break run at Yakima Speedway in the NAPA 150 Shootout.
The challenges facing Vorse are compounded by the fact that the 21-year old has never taken part in a late model race at Yakima Speedway while Rhodes has years of experience heading into the Labor Day showdown.
Both drivers will have to contend with a stellar field of talent as Yakima late m odel points leader, Mike Longton, will be out to challenge for another ARCA West victory. Longton won this event in 2004 and looks to join Garrett Evans as the only two-time series winner at Yakima Speedway. Evans will not be out to defend his Labor Day race win from 2007 but plans to return to competition at Wenatchee on September 13.
Longton, Rhodes and Vorse will face the region’s hottest driver, Gary Lewis, who plans to bounce back from a set back in the Miller 200 at South Sound Speedway on August 2 that heavily damaged his race car. Up to that point Lewis had won all six of his 2008 starts.
Lewis most recent wins at Yakima Speedway came last year in the facilities annual Fall Classic Race of Champions and Limited Late Model main event.
Owen Riddle, the 2007 Yakima Speedway late model champion will be making his first career start on the series and will look to become the sixth first time winner of 2008 should he prevail on the famed .500-mile.
Each of the aforementioned drivers has a legitimate chance to win the NAPA 150, but the 2007 ARCA West Port City Racecars Rookie of the Year, Erick Hargraves, may be the sleeper pick of the night.
While Lewis, Longton, Riddle, Vorse and Rhodes have earned all the attention in 2008, Hargraves has quietly put together a strong season with a ARCA win at Wenatchee Valley, a runner-up finish to Lewis in the Idaho 200, a late model win at Yakima and his first career po le award on the Late Model Challenge Series in Wenatchee on July 26.
The NAPA 150 field will also include former Yakima Speedway champion, Scott Walker, defending ASA Northwest Tour champion, B.J. Tidrick, Canada’s Korbin Thomas, Chelan’s Marty Wason, former Tri-Cities Raceway late model champion, Brad Rhoads, three-time Northwest Modified champion, Josh Roberts and many more.
Hargraves’ engine builder, Jeff Bird, has joined forces with Cope Brothers Machine Shop. T-Mac Performance, Somer’s Machine Inc., Freight Train Racing Engines, Powerhouse Machine and Nutter Racing Engines for the 3rd Annual Builders Challenge. The race within the race rewards the top-finishing driver powered by an engine from one of the seven with a monetary payout and the right to say that his engine builder was king for that night. Each builder has sponsored $300 towards the evening’s $18,000 purse making the Yakima Speedway event a big draw for ARCA teams and those taking part in Saturday’s ASA Northwest Tour race.
Sunday’s purse includes a payout of $2,300 to the race winner and a minimum of $500 to start the NAPA 150. ARCA West drivers will take the green flag for 89th time in series history this Sunday night as over 300 teams have participated over the first nine years of the series existence. For ticket and other information regarding the NAPA Labor Day Spectacular call (509) 248-0647.