SPOKANE, Washington -- As he prints out another race schedule and makes a few calls to crew members to rework their schedule for the remainder of the season, Brian Saling, driver of the #23 Pantrol, Inc., Parts Plus, car thinks back to the beginning of the season.
“We really jumped into this thing with both feet,” says 29-year-old Saling, referring to the very competitive Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series, NASCAR Touring. Saling signed on with car owner Jarrod Goodwin in the Spring of 2001 after racing 4-cylinders for the previous 4 years. “We expected extreme challenges, we just didn’t expect them to pull us out of rookie contention this year.”
Saling, who started the season with one car and one motor, experienced what many rookie drivers experience their first year. Mechanical woes, a 3/10ths of a second setup mistake, a blown engine, and continual motor building delays have all added up to a disappointing first time out in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
“We had so much press and such high expectations from people that I think we put even more pressure on ourselves than most,” says an unrelenting Saling. “A lot of people have asked why didn’t just quit for the season and start over next year, but our long-term goals are much bigger. We’re staying focused and pushing ourselves and it’s coming together. Besides, quitting isn’t my style. ” Saling says the team will finish the season in the Northwest Series and will hit it again hard for the Northwest series Rookie of the Year title in 2003.
Car owner Jarrod Goodwin stands by the team’s decision. “We’re not in this for the short haul,” says Goodwin. “Even with the outstanding people we have on the crew, there were just some issues we couldn’t control. But, that’s racing,” grins Goodwin, “If you want to compete, you have to do what the big guys do… get over it and get on with a solution.” For Goodwin, part of that solution was purchasing a second car, two more motors that will be completed for the 2003 season and adding some key personnel.
Voices from the sidelines have also been encouraging. Series Director, Scott Harra, and Media Coordinator, Doug Pace, have been calling Saling and other drivers on a weekly basis to check how things are going and to lend words of encouragement. “It’s tough to be a rookie in this league,” comments Pace. “A lot of these guys have been racing for over a decade and the level of competition is fierce. We have a lot of great talent and great opportunities and I hate to see anyone get discouraged.” The Northwest Series has produced high-profile names such as Busch series drivers Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Washington, and Chad Little of Spokane, Washington.
Among the opportunities for the drivers this year in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. is national television exposure. Harra and Pace worked diligently with NASCAR’s Director of Marketing, Steve O’Donnell and Touring Division Director, Chris Boals to gain unprecedented television coverage on the SPEED channel for the Northwest Series for the Twin Falls, Idaho race (Airing October 7) and the season-end championship race in Wenatchee (Airing October 14). According to Saling, the television coverage has been a big encouragement and even helped the team garner some added sponsorship mid-year.
Saling says despite the tough obstacles, everything is coming together and the plan is to pick up the season again and race the #23 Pantrol, Inc., Parts Plus car in the Kalispell 125, sponsored by Coors Light, Miller Beer Dist., & Rainbow Bar and Casino on August 10th.
For more information about the Raybestos Brakes NASCAR Northwest Touring series, log on to ‘nascar.com’ and click on “Touring and Weekly Series” or go to ‘www.fastfeverracing.com’.