The thundering sound and excitement that is NASCAR racing returns to Pacific Raceways after a 17 year hiatus, and for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series it is a welcome addition to the schedule. This Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series showcases NASCAR's Stars of Tomorrow in the inaugural running of the Northwest Chevy Dealers "150" presented by Comcast at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.
Situated in the foothills of the beautiful Cascade Mountains of Western Washington and nestled in the shadow of Mount Rainier, Pacific Raceways offers a picturesque backdrop to one of the most challenging road courses in America. Sunday's 63-lap race will have the top stars of the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series vie for their share of $82,872 in posted awards in race eleven of the 14-race championship series.
Chris Hart of Yakima, Wash. continues his domination of the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series and leads the point standings for the fifth straight race on the strength of seven consecutive top five finishes. Hart hopes to add a road course win to his resume' after Sunday's event.
The last time Hart competed on a road course he finished fourth. "I like the road courses," Hart said. "They are a lot tougher in some ways, but a lot of fun."
A driver attempting to upstage the series regulars will be two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip of Sherrills Ford, NC. Waltrip will make the trip west after competing in the NASCAR Winston Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Waltrip has never seen the track. "Racing with the Northwest Series at Pacific Raceways will be a challenge," Waltrip said.
"Everyone mentions the elevation changes, long straights, and winding turns," Waltrip continued. "I've seen the layout on paper and it looks like you're on the gas more than off. It should be a great event."
Several Victory Circle Chassis' Rookie-of-the-Year candidates will visit Pacific Raceways for the first time this weekend including rookie point leader Jason Jefferson of Yakima, Wash. Jefferson sits second in the overall standings just 102 points behind leader Hart. "Every race is a learning experience," Jefferson said. "I think we'll be pretty good as far as the car goes, I just do not have any experience on a road course."
Brandon Riehl of Boring, Ore. will also make his first ever road course start and is excited about the challenge. "I just love to race," Riehl said. "I'll let you know what I think after my first trip through turn one."
Returning to the series after missing two of the last three events is veteran driver and the 1999 Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series champion Pete Harding of Surrey, BC. Harding likes his chances Sunday. "This is a fast road course," Harding said. "Experience might favor the veterans, but since this is the first time here for the series, it becomes more a race of luck. We have a great road course car and since we are not running for points, I am looking to win."
Jason Fiorito, President of Pacific Raceways, has looked forward to bringing NASCAR back for a long time. "It is sponsors like the Northwest Chevy Dealers who make and event like this possible," Fiorito said. "It has been our mission to return this facility to its previous glory. Hosting the NASCAR Elite Division is one more step in that direction."
"The Northwest Chevy Dealers 150 is a great opportunity to bring NASCAR racing to the fans of the Northwest and we can't wait for the action to begin," said Scott Conway, Marketing Manager for Chevrolet.
Two-time defending series champion Kevin Hamlin is appreciative of the effort the staff of Pacific Raceways has put into this event. "You can tell how excited they are about this event," Hamlin said. "It really is great to see how important this race is to the track and the fans in the area. It looks like it is going to be a real big deal."
Pacific Raceways opened in 1960 and last hosted a NASCAR event in 1986 when the late Dale Earnhardt took the checkers in a NASCAR Winston West Series race.
Pacific Raceways has scheduled a media day Thursday, August 21 at 12:15 pm at the track that will feature Jeff Jefferson, Ed Watson, Kevin Hamlin, Joe Benedetti, and Jason Jefferson.
Several Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series drivers will compete in a celebrity golf tournament on Friday, August 22 at the Washington National Golf Course in Auburn, Wash. at 1:30 pm. Following the on track activities on Saturday, August 23, race fans are invited to join the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series drivers for the Pacific Raceways afterglow party that will include live entertainment and the GMAC Fireworks Spectacular.
The Northwest Chevy Dealers "150" presented by Comcast is set to take the green flag at 3:15 pm PDT this Sunday, August 24 where Michael Waltrip will look to take center stage, but he will have to beat the best of NASCAR's stars of tomorrow, today!
THE INSIDE LINE .. The race within the race. Jason Jefferson tops the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year leader board after ten events. Jefferson has been the top finishing rookie in eight of ten races this season. Jeff Bailey, Rod Schultz Sr., Brandon Riehl, and Brian Saling round out the top-five Rookies. .. Gary Lewis won the last time the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series competed on a road course. Lewis beat Steve Hodge by 8.5 seconds on June 23, 2001 at Portland Int'l Raceway. Other road course winners in RBNWS competition include: Mark Martin (1995), Lance Hooper (1996), Tom Hubert (1997), Rudy Revak (1998), and John Zaretske (2000). .. Streaking: Chris Hart has won three races this season and has seven consecutive top five finishes with an average finishing position of 3.7. Ed Watson has two straight top ten finishes and has moved to within 20 points of the NASCAR Top 10. .. Driver to keep your eye on: Rick Suran has stayed in the NASCAR Top 10 for the past three events. Suran is currently 8th in the standings after his first top five finish of the year and is looking for his first career victory in Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series competition. .. Hoosier Racing Tire is the official tire of the NASCAR Elite Division in 2003 and will award 32 tires to eligible car owners at each series event. Hoosier will also award two tires to the highest eligible Rookie-of-the-Year candidate's car owner. .. Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series contingency sponsors include: Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Featherlite Trailers, Five Star, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, Hoosier Tires, JR Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Powerade, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Race Gas, Victory Circle Chassis, and Wix Air Filters.
MOVING UP .. Brandon Riehl of Boring, Ore. moved closer to the NASCAR Top-10 after a 7th place effort at Raceway Park August 9. Riehl sits in the 13th position in the overall standings, just 60 points out of 10th place.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK .. "I'll let you know what I think after my first trip through turn one."- Brandon Riehl (No. 68 Darrel's Econmy Muffler Chevrolet).
PAGE FROM THE PAST June 23, 2001 Gary Lewis topped Steve Hodge to win the last road course event contested on the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series. Joe Benedetti crossed the line in third, with Chris Hart in fourth and Jeff Jefferson in fifth. Steven Howard, Greg Bennett, Pete Harding, Garrett Evans, and Rick Suran rounded out the top ten finishers at Portland Int'l Raceway.
What: Northwest Chevy Dealers "150" presented by Comcast. Race 11 of 14 for the NASCAR Elite Division, Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series.
Where: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash.
When: 3:15.m. PDT, Sunday, August 24.
Track layout: 2.25-mile paved road course.
Race length: 63 laps, 141.75 miles.
Posted awards: $82,872 2002 winner: Inaugural Event in 2003
2002 Bud Pole winner: Inaugural Event in 2003
Qualifying Record: Inaugural Event in 2003
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday 8/23:7:00 am Registration Opens, 8:00 am Haulers Enter, 9:00 am Inspections Begins, 11:00 am Crew Chief's Meeting, 11:30 am Driver's Meeting, 12:00-1:00 pm Practice, 3:00-4:00 pm Practice. 5:00 pm Garage Closes. Sunday 8/24: 7:00 am Registration and Garage Opens, 8:00 Inspection Begins, 8:30 am Mandatory Crew Chief's Meeting, 9:05- 10:30 am Practice, 10:45 Mandatory Driver and Crew Chief Meeting, 11:00 Mandatory Rookie Driver's Meeting, 12:00- 1:30 pm Grand American Style Qualifying (All Positions), 3:15 pm Northwest Chevy Dealers "150" presented by Comcast.
Track contact: Susan Bond (253) 639-5927. Ticket information: Tickets are available by calling 253/693-5927 or online at www.ticketmaster.com
What: Northwest Chevy Dealers "150"
Where: Pacific Raceways (Kent, Wash.)
When: 3:15 p.m. PDT, Sunday, August 24
Track layout: 2.25-Mile Road Course
Race length: 63 laps/141.75 Miles.
Posted awards: $82,872
Inaugural Event in 2003
2003 Point Standings: 1. Chris Hart, 1638; 2. Jason Jefferson, 1536; 3. Jeff Jefferson, 1516; 4. Gary Lewis, 1478; 5. John Bender, 1428.
Victory Circle Chassis Rookie-of-the-Year Standings: 1. Jason Jefferson, 94; 2. Jeff Bailey, 70; 3. Rod Schultz Sr., 65; 4. Brandon Riehl, 57; 5. Brian Saling, 54.