Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Left Coast Race Scene: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West to Take The Sonoma Challenge
by Dave Grayson
The drivers do a left turn followed by a right turn. They have to do it at least ten times per lap for a total of 64 laps. The slightest mishap in the middle of a turn and the drivers will find themselves on the side of the road completely engulfed in a dust storm. When the physically grueling process is all over, the drivers will be hot and tired. If any one of them are lucky, they'll get to park their car in victory lane after the long day is over.
That's pretty much a typical day at the Sonoma Raceway, the massive road course located in northern California's wine country. It's also the location of the Pick N Pull Racing To Stop Hunger 200, next Saturday's race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The West Series race at Sonoma is steeped in tradition. The series has been racing there since 1969. It's regarded by many as the most mentally and physically demanding event on the circuit. It's also the one race on the schedule that everyone wants to win the most.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Sonoma is also about collecting and protecting championship points. One mishap on this road course can cost a driver a ton of points. On the opposite end of the subject, someone else's mishap can lead to a direct gain in a driver's points standings.
Going into next Saturday, Dylan Kwasniewski leads the series' points standings and is considered to be a pre race favorite to win. The 17 year old high school student, from Las Vegas-Nevada, is the driver of the #03 Royal Purple Oil/Rockstar Energy Drink Ford for Gene Price Motorsports. He's on a hot streak this year and regarded by many observers as a future real deal in racing. He already has two wins this year and is the only driver in the series to score top five finishes in all seven of the races held so far.
Second in the standings is the other side of Gene Price Motorsports. Reigning series champion Greg Pursley is 12 points out of first and will be looking to eradicate that number this Saturday. The driver of the #26 Star Nursery/Real Water Ford is also enjoying a good season and has already claimed two wins. The Parker-Arizona native has almost made it clear that scoring his first ever win at Sonoma this weekend is a high priority item on his personal to do list.
Third in the standings, 25 points away, is Atascadero-California's David Mayhew , the driver of the #17 MMI Services/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet for team owner Steve McGowan. Mayhew already scored his first series win during the first half of the season and is expected to become a force to be reckoned with on Saturday.
Mayhew will also be performing double duty at Sonoma. Earlier in the week he was invited to drive the #98 Phil Parsons Ford in Sunday's Toyota/Sav Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. He will be subbing for Michael McDowell who is obligated to drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the Road America road course.
Fourth in the standings is Lakeport-California's Derek Thorn who also has his first series win of the year wrapped up. Thorn is the driver of the #6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Springs Ford for team owner Bob Bruncati. Having series veteran, and former series champion, Bill Sedgwick as a crew chief is also a major plus here. This team is also regarded as a pre race favorite.
Rounding out the top five in the West Series' standings is Escalon-California's Eric Holmes. The three time series' champion is the driver of the #20 Napa Auto Parts Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, an organization that has five series championships to their credit. Holmes is seeking his first win of the season but has displayed plenty of strength with five, consecutive, top five finishes. He's also well aware that the Sonoma road course has a great deal of potential for earning the points he'll need to get a run at a fourth title on track.
Because the Pick N Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200 is such a traditional event, with a high level of prestige, the entry is loaded with special guests some, of whom, are making a return to the West Series following a lengthy absence.
One of the more prominent names in this category is NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Gilliland who will be driving the #25 Pick N Pull Chevrolet for Naake-Klauer Motorsports. Gilliland is returning to his early racing roots this weekend. He drove for this team during the 2004 and 2005 seasons when it was owned by MRG Motorsports. He's also won the West Series event in Sonoma back in 2007.
Add, to this prominent list, the name Eric Norris the 2002 series champion who last appeared at a West Series event back in the 2004 season. The Dana Point-California driver will be piloting the #31 Kickstart Kids Chevrolet for team owner Patti Offenbach. He has been spending his professional time with his other passion: stunt coordination for the Hollywood film industry. He learned that trade while working on the CBS Television series "Walker, Texas Ranger," starring his famous father Chuck Norris. Currently he's the Stunt Coordinator for the critically acclaimed television series "Sons Of Anarchy" on the FX Network.
Fan favorite Austin Cameron is also entered in the Sonoma race. The El Cajon-California driver will be piloting the #12 AC Motorsports Toyota. His West Series career dates back to 1998 and he has 15 series' wins to his credit. Lately, he has been running a limited schedule. His last appearance was back in April at the Miller Motorsports Park road course race where he finished fifth. Also of interest here is the fact that Mike Harvick will be manning the pit box. Yes, that's Kevin's father who is a well known car builder and crew chief.
Also of interest is the entry of Johnny Borneman III. The Ramona-California driver will be behind the wheel of the #61 Red Line Oil/Thompson Motorsports Chevrolet normally driven by Brett Thompson. The fact that racing veteran Steve Teets will be sitting on top of the pit box is a definite bonus. Borneman, a third generation driver, made his West Debut back in 2000 and has a long history of road course racing.
Fairfield-California's Jim Inglebright is a veteran road racer and a long time member of the West Series. The 50 year old driver's last appearance was at last year's Sonoma event where he finished sixth. He will be driving the #1 Federated Auto Part Chevrolet and, with his expertise in turning left and right, could turn out to be a dark horse winner next Saturday.
The one entry in next Saturday's race that's bound to draw a lot of attention is Bridal Veil-Oregon's Hershel McGriff, who will be driving the #4 Park Corporation Chevrolet. The 1986 series' champion is now 84 years young and leads the series with the most wins among active drivers. He totally surprised everyone a few years ago when he came out of retirement to have some fun on the series' road course events. His racing history and personal stats alone says pay attention to this driver on Saturday.
Also unique to Saturday's race is the event sponsor and the important cause they're endorsing. A subsidiary of Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc, Pick N Pull Self Service Auto and Truck Dismantlers was founded in 1987 and now has 51 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Their stores are an industry leading chain of self service auto parts centers providing recycled original equipment parts at discount prices.
Yet another impressive aspect to this company is their effort to feed the hungry. Each one of their stores supports a local food bank and encourages store patrons to make a donation while saying "it only takes $1 to create $4 worth of food. Every dollar, helps make sure fewer people go hungry each day."
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
Saturday's Pick N Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200 is race number eight of 15 on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West 2012 schedule. It has been a highly competitive season so far. Seven races has produced five different winners.
The race is 64 laps, 127.36 miles, around the Sonoma Raceway's 1.99 mile, ten turn, road course.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano is the defending race champion but is not entered in this year's event.
The series' qualifying record, 91.979 MPH/77.888 seconds, was set by former series' regular David Gilliland back in June of 2007.
The race has 32 posted pre entries and can accommodate a field of 40 cars.
The race will be video taped by the SPEED Channel who will air it on July 12th at 3 pm eastern time.