On Saturday, June 3 the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series and Midwest Series return to Colorado National Speedway in Erie, Colo., in an Elite Division matchup featuring the two Late Model series in a combined format.
The highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will be credited with a Midwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Midwest Series championship, regardless of their overall finish in the event. The second highest-finishing Midwest Series driver will receive second-place points and so on. Likewise, the highest-finishing Southwest Series driver will be credited with a Southwest Series victory and receive first-place points towards the Southwest Series championship, and so on.
Drivers will be credited with championship points for their respective series, based on whichever series they have previously obtained a NASCAR license for. Drivers will not be credited with a start or championship points outside their “home” series for which they are licensed for.
The Auto Trader is the third race of the season for the Southwest Series and marks the start of the 2006 Midwest Series campaign.
The two series, which use identical race cars under identical rules as part of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, have both raced at Colorado National Speedway, located 25 miles north of Denver, on several previous occasions. Saturday’s Auto Trader 150 is the third time they are being brought together in a combined format.
Qualifying will be at a premium as only thirty-two starting positions are available for the 150-lap event, where a full contingent of series regulars will vie for their shot at victory in this unique format. Several local NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series drivers will attempt to qualify, led by multi-time track champion Roger Avants, of Littleton, Colo.
Northwest driver Brandon Rhiel won last year's race at Colorado.
Other notable local competitors entered in this marquee event include Jerry Robertson of Denver, Bruce Yackey of Greeley, Colo., Kevin Clark of Colorado Springs, Colo., Mike Gallegos of Wheat Ridge, Colo., Greg Fowler of Erie, Trevor Morrical of Brighton, Colo., Jon Backman of Parker, Colo., Danny Mientka of Colorado Springs, Colo., Kenneth Walter of Littleton, Colo., Darren Crocker of Littleton, Colo., and Dave Finley of Brighton, Colo.
Two-time defending Southwest Series champion Jim Pettit II, of Prunedale, Calif., is clawing his way back into the top 10 in the Southwest Series standings after a rough start this season. Pettit finished eighth at Shasta Raceway Park three weeks ago and currently sits 13th after two races this season. Pettit eyes a return trip to the winner's circle at CNS after finishing second to Jerry Robertson in August 2005.
"I love racing at Colorado National," Pettit said. "It is a long [trip], but the racing is always some of the best all year and the fans are incredible. I have always run real well there and hope that I am there at the end this weekend. It is going to be a tough race to win as the best of the Midwest will make it one of the more competitive fields all season."
Looking to back up his thrilling win at CNS last season is Brandon Riehl, of Boring, Ore., who currently holds the point lead in the Northwest Series. "I am looking forward to Colorado, but it is going to be tough with all the top guys there,” Riehl said. “This could be the toughest race of the season."
The Midwest Series will kick off their season at CNS led by nine-time champion Steve Carlson, of West Salem, Wis., Carlson will be joined by the top drivers of the Midwest Series including Tim Schendel, Ron Hawley, Dexter Bean, Brent Kirchner, Josh Vadnais and David Finney.
The Auto Trader "150" could well be the best race of the season and it looms as one of the most important races in this year's championship chase. The green flag is set to wave at 8:10 p.m. Saturday, June 3.
Jim Pettit (left) has had a tough start to the 2006 season, but he's coming back.