“We have had a real good year.  Last year we finished third in the points.  We had some trouble but I wasn’t really a championship contender like this year.  It was real neat to get to lead the points for a while and still have a shot at it.  We just have to keep doing what we have been doing all year and hopefully we can come out of Hickory with the win and who knows what could happen.”

Yontz ran consistently for the entire Tri-County event and worked his way up front, finishing the race in the fourth position.  He finished in front of everyone that he needed to be in front of and knows that all he can do this weekend is go for the win.

Brandon Ward Goes Into Finale With 39 Point Lead
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers.  That is what is comes down to in a championship chase.  The numbers for the UARA-Stars 2006 Championship are, 39 points, 43 points, and less than five days.  That is all the separates first from the second and third positions in the current UARA standings.

Brandon Ward is the man on top, and the man that everyone (or at least two guys in the chase) is looking to knock off of that top spot as they are headed into the final event at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).

Those two guys are Alex Yontz and Kyle Grissom, but the point leader knows that his narrow margin makes him a marked man this weekend at Hickory.

“Thirty-nine isn’t enough of a point lead over Yontz and Grissom,” laughed Ward.  “It is going to be the same as it has been really the whole second half of the year.  I think that we are all still really close enough that any of us could win it.  Basically it makes it to where we can’t go in there to points race, we have to go in there to try and win.  They have to do the same thing as well.

“I would rather go in there with the lead, than having to chase someone else, but I would rather have more than 39 point lead at the same time.  The way UARA does their points with their bonus point program, it makes it easy to make up ground on somebody if you have a good night and they don’t. 

Brandon Ward Hopes to smiling at Hickory.  (51 Photos)
Kyle Grissom.
In the series’ most recent event at Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina, Kyle Grissom found himself going into the race second in the standings, only trailing Ward by single digits.  By lap 25, he was sliding back in the standings after getting caught up in an on-track incident early in the Tri-County event.  Now, Grissom heads into Hickory third in points, 43 markers out.

“I am excited about Hickory, but I don’t know,” said Grissom.  “I feel like I may be out of the championship.  I guess anything can still happen, just like the other night.  Just try to get the car as good as we can and try not to have any trouble like we did at Tri-County.  Hopefully we will be there at the end.  More than anything I would just like to win that race at Hickory.  If I can’t win the championship I would really like to do that. 

“I know I am not going to get any sleep going into this championship,” said Yontz.  “I hate to say it, but we don’t have a lot to lose.   We are going to go to Hickory and race for the win, and not for points.   I don’t know, we just seem to have better luck when we race that way.   That is what we tried to do at Tri-County this weekend and it worked pretty good.   We didn’t gain what we wanted to but we did gain some.  I don’t know the only way we can win it is if some bad luck hits Brandon, but I don’t wish him any bad luck.  I think the worse we can really finish is third, so we are just going to race for the win and whatever happens we will just let happen.

“This is the first year that I have ever run for a championship.  It’s been a really good year.  Even if we don’t win the championship, we won Martinsville.  I don’t want to give up now but we have accomplished a lot this year.”

The most points gained in the last event was 103, the least amount earned was 40.  The way that UARA-Stars compiles points is that points are awarded for qualifying on the pole and outside pole, and in addition to finishing order points, drivers are awarded points for each position that you gain on the track with a maximum of 10 points earned.  The driver who gains the most spots on the track is also awarded five bonus points.  Five points can also be earned for leading a lap, and another five for leading the most laps.  So there are a lot of points to gain just besides where the drivers finish.

In order to keep his points lead, and to prevent Yontz and Grissom from passing him by earning any number of bonus points, Ward just has to go out and keep Yontz and Grissom behind him.  As long as he can do that, the championship is his for the taking.

“I just have to go there for the win,” added Ward.  “We struggled at Tri-County and don’t really know why.  It seemed like none of the three of us really ran well there like we have at other places.  I don’t think we lost anything but we weren’t able to capitalize on anything either.  Cline’s Body Shop and Rayco-Safety have been with us all year long, and I really want to win the championship for them.  Yontz and Grissom are tough though, it’s going to be close, It will be come down to the very end.”

Speed51.com will be on hand at Hickory to bring the full stories of both the race and the championship battles.  Stay tuned.

Ward (left) will have to hold off Yontz (right) at Hickory.