'09 CW West Season Set To Kick Off At Thunderhill Raceway
Another Tough Battle Expected For Championship
Series To Kick Off Season In Texas At Thunderhill Raceway

The NASCAR Camping World Series West is set to kick off its 2009 season with the Allstate Texas Thunder 150 at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, on Saturday, March 14.

It marks the fifth consecutive year for Full Throttle Productions to put on the series event at the .375-mile Texas track and the second time for the series to launch its season at the facility just south of Austin.

Two drivers from California’s Central Valley account for the past three championships in the NASCAR Camping World Series West. Eric Holmes of Escalon took the title in 2006 and 2008, while his long-time friend and rival, Mike David of Modesto, was the 2007 champion. Both drivers have tasted success at Thunderhill, with Holmes scoring two wins there and David winning a Coors Light Pole Award there.

Although Holmes and David would like to continue that trend in keeping the championship between them, other drivers are focused on claiming the 2009 title as the West’s oldest stock car circuit celebrates its 56th season.

One driver leading the title charge is Jason Bowles of Ontario, Calif. Bowles gave Holmes a fierce challenge in 2008 – matching his four race wins and five Coors Light Pole Awards, but coming up 48 points short in the championship standings. While Bowles returns with car owner Bob Bruncati and championship crew chief Bill Sedgwick, the team’s appearance is different as they change to No. 6 on their brightly-colored Sunrise Ford-sponsored Ford.

Holmes, meanwhile, remains with Bill McAnally Racing – behind the wheel of the No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. David also remains in familiar surroundings, competing in his ninth season in the series for car owner Randy Lynch in the No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery entry.

Other series veterans expected to challenge for the title this season include Jim Inglebright of Fairfield, Calif., in the No. 1 ESEF Apparel/Jelly Belly Chevrolet; Moses Smith of Tempe, Ariz., in the No. 16 HASA Pool Products/White Flyer Toyota; and Brett Thompson of Jerome, Idaho, in his familiar No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet.

Several hard-charging second-year drivers are also expected to be in contention this year. They include the 2008 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Jeff Barkshire (No. 46 Centennial Batteries/SPE Dodge) of Auburn, Wash.; Jim Warn (No. 10 MJ2 Racing/Gran Prix Imports Chevrolet) of Aurora, Ore.; Jamie Dick (No. 88 Viva Auto Group/Johnnie Walker Performance Center Chevrolet) of Albuquerque, N.M.; and Wes Banks (No. 3 Valvoline Ford) of Oakdale, Calif.

Long-time competitor Jack Sellers of Sacramento, Calif., is celebrating his 25th season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West this year. Sellers – who has campaigned a multi-car effort of Jack Sellers Racing for many of those years – had Johnathan Hale of Rio Linda, Calif., behind the wheel of a second car for 10 events in 2008 and is returning with the talented teenager in a second car for 2009.

A talented West Coast veteran driver plans to step up his schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Series West this year, after running select events in recent years. Greg Pursley of Newhall, Calif., returns to the series where he ran full time in 2002. In the meantime, he won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship in 2004. He also added to his racing resume with a win in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model race at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2007.

Expected to compete for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award this year are several drivers who have already tasted a bit of success in the NASCAR Camping World Series West – Jonathon Gomez, Paulie Harraka and Blake Koch. Gomez, of Twin Falls, Idaho, registered top-10 finishes in both series starts he made last year. Harraka, of Wayne, N.J., set fast time and finished sixth in the season finale, one of three series events he competed in during 2008. Koch, of West Palm Beach, Fla., also captured attention in that event – qualifying fourth quickest.

News & Notes

The race … The Allstate Texas Thunder 150 kicks off a 13-race schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Series West. It marks the only visit to the state of Texas in 2009.

The procedure … The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 22 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (56.25 miles).

The track … Thunderhill Raceway is a .375-mile D-shaped paved oval with nine degrees banking in turns one and four, 12 degrees banking in the turns two and three, six degrees banking in the front straight and five degrees of banking in the back straight. This marks the fifth annual visit to the track.

The records … Qualifying: Mike Duncan, March 31, 2007, 90.995 mph, 14.836 sec.; Race: Eric Holmes, April 19, 2008, 54.479 mph, 1 hour 1 minute 57 seconds.

Family attractions … Like previous years, the Texas event will feature plenty of family attractions, with a variety of activities along the midway.

Only one repeat winner … Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota) is the only driver with more than one victory in series action at Thunderhill Raceway. He won in 2006 and 2008, the same years he won the series championship. Others to visit Victory Lane include Steve Portenga in 2005 and Scott Lynch in 2007.

Four different pole winners … There has yet to be a repeat pole winner. The four drivers to set fast time in Texas were Scott Gaylord in 2005, Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Toyota) in 2006, Mike Duncan in 2007 and Eric Holmes in 2008.

Return visits … Only three drivers made all four visits to Thunderhill in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. They were Mike David, Jack Sellers (No. 15 Coca-Cola Chevrolet) and Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet).

Multiple top-five finishes … With top-five finishes in the first three visits, Mike David has the most top-fives at Thunderhill. He is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all four series races there. David has an average finish of 4.75 at the Texas track.

Leading laps … Austin Cameron tops the competition in terms of leading the most laps at Thunderhill Raceway. He was out front for 131 laps in last year’s event.

Widespread competition … Fifty-four different drivers have taken the green flag in series competition at Thunderhill in the four events there.

Fast Facts

The Race: Allstate Texas Thunder 150
The Place: Thunderhill Raceway,      Kyle, Texas
The Date: Saturday, March 14
The Time: 8:45 p.m. CT
TV Schedule: SPEED, March 25, 2 p.m. CT
Track Layout: .375-mile paved
Race Purse: $110,680
2008 Winner: Eric Holmes
2008 Pole: Eric Holmes
Schedule: Saturday: Practice  11 a.m.-12 noon., 1-1:30 p.m. Time Trials 4:30 p.m.

Eric Holmes (Top) and Jason Bowles (Bottom) are two drivers expected to be strong in the battle for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World West Series championship.  (NASCAR Photos)