Wednesday, November 4, 2009

News & Notes, Year End
NASCAR Camping World Series West

2009 NASCAR Camping World Series West Season Recap
by Kevin Green

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 2009 season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West featured another close chase for the championship, with the battle coming down to the wire between Jason Bowles (No. 6 Sunrise Ford) and Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota) for the second consecutive year.

Although Holmes led the championship standings through the first half of the season, Bowles came on strong late in the year and clinched the title in the season finale by a 123-point margin.

Circumstances had been reversed in 2008, when Holmes led Bowles going into the final event and went on to win his second championship in three years by a 48-point advantage.

Bowles – a 26-year-old former open-wheel driver from Ontario, Calif. – was in his third season of competition in the series this year. In his first season in 2007, he won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title and finished third in the overall standings.

Holmes, meanwhile, had won the 2006 series championship as well as the 2008 title. The 34-year-old driver from Escalon, Calif., had only competed in a handful of series events before 2006. Much of his racing focus prior to that was in the former NASCAR Southwest Tour.

While Bowles and Holmes led the championship chase nearly all year, David Mayhew (No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends/KHI Chevrolet) and Greg Pursley (No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet) were also in contention and remained within striking range of the title through much of the season.

In addition to the championship, there was a tough battle in the series for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award this year. Paulie Harraka (No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adaptive One Brakes Toyota) of Fairlawn, N.J., edged Blake Koch (No. 21 Chevrolet) of West Palm Beach, Fla., late in the season to take the prestigious award.

The series kicked off its 56th season on March 14 at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas with an event that featured a wild scramble at the finish. Greg Pursley went from third to first on the final lap of the Allstate Texas Thunder 150 to record his first career series win. Moses Smith (No. 16 HASA Pool Products/White Flyer Toyota) was second, followed by Eric Holmes.

A dominant victory and repeat win by Holmes in the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 before a sold-out crowd at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on April 4 appeared to set the stage for him to make a run for his third championship in four years. Bowles finished second, with Paulie Harraka close behind.

A visit to Phoenix International Raceway on April 16 for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150 presented by Shamrock Farms featured a dramatic back-and-forth battle between Bowles and East Coast driver Steve Park that ended with a green-white-checkered finish. Bowles battled back in the final laps to take the win. Holmes took advantage of the scramble in the final two laps to gain second, with Park finishing third.

Holmes then padded his points lead in the championship chase by winning a fierce short-track battle at Madera (Calif.) Speedway on April 25. His victory in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink marked his second win in four races and stretched his lead to 66 points. David Mayhew took second, followed by Mike David. Bowles, who lost two laps due to a flat tire, charged back to finish seventh.

While Kyle Busch dominated the overall competition in the NASCAR Camping World Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway in May, David Mayhew came away with a win as the top finishing NASCAR Camping World Series West driver in the annual event in Newton, Iowa. Among West drivers – Mayhew finished third overall, followed by Paulie Harraka, who was fifth overall, and Brett Thompson (No. 61 RTT Chevrolet), who was seventh overall. The advantage Holmes had in the points standings took a hit, when an accident in the Iowa event left him to finish last among the 16 West drivers.

He rebounded at Douglas County Speedway, however. A year after overcoming a flat tire and fighting his way through the field at the Roseburg, Ore., track to get the victory, Holmes stayed out front all night and led all 150 laps en route to winning the Toyota/Bi-Mart 150 presented by NAPA on June 6. It increased his series points lead to 36 points over Bowles, who finished second. Mayhew was third.

The complexion of the championship chase began to change as the series visited Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on June 20 for the first of three road-course events on tap in 2009. A wild finish there left Jason Bowles in Victory Lane as the repeat winner in the Bennett Lane Winery 200 presented by Supercuts. Bowles inherited the win following a last-lap incident between his teammate, Patrick Long (No. 9 Sunrise/AASCO Motorsports Ford), and race leader Joey Logano. Mayhew finished second and Holmes third.

Bowles benefited from a visit to his home track of Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) on July 4, scoring his third consecutive win on the half-mile track and taking over the lead in the championship standings. Bowles led 132 of 200 laps in taking the victory in the King Taco 200 before a Fourth of July capacity crowd. Jeff Barkshire was second, followed by Paulie Harraka.

The return of the NASCAR Camping World Series West to Portland International Raceway featured a thrilling dash to the finish on the final lap, with Jim Inglebright taking the win in the BI-MART Salute to the Troops 125 on July 19. Inglebright was third as the field thundered down the front stretch of the road course for a restart with two laps to go in a green-white-checkered finish. He charged to the outside of Brian Wong heading into the first turn. Then a lap later, he slipped to the inside of Greg Pursley heading to the checkered flag. Pursley, who slid wide in Turn 12 on the final lap, held on to edge out Wong for second. The event marked the return of the series to the 1.98-mile road course, which it last visited in 1986. Hershel McGriff, who won that race 23 years ago, was back at the age of 81 and finished 13th.

The series made a visit to Miller Motorsports Park on Aug. 1 for an event which Patrick Long dominated. He won the 41-lap event on the massive 14-turn road course by more than five seconds over Paulie Harraka, who had started at the tail of the field due to a transmission change. Jason Bowles was third.

Harraka held off a fierce charge by Jim Warn (No. 10 MJ2 Racing/GPI Chevrolet) to score his first career series win when the NASCAR Camping World Series West visited Colorado National Speedway near Denver on Aug. 15. His victory in the Toyota/NAPA 150 marked the first win in the NASCAR Camping World Series by a Drive for Diversity participant. Following Harraka and Warn across the finish line was Moses Smith.

There was no holding back David Mayhew when the NASCAR Camping World Series West returned to Iowa Speedway for the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades 125 on Sept. 4. When Coors Light Pole winner Greg Pursley had to drop to the rear for the start, due to an engine change earlier in the day, it moved Mayhew up to start on the pole and from there he never looked back. He led all but one lap en route to the victory over Bowles and Max Gresham.

Bowles entered the season finale at All American Speedway on Sept. 26 needing only to finish 16th or better to wrap up the championship over Eric Holmes. As it turned out, Holmes encountered an early problem and fell back. While Bowles was clinching the championship, Harraka was out front dominating the action in the Toyota/Copart 150 – leading 149 of 150 laps. Eric Schmidt shadowed him for much of the race and finished second. Pursley took third.

Bowles raced his way to fourth at the finish, winning the championship over Holmes 2,158 to 2,035. Pursley concluded the season third in the standings with 1,978 points – followed by Harraka with 1,951 and Brett Thompson with 1,805. Completing the top 10 were David Mayhew at 1,799, Moses Smith at 1,766, Blake Koch at 1,726, Jim Warn at 1,590 and Jamie Dick at 1,423.

The season featured seven different race winners, including four first-time winners and six different pole winners.

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