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NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour to Run 200th Race at Suntana Speedway

6 August 1997

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. -- The NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour will
run its 200th race Aug. 9 at Suntana Speedway in Springville Utah.

Now among the most popular touring divisions in the country, the NFSWT
will appear on national television five times in 1996. The all-time
roster of drivers includes the first four-time winner of the
Indianapolis 500, several Winston Cup champions, a future champion of
the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and a former Super Bowl hero.

There were those who did not believe the series would ever become the
major player it is on the national racing scene.

"I never really thought it would grow like it has," said Roger Avants.

Avants won the inaugural NFSWT event March 29, 1986 at Saugus Speedway
near Los Angeles. Still occasionally active on the Tour, Avants has
watched the series blossom.

"I think back in 1986, you had maybe 10 cars that could win the
feature that night," Avants recalled. "Nowadays, when you go to a
NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour race, you have 30 guys that can win
on a given night. There is more money involved and bigger
sponsors. Every driver in the field is a track champion from
somewhere. The experience level is tremendous. If you can race with
the Tour, you can race with anyone."

Nobody knows that better than Ron Hornaday Jr. Hornaday is the
all-time money leader in series history and ranks first in several
other categories as well. He is also the 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Series champion.

"That's probably the hardest racing you can do for kind of series
there is," Hornaday said. "You know, everybody wants to win in that
series. You get a lot of fiberglass flying and all that stuff when you
go to a short track."

The NFSWT has grown to the point where the schedule includes races in
five states. The tracks range from the tight confines of the
quarter-mile Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Calif., to the
1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Road racing has traditionally been a part of the NASCAR Featherlite
Southwest Tour. Over the years, the series has been challenged by
Riverside International Raceway, Willow Springs Raceway, Sears Point
Raceway and the infield course at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"They're running some pretty fast tracks now where they're getting
some experience that could help in the future," Hornaday said.

The Suntana track is larger than the Saugus venue was, but there are
similarities. Suntana is 4/10s of a mile long where Saugus was a
1/3-mile, but both tracks are somewhat flat.

Unlike that first race back in 1986, the winner of the Aug. 9 race at
Suntana will be given a ring symbolizing victory in the historic

"We are excited to have the 200th NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour
race at our race track,'' Suntana promoter Jeff Nish said. "We wanted
to do something special for the competitors."

For drivers like Avants, the debut of the Tour was a chance to measure
his talent.

"I always thought that if I had the same kind of car the California
guys had, I could win some races," Avants said. "It opened up a lot of
things for us. The only thing I really miss about the Southwest Tour
is not having the money to run all the races."

"It gave you an opportunity to travel and drive on different race
tracks and race against drivers you've never seen before," Hornaday

Hornaday is the only two-time champion in series history, winning
titles in 1992 and 1993. The former champions expected to enter the
Rick Warner 125 include 1996 champ and 1997 points leader Chris
Raudman and 1994 champion Steve Portenga.

The NFSWT got started a year after the 1885 debut of the NASCAR REB-CO
Northwest Tour. Today's Tour cars are slightly smaller and lighter
versions of their cousins on the Winston Cup circuit.

Utah is the NFSWT's newest state. The Tour debuted there last Aug. 3.
But life with the Featherlite Southwest Tour is a life of travel. This
year, the series will race in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona as well
as California.

The first 199 races have been exciting. The series was 11 years old
before a winning driver managed to lap the field. That happened
October 11 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., when Sean
Monroe and race leader Chris Raudman were racing for the lead with
three laps remaining and crashed together on the front
straight. Raudman was able to refire his car and return to the track
without losing position. Raudman won by two laps.

The previous race at Mesa Marin, June 29, Mark Reed won by the
smallest margin in series history, .02 of a second.

The story of the NFSWT has always been about the people who compete in
it.  It's the story of Hornaday and Rick Carelli, who won NFSWT
championships before becoming stars of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck

It's the story of M.K. Kanke, the tallest driver in series history.
Kanke broke his leg while playing on his high school basketball team
and eventually took up racing as a replacement.

It's the story of Roman Calczynski, who finished second in the
standings the first two years of the NFSWT's existence, then won a
championship in 1988.

Steve Portenga is a story by himself. He won the series title in 1994
without winning a race. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1992
the same way.

How about Bryan Germone? Germone finished second in the standings in
1994 and 1996 and said recently, "I don't want to finish fifth, but I
think I'd rather finish fifth than be second again."

It is the story of A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip, Ken Schrader, Dale
Earnhardt and Dick Trickle, all of whom have competed on the
Tour. Mike Cofer, who played in Super Bowls with the San Francisco
49ers, was the 1994 Rookie of the Year.

The NFSWT is the story of crew chiefs like Danny Grill, Doug Newell
and Roger Bracken. Grill is now the chief technical inspector for the
series, Newell is a crewman on the Truck series and Bracken, a veteran
NFSWT crew chief, continues to build winning cars. And how about Ted
Kennedy? Kennedy won a championship with a rookie driver in 1996.

by:NASCAR Public Relations Lee Elder