NASCAR: Craftsman Truck & Winston West Drivers get a shot in Japan
28 October 1998Daytona Beach, Fla. - Among the approximately 30 NASCAR teams set to compete in the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi-Coca-Cola 500 at Twin Ring Motegi on Nov. 22, are three drivers from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and nine drivers from the NASCAR Winston West Series.
The event on the 1.549-mile oval speedway, which is located about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo, will be NASCAR's third trip to Japan -- but the first at Motegi. NASCAR's first two events in Japan were run at the Suzuka Circuitland road course.
This year's trip will mark a return to Japan for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday, as well as three NASCAR Winston West Series drivers -- Butch Gilliland, Scott Gaylord and Jeff Davis.
Hornaday finished 20th at Suzuka Circuitland in 1996 and 13th there in 1997. The 40-year-old Palmdale, Calif., competitor is a dominant force in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- where he won the championship in 1996 and has 23 career victories.
The Motegi event will also be the third race in Japan for Gilliland, the 1997 NASCAR Winston West champion, and Gaylord. Gilliland finished 10th in his first visit to Suzuka Circuitland in 1996 and ninth there in 1997. Gaylord finished 19th in 1996 and 12th in 1997. Meanwhile, Jeff Davis will be racing his second NASCAR event in Japan. He finished 26th at Suzuka last year.
"I really enjoyed my first two trips to Japan to compete in NASCAR events there," Gilliland said. "My race team was very competitive on the road course at Suzuka. I look forward to this year's race on the beautiful superspeedway at Motegi. I hope to have another good race and continue my streak of top-10 finishes in Japan."
Making their first appearance in a NASCAR event in Japan will be NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers Lance Norick and Randy Nelson.
Norick came into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1996, after beginning his motorsports career 15 years ago in motocross racing. The 30-year-old Oklahoma City, Okla., competitor drove to a career-best seventh-place finish this season at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. He has also competed in five NASCAR Winston West Series races this year, with a seventh-place finish at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Nelson is a 19-year-old former dwarf car and mini-sprint competitor from El Cajon, Calif. He raced in five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events this year and four races in the NASCAR Winston West Series, where he finished fourth at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
The Motegi event will also mark the first race in Japan for NASCAR Winston West Series competitors Rich Woodland Jr., Gary Smith, Austin Cameron, Kelly Tanner, Ron Burns and Brendan Gaughan.
Although only 28 years old, Woodland is a veteran of the NASCAR Winston West Series. The Templeton, Calif., driver, who entered the series in 1992, visited victory lane for the first time at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway earlier this year.
Smith of Malahat, British Columbia, is wrapping up his sophomore season in the series. The 30-year-old competitor won the Sears Point Raceway Rookie-of-the-Year Award in 1997. He collected his third career win in the series at Portland (Ore.) Speedway this year.
Cameron, Tanner and Burns competed for the Sears Point Raceway Rookie-of-the-Year Award in the series this season. Cameron of El Cajon, Calif., has two career-best runner-up finishes this season. The 21-year-old racer competed in go-karts and late model stock cars prior to joining the series this year.
He is eagerly looking forward to competing with the top drivers of NASCAR at Motegi. "Being invited to compete in this event is a dream come true for me," said Cameron."*This is the chance of a lifetime for me to race with drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott. I can't wait to get over there and begin practicing."
"We've had a great season in the NASCAR Winston West this year," he continued. "This is the perfect way to top it off."
Tanner, 36, is from Woodinville, Wash. Prior to joining the NASCAR Winston West Series, where he picked up a career-best third-place finish at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.) this season, he won back-to-back championships in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Series NASCAR Touring Division in 1996 and 1997.
Burns, 53, raced a limited schedule in the NASCAR Winston West Series in 1996 and 1997. The Phoenix, Ariz., competitor has a career-best fifth place finish, which came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Gaughan made his debut in the series this season, while also racing full-time in off-road competition and in a limited number of races in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The 23-year-old driver is from Las Vegas, Nev.
The NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi-Coca-Cola 500K is scheduled to run on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 12:30 p.m. Japan time (Saturday, Nov. 21, at 10:30 p.m. EST in the United States). TBS Superstation will broadcast the event live in the United States, while FUJI-TV will broadcast the race in Japan.