Beating Around the Busch: Chapter two Rockingham
By: Thomas Chemris
Rain postponed the Rockingham 200 until Monday, February 24, leaving teams scrambling as many had initially planned to leave early in the week for Las Vegas for the Sam's Town 300.
Rockingham marked the first appearance of the new body styles for the series. Series director Gary DeHart commented on the debut. "At Daytona it was all about how streamlined you could make the cars. At Rockingham it's all about down force and grip. It's the same work ethic, just a new philosophy."
In other news around the series, the most successful Busch driver at the Rock, Mark Martin, was honored as the Grand Martial for the event. Martin, who competed at the Rock Busch event a total of twenty-five times won a record eleven races and captured six poles.
Between 1988 and 2000 he led a total of one thousand seven hundred and forty laps in Busch races.
"It's an honor to be recognized for something that you accomplished in your career," said Martin. "We had a lot of good Busch races at Rockingham over the years and a lot of other people were responsible for that as well."
Martin retired from Busch competition after the 2000 season, and handed his ride over to Greg Biffle, who quickly scored Rookie Of the Year in 2001, and Series Champion in 2002.
As Biffle moved up to Cup this year, the No. 60 Roush car was handed over to Hollywood stunt man Stanton Barrett, who besides competing for Rookie Of the Year, has two motion pictures released that he had performed stunts. The two motion pictures due to be released this month are an urban action thriller called Cradle to the Grave and the civil war epic, Gods and Generals.
Mike McLaughlin, who made the Koolers 300 with the help of Darrell Waltrip and fans from XM's NASCAR Radio, reported he broke his wrist as a result of his late race at Daytona.
The New York driver is cleared to drive and will attempt to qualify for next weeks race in Las Vegas.
Also recovering form a hard hit, is last years series runner up Jason Keller. Team owners indicated that Keller was sore but back in the car at Rockingham.
"I am really looking forward to this weekend," said Keller. "I can't wait to get into a down-force car and see how good we really are this year." notes Keller
Former Indy Racing League driver Greg Ray is looking to ink a deal with Matt Kenseth and Robbie Reiser to drive a second team car in the series.
The team will compete in selected races, and has recently signed new sponsorship that will allow the team to continue throughout 2003.
Ray indicated he would like to start with the team by the March event at the Texas Motor Speedway. He will join fellow open wheeler Jimmy Vasser as the current trend of open wheel drivers migrating to NASCAR continues.
Kenseth Roush teammate Jeff Burton will return to Busch.
The seasoned veteran cherry picked his was to five Busch victories in 2002 but the team was sidelined as his sponsor, Proctor and Gamble opted not to re-new.
Burtons Cup sponsor, Citgo has stepped up to fund the team for a one-race deal in Las Vegas, where Burton is defending race winner.
I'm really excited to have CITGO on as the primary sponsor for the Busch car in Las Vegas," said Burton. "Our Busch program was really successful in 2002 and we're hoping to continue that in 2003. We're hoping to take CITGO to victory lane twice that weekend."
If successful, Burton will become the first driver to win five races in as many starts.