* Dion Ciccarelli Is Ready For Dover Homecoming * Sean Caisse Shows No Fear of the Monster * Steve Park Set for First Busch...
* Dion Ciccarelli Is Ready For Dover Homecoming
* Sean Caisse Shows No Fear of the Monster
* Steve Park Set for First Busch East Start Since 1996
* AutoZone West Series Presence Grows
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 20, 2006) - For Dion Ciccarelli (No. 84 Star Sales Ford), this Friday's Sunoco 150 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race at Dover International Speedway is more than a chance to further his bid for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. It's a trip home for both the driver, who resides in Severn, Md., a little more than an hour's drive away across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as well as for the New Jersey-based Jamerson Motorsports team.
"I started coming to the races here when I was a kid," the 39-year-old Ciccarelli related. When he finally made it to Dover's high banks in a race car, after cutting his racing teeth in NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series competition at the Old Dominion Speedway short track in Manassas, Va., it wasn't to race. Instead, it was as an instructor with Monster Racing, the company which uses the "Monster Mile" to provide the public with a driving experience on the track in NASCAR-style cars at controlled speeds.
That made his first Busch East Series race at Dover in 2005 a unique challenge, even though he had previously entered NASCAR Busch Series races at Richmond International Raceway. At Dover, the track was the same as the one where he had driven hundreds of laps, but the speed and the concentration required were far removed from his frame of reference. "The difference was incredible," he said, "going that fast with all those cars around me."
He made the transition successfully, qualifying 25th and staying out of trouble to place 16th. That pointed him, and the team owned by Larry and Beth Jamerson, in the direction of a full Busch East Series season in 2006. Racing the first composite bodied-car in the series, Ciccarelli was the top Sunoco Rookie contender in the first two races of the season and has dueled all summer with Ruben Pardo (No. 12 SuperCuts/Family Dollar Dodge) for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor. He comes to Dover three points behind Pardo with two races to go.
Dion's brother, Ray Ciccarelli (No. 83 Crohn's/Colitis Foundation Ford) is also among the 36 entries attempting to qualify for the 30-car Sunoco 150 field.
NOT INTIMIDATED: In 2005 Sean Caisse sent jaws dropping in his first visit to Dover. He had never raced a Busch East Series car on a high-banked superspeedway or on a concrete surface. He qualified fifth and engaged champion Andy Santerre and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series-bound Ryan Moore in a scintillating battle for the lead, holding the front spot four times for 27 laps. He wound up third, just behind the photo-finish which saw Santerre edge Moore by 0.022 seconds.
Part of the reason for Caisse's instant success at Dover can be found in a comment he made while talking about the fastest line around the speedway. "It's got three grooves and it's a real forgiving track. You can just lean on the banking in the corners," he remarked. Remember, he was talking about the track nicknamed the "Monster Mile", and much more often called "intimidating" than "forgiving".
Moreover, Caisse returns to Dover with one of the drivers who beat him to the checkered flag last year on his side this time. Andy Santerre is the owner and crew chief for the No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet which sits just 57 points behind Mike Olsen (No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet) with two races to go. Caisse is also scheduled to make an attempt to qualify for the NASCAR Busch Series race at Dover driving a Kevin Harvick-owned entry.
PARK RETURNS: In 1996, NASCAR modified star Steve Park made his mark in the Busch East Series (then known as the Busch North Series) by capturing two victories and five top-five finishes while running a partial schedule. The following year he gained rookie honors in the NASCAR Busch Series driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and by 1998 he was in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, eventually posting wins at Watkins Glen International in 2000 and at North Carolina Motor Speedway in 2001. Park will make his return to the Busch East Series in Dover's Sunoco 150 driving the No. 35 Waste Management/Recycle America Ford for car owner Bob Torriere.
One-mile tracks suit both Park and Torriere's NDS Motorsports team. In addition to his 2001 NEXTEL Cup Series win at NCMS, Park scored a second place finish at Dover in 2001, and his two 1996 Busch East Series wins were on miles, at New Hampshire International Speedway and Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway. Torriere has fielded two NHIS winners, for Brad Leighton in 2003 and Ted Christopher in 2005.
While he's a veteran of tracks long and short from coast to coast, Park expressed nothing but respect for Dover. "You have race the track, not the other cars," he declared. "As soon as you get away from racing the track and start racing the cars, you get yourself in trouble."
With a touch of poetry, he concluded, "If you can conquer the track, you'll find yourself in front of the pack.
WEST COAST OFFENSE: No, not the NFL style passing game, but a continuation of the influx of NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series teams that began last week in New Hampshire. Andrew Myers (No. 4 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet), who marched from 41st to fourth at NHIS, will be joined by Brett Thompson (No. 81 Thompson Motorsports Chevrolet) who finished tenth at Dover in 2005.
Peyton Sellers (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet) is also entered for his first Dover start. While Sellers is an AutoZone West Series regular in 2006, he's driving a Busch East-registered car so he is not eligible for the bonus money posted for the west coast teams.
Busch East Series point standings: 1. Mike Olsen 1498, 2. Sean Caisse 1442, 3. Brian Hoar 1345, 4. Bryon Chew 1344, 5. Matt Kobyluck 1211, 6. Joey McCarthy 1193, 7. Mike Johnson 1168, 8. Charles Lewandoski 1152, 9. Ruben Pardo 1114, 10. Jeff Anton 1081, 11. Kip Stockwell 1067, 12. Dion Ciccarelli 1018, 13. John Salemi 979, 14. John Freeman 976, 15 (tie). Scott Bouley, Pierre Bourque 924
What: Sunoco 150, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race 10 of 11
Where: Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del.
When: Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, 4:30 p.m.
Track layout: 1.00-mile concrete oval
Race distance: 150 laps, 150 miles
Posted awards: $217,361
Television: HDNet live, SPEED enhanced replay Thursday, October 5, 5:30 p.m.
2005 Sunoco 150 race winner: Andy Santerre
2005 Sunoco 150 Busch Pole winner: Ryan Moore
Track record: 24.032 seconds, 149.800 miles per hour, Ryan Moore, Sept. 22, 2005
Schedule: Thursday, Sept. 21- Practice 2:00 to 3:10 p.m. & 3:50 to 5:00 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 22- Busch Pole Qualifying 10:15 a.m., Sunoco 150 4:30 p.m.