*Short Track Veterans, Road Racers Face Off
*Many Award Programs Still Up For Grabs
*NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown Invitations Top Agenda For Some Teams
*Lime Rock Offers the Ultimate in Tailgating
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2006) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series will revive the decade-long tradition of staging its series finale at the 1.53- mile Lime Rock Park road course on Saturday after finishing at other tracks for the past two seasons. Whether in its customary time slot amid the fall foliage of the Connecticut Berkshires or elsewhere on the Busch East Series calendar, Lime Rock's Mohegan Sun 200 always brings a contest between the short track bred drivers who predominate on the series and those with road racing backgrounds who have the chance to return to their natural element.
Last year Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet) scored a dominant victory in the race that carries the name of his own race team sponsor, winning the Busch Pole Award and leading 70 of the 82 laps. From the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series late models at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl to the Busch East Series, Kobyluck is as hard-core a short track racer as you will find. What made him a success in road racing?
In a word, attitude.
"I think the big key to road course racing is that you've got to enjoy it, and if you enjoy it, you can excel at it. I enjoy it, hitting the marks and the braking points. It's fun being busy in the cockpit," said Kobyluck.
Brian Hoar (No. 45 Goss Dodge), another bullring graduate who led laps in 2005 at Lime Rock, shares Kobyluck's view. "I enjoy it. I've got good equipment. It takes everything, including practice," Hoar said, adding that his learning curve has benefited from the insight of the best road racers who've made the transition to NASCAR racing. "I've gotten pointers from Dale Quarterley, and from Bryan Wall. We've picked up speed every year. Now if we can eliminate the mistakes and mechanical issues we should be good." Quarterley and Wall are both two-time winners at Lime Rock, and Wall is the track record holder.
Reflecting the career road racer's view is Jeff Anton (No. 30 Engineered Floors Chevrolet), who has shown great progress on oval tracks in 2006 under Dale Quarterley's coaching but makes no secret of his enthusiasm to being going home. "We wish we could go there more than once. Last year, being my first on circle tracks, every track we went to I had to learn, but I know every line around Lime Rock," he declared.
Joe Masessa (No. 14 Skin Care Foundation Chevrolet) had a different reaction to his first Busch East Series race at Lime Rock in 2005. The surroundings were familiar, but the race car, specifically the effectiveness of its brakes, was not. "I thought I would feel more comfortable there because I'd raced there before, but going there in a Busch East car is a completely different experience. My experience didn't help me at all," he said. "I found the brakes aren't like sports car brakes. I had to brace myself against the seat and push with all my strength to try to get the car to stop," he continued, acting out his words as he spoke.
AWARDS ON THE TABLE: Mike Olsen (No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet) has a strong lead in the overall Busch East Series title battle and Sean Caisse (No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet) has already wrapped up the Busch Pole Award seasonal honors, but three other seasonal award programs remain to be decided at Lime Rock.
Ruben Pardo (No. 12 Movida Dodge) leads Dion Ciccarelli (No. 84 Star Sales Ford) by one point in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contest. Ciccarelli needs a little help from his friends if he is to win the title. If Ciccarelli is the top-finishing Sunoco Rookie at Lime Rock and Pardo is second, they would tie on Sunoco Rookie points, but Pardo holds the tiebreaker of higher position in the overall standings. With a road racing back ground in his native Mexico, Pardo will be tough to beat.
In the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award standings, Brian Hoar and Matt Kobyluck are two-time race award winners and tied for the lead. However, Sean Caisse might be the favorite for the seasonal award. He already has one race award, so he can tie Hoar and Kobyluck, and his 22nd place finish at Dover makes him a prime candidate for another at Lime Rock; then the tiebreaker would come into play and Caisse has the advantage in overall points.
The POWERade Power Move of the Race Award is the most wide-open. Sometimes called the "hard charger", the POWERade race award goes to the driver who improves most from start to finish. In 10 races, 10 different drivers have won the award. Any of them could claim the seasonal title by winning the race award at Lime Rock. At the moment, the winner of a 10-way tiebreaker would be Jeff Anton.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': It's nail-biting time for the drivers "on the bubble" for the final invitations to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, October 20-21. A team of 15 Busch East Series drivers will be invited to meet their counterparts from the AutoZone West Series for the fourth time, hoping to bring back the team championship for the fourth year in a row.
Unlike the NCAA basketball teams who wait nervously on a Sunday in March to see if the committee extends an invitation, Busch East Series competitors can control their own destiny on the track. Scott Bouley (No. 26 Gravel's Auto Body Chevrolet) holds a 30-point lead over Joe Masessa for the 15th position. Depending on where they finish in the field, Bouley can close out Masessa by finishing within six to 10 positions. Masessa does hold the tiebreaker, however, with a best finish of 11th to Bouley's 13th.
Another possibility is that Tracy Gordon (No. 33 The Woodworks/Archer Corp. Ford) may enter the Mohegan Sun 200. Gordon has recorded thee top-five finishes in 2006 and is only 44 points behind Bouley despite missing three races. If any of the top 15 drivers in the final standings decline their invitation, the 16th place driver will be invited, and so on until the 15 places on the team are filled.
TAILGATING AT THE ROCK: Some speedways still offer an infield spectator area for tailgate parties, and a few, like Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. have a drive-in outside the back straight. However, Lime Rock is unique among NASCAR facilities in that there are no grandstands at all. The entire infield is open for spectators to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and lunches, as well as the outfield section near Turn 1. There's also plenty of room for the post-race champion's celebration, which returns after a two-year break.
What: Mohegan Sun 200, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race 11 of 11
Where: Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn.
When: Saturday, Sept 30, 2006, 12:30 p.m.
Track layout: 1.53 mile road course
Race distance: 82 laps, 125 miles (200 kilometers)
Posted awards: $147,717
2005 Mohegan Sun 200 race winner: Matt Kobyluck
2005 Mohegan Sun 200 Busch Pole winner: Matt Kobyluck
Track record: 53.591 seconds, 102.778 miles per hour, Bryan Wall, Oct. 12, 2001
Schedule: Friday, Sept. 29 -- Practice 11:35 p.m. to 12:10 p.m. & 12:50 to 2:15 p.m.; Busch Pole Qualifying 3:45 .p.m. (Grand American style in groups); Saturday, Sept. 30 -- Mohegan Sun 200 12:30 p.m.