DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2006) - There is no doubt the two races held each summer at New Hampshire International Speedway are the signature events of the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series season. Only a series championship ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 10, 2006) - There is no doubt the two races held each summer at New Hampshire International Speedway are the signature events of the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series season. Only a series championship exceeds the prestige of a win at the "Magic Mile" in front of the largest crowds of the season, live HDNet television cameras, and the eyes of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup talent scouts.
The first of those 2006 appearances at New England's only superspeedway is set for this Friday, July 14, in the New England 125. The green flag is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. following NASCAR NEXTEL Cup qualifying. The Busch East Series teams practice and qualify on Thursday, with a final practice early Friday morning.
Since 1990, 18 drivers have visited victory lane at NHIS, including all but two of the champions from that 16-year period. One is the now-retired "Irish Angel" Dick McCabe, title winner in 1992 and 1993, who just missed with a second in '92. The other champion still seeking that elusive New Hampshire victory is Mike Olsen.
Olsen's misfortunes at NHIS are legendary. He has started 41 of the 44 races there- a total exceeded only by Kelly Moore- but he has never finished higher than fifth. Known for the flawless preparation of his No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet and his talent for avoiding trouble on the track, he has been relegated to 21st position or below on 14 occasions. His only real moment of NHIS glory was a Busch Pole in 2004.
While signing autographs for fans at Lake Erie Speedway last Saturday night, just before a race he ultimately won to take the points lead, Olsen shared his thoughts about the track in his home state which has given him so many heartbreaks.
"The last couple years we've had it figured out a lot better," Olsen explained. "I've raced there an awful lot, and last year in the fall race I thought I had a car to win. We ran third, then I made my pit stop and we got caught up in a wreck," he continued. "I'm confident now that we've got it turned around. I didn't have that before. My confidence is up and we've got a really good car."
Reflecting on the prospect of joining Jamie Aube, Ricky Craven, Dale Shaw, Kelly Moore, Dave Dion, Mike Stefanik, Brad Leighton, and Andy Santerre as both series champions and NHIS winners, Olsen added, "Hopefully we can knock down a win there. That's one thing I'd like to do in my career that I haven't done."
Last week's victory at Lake Erie Speedway, the fifth of Olsen's career, broke a tie with his grandfather, Stub Fadden, on the all-time Busch East Series win list. A win or a second at NHIS would top Fadden's best finishes there, a pair of thirds in 1994.
KOBYLUCK LOOKING FOR THE KEY TO NHIS TOO: The driver who is Olsen's closest current rival for the Busch East Series lead, Matt Kobyluck, has a shorter but similar history at NHIS. Last year's 19th and 33rd place finishes on the big track short-circuited the No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet driver's chances at the title, but he stresses the need not to get caught up in the quest for glory that can breed bad decisions.
"We try to mimic what we've done at the tracks where we've been more successful," he declared, adding "We've had some good runs, finishing in the top three and top five, but consistency has eluded us. We're looking to fix that this year, turn things around, and come out of there with a victory."
WELCOME BACK: The biggest winner in Busch East Series history, the biggest winner in NHIS history, and the most recent driver to join the ranks of NHIS winners will all make their 2006 debuts in the New England 125. Kelly Moore, with 26 series wins including four at NHIS, will drive the familiar No. 47 R.C. Moore Transportation /Bill Dodge Auto Group Chevrolet, while Brad Leighton, eight-time visitor to NHIS victory lane only two behind Moore on the overall win list, is entered with the No. 35 Irving Oil Ford for NDS Motorsports. That car was last September's NHIS winner with Ted Christopher at the wheel. Leighton's most recent NHIS win, in 2003, was scored for NDS before he returned to Grizco Racing for one season in 2005.
Dale Quarterley, who has served as Jeff Anton's crew chief in the first half of the 2006 season, will operate from behind the wheel of his familiar No. 32 EDART Chevrolet instead of on top of the pit box. Quarterley won at NHIS in July 2004 but cut back his own racing schedule last season to work with Anton Racing.
WEST MEETS EAST: Two leading drivers from the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series have filed entries for the New England 125. Peyton Sellers, the AutoZone West Series point leader, will drive the Connecticut-based No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet fielded by Ted Marsh. Sellers, a native of Danville, Va. now living in Sacramento, was the 2005 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion. He competed once with the Busch East Series in 2006, at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, where he ran in he top five before being shuffled back to a 12th place finish. He has never raced at NHIS.
Andrew Myers of Newport Beach, Calif., winner in two of his five AutoZone West Series starts including Phoenix International Raceway will drive the Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran Phil Bonifield as crew chief. It will mark his debut with both the series and the track.
Also seeking to make his first Busch East Series start is Danny Sammons of Trenton, N.J., entered to drive the No. 00 Ralph Solhem Chevrolet. Sammons is Solhem's regular driver in 2006 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which is also a part of the NHIS weekend.
WHAT A NUMBER: Sean Caisse's prowess in Busch Pole Qualifying with the No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet is amazing. In five races, he has won three Busch Poles, been second fastest once and third once for an average starting position of 1.6. For comparison, in 2003 Martin Truex Jr. raced six times with four Busch Poles, a third, and an 11th for an average start of 3.0.
Ironically, Caisse's car owner and crew chief, Andy Santerre, won only one Busch Pole in his four-year championship run from 2002 to 2005, although his efforts in the 1990's place him in a tie for third with Ricky Craven on the all-time list with 15 poles.
Busch East Series point standings: 1. Mike Olsen 840, 2. Matt Kobyluck 819, 3. Sean Caisse 791, 4. Bryon Chew 767, 5. Mike Johnson 743, 6. Charles Lewandoski 702, 7. Brian Hoar 690, 8. Joey McCarthy 664, 9. Eddie MacDonald 630, 10. Kip Stockwell 629
Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings: 1. Ruben Pardo 44, 2. Dion Ciccarelli 40, 3. Jeremy Clark 39, 4. (tie) Patrick Dupree, Pierre Bourque 34, 6. John Freeman 30, 7. Brent Cross 22
Busch Pole Awards: Sean Caisse 3, Mike Olsen 2
POWERade Power Move of the Race Awards: Jeremy Clark, Ryan Seaman, Tracy Gordon, Jamie Aube, Carlos Pardo, 1
Featherlite Most Improved Driver Awards: Brian Hoar 2, Joey McCarthy, Mike Johnson, Sean Caisse 1
What: New England 125, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race #6 of 11
Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: Friday, July 14, 5:10 p.m.
Track layout: 1.058-mile paved oval
Race distance: 125 laps, 131.25 miles
Posted awards: $215,421
Television: HDNet live, SPEED enhanced replay Thurs,. July 27, 5:30 p.m.
2005 New England 125 race winner: Mike Stefanik
2005 New England 125 Busch Pole winner: Matt Kobyluck
Track record: 29.892 seconds, 127.141 miles per hour, Brian Hoar, July 18, 2002
Schedule: Thursday, July 13 - Practice 12:50 to 2:20 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying 4:15 p.m.; Friday, July 14 - Final practice 9:30 to 10:05 a.m., New England 125 5:10 p.m.