BNS: Lee: Don Wagner race notes

Don Wagner Scores Career Best Busch North Finish With Eleventh At Lee USA Speedway (Lee, N.H. - April 25, 2004) - Don Wagner, driver of the James Pritchard-owned, Mannings USA-sponsored No. 41 Chevrolet on the NASCAR Grand National Division,...

Don Wagner Scores Career Best Busch North Finish With Eleventh At Lee USA Speedway

(Lee, N.H. - April 25, 2004) - Don Wagner, driver of the James Pritchard-owned, Mannings USA-sponsored No. 41 Chevrolet on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, recorded his best ever finish Sunday when he finished eleventh in the season-opening Lee 150 at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway. Wagner, from Wharton, New Jersey, was competing at the third-mile track for the first time.

After shaking the car down two weeks ago at Mountain Speedway, Wagner and the Jim Matalenas-led crew came to Lee confident. While practice times weren't near the top of the speed charts, signs of improvement came in qualifying, where Wagner took the 23rd starting position.

"For the first time here, we're having a good time with the Pritchard team," he said before the race. "We're running all right, and we're working on the car to make it better. It's an unusual track configuration, it reminds me of a bigger Seekonk with the banking and the looseness off the corner. We're still working on it, and we're going to get 150 laps of practice here. We made a bunch of changes to the car before time trials, and those were the fastest two laps we've run all day. I think we went in the right direction, that's for sure. We're going to have a good race."

As it turned out, Wagner did have a good race. He started out cautiously, and improved to seventeenth as the race approached one-third distance. Shortly before halfway, he joined the majority of the field on pit road for a change of right-side tires, returning to the race to restart fifteenth. Running thirteenth with forty laps to go, Wagner continued his improvement to race towards the top ten as the laps wound down. He picked up a pair of positions when two lead lap cars wrecked with just a lap and a half ago, but as caution waved, two other cars passed him and were allowed to keep their positions as the race ended.

What could have been a ninth place finish turned into an eleventh place finish, over the protests of the team. Despite being disappointed with that last-lap development, Wagner couldn't help being happy with how the Pritchard Motorsports team raced.

"The car was fantastic," he said afterwards. "Pritchard made some shock changes, and Matalenas made some 'everything changes' before the race and we really had no idea how it was going to be. They went back to some old notes they had from their previous driver, and the car worked really well. It seemed to be better the longer the race went on. We kept moving up, then cautions came out and it'd take a couple of laps after the restarts to get it back into the groove. I can't wait to come back here, although we only run here once a year. We'll be back here next year, that's for sure.

"I think we did everything right today," Wagner continued. "We didn't win, of course, but we were running competitively on the lead lap. We pitted at the right time to put on tires, and Dominick Bizzari, who does our tires, had them sized up perfectly for us today. You have to practice good tire management and track position here, and we did that."

The Busch North Series takes a few weeks off, so the teams can watch the race as the live HDNet broadcast will be reaired on SpeedTV next Saturday at noon. Then the attention turns to Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut, where Wagner will make the second of his six planned Busch North races on May 22nd.

"I can't wait to go back to Thompson," he said of the track where he finished 17th last year. "We go from a little track to a big, fast 5/8ths mile. I can't wait."

-jpr-

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