Mike Bruno wins Rookie of the Race Award in 1st Road Course race Mike Bruno had been looking forward to the Busch North Series visit to Lime Rock Park for a long time. This was the site of the Dodge Dealers 200, the first road course event of ...
Mike Bruno wins Rookie of the Race Award in 1st Road Course race
Mike Bruno had been looking forward to the Busch North Series visit to Lime Rock Park for a long time. This was the site of the Dodge Dealers 200, the first road course event of Mike's racing career. It was also the season finale for the Busch North Series, NASCAR touring division.
To make things even more interesting for Mike and his team, they were teaming up with the #2 BNS team for this event. Mike would drive Chris Clarke's #2 Chevy. Mike had fulfilled his commitment to the CJ Richards Motorsports team at the conclusion of the New Hampshire 100. The race at NHIS was the final race that he and Richards were committed to as their original agreement was for a limited schedule and did not include any road course events.
After the NHIS event, Mike was well up in the top 20 in BNS points. With the points positions so valuable, only the top twenty positions pay at the end of the year, Mike could not afford to miss the season finale and fall out of the top spots. He talked with Clarke before leaving Loudon and the two worked out a deal for Mike to drive Clarke's car.
"It's not just about the points," Mike said. "I'm a racer and I couldn't even think about sitting at home while there was a race going on."
Mike went to the Jim Russell Road Course school last summer in preparation for the road courses on the BNS schedule. After turning some very good laps during practice, Mike turned a fast lap of 98.754 MPH during qualifying. This would put him solidly in the field, starting in the tenth row in the 19th starting spot.
"I took it slow in practice and we were turning about 58 second laps," Mike said. "I knew I was getting better with time - it wasn't the car slowing us. I think the key to the road courses is getting lap times, hitting the apexes at the right time and straightening out the corners."
As the race went on, just like he does at the oval tracks, Mike wasted no time moving his way up through the field. Well before the half way point in the race, Mike had the #2 Kinney Drugs car running in the top ten. In the later stages of the event, he was running in the top five!
"We were running fifth for a long time," Mike remarked after the race. "But then I over drove the corner late in the race. It's a mistake a lot of guys have made. Andy Santerre was right behind me and I wanted to hang on for a top five. I just went down the corner a little to hard."
Mike ended up just missing the top ten when he crossed the finish line eleventh. The finish made him the highest placing rookie for the eleventh time this season, in just 14 races! While NASCAR has not made announced Mike as the Raybestos Rookie of the Year yet, he finished the season with a commanding lead in this points battle.
"It says a lot for these guys, Chris's team, I worked real well with them and did the best that I could do," Mike said after the race. "I drove for three different car owners this year and still ran up front. As a driver, that makes me feel really good inside. It says a lot for those people that gave me those opportunities too - Mike Olsen, CJ Richards and Chris Clarke. With out them, I wouldn't have even had the opportunity to win rookie of the year."