DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2004) - Mike Stefanik knows his way around New Hampshire International Speedway, and he knows the subtle differences among the different NACAR series which will appear at Sylvania 300 weekend, September 16-19. The ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2004) - Mike Stefanik knows his way around New Hampshire International Speedway, and he knows the subtle differences among the different NACAR series which will appear at Sylvania 300 weekend, September 16-19. The driver of the Burnham Boilers Chevrolet in the Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race on Saturday, September 18 has raced at New England's only superspeedway in all 15 years of the track's operation, covering four NASCAR racing divisions.
In Busch North Series competition alone, the two-time series champion owns a race victory, a Busch Pole, and eleven top five finishes. He's won six Featherlite Modified Series races at NHIS as well. No one is better qualified to explain the secrets and strategies of the "Magic Mile".
Although the Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's will play out before a full grandstand and the live HDNet cameras on Saturday afternoon, Stefanik stresses that a big part of the combination that leads to victory will be put together when the seats are nearly empty during practice on Thursday and when the fans are just beginning to arrive during the half-hour final practice on Saturday morning.
"Goodyear has a good tire which makes it easier, but it's hard to be precise on the setup, and that's key," he said of the 3300-pound, 600-horsepower Busch North Series machines. In contrast, he noted "On the modified, if you miss the setup a little bit you can manhandle it," adding "The Busch car you've really got to be on the razor's edge with your setup and that's where we've got to put our focus."
The 125-lap, 132.25 mile distance also leaves Busch North Series teams with a different strategic picture than the other divisions. The Featherlite Modified Series teams, with their 100-lap race, have the option to go the full distance wthout pitting. By contrast, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams will plan to pit twice in their 200-lap contest, and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series distance of 300 laps allows for multiple stops for chassis adjustment and tire strategy. The Cup teams can even reverse changes that don't work as they expected.
One stop, and one stop only, is the universal choice of Busch North Series crew chiefs at NHIS, and that leaves no margin for error. "You usually pit around lap 20 or when the first caution comes out that you're sure you can make it (to the finish)," Mike Stefanik explained. "The bad thing about that is you didn't run long enough to know what you have. It would be nice to have a longer race where you could put in 50 laps and you'd really know where your chassis is at."
Moreover, the gas-and-go nature of the Busch North Series pit stops at NHIS, where tires are rarely changed since they have so little wear early in the race, leaves little time for adjustments other than a round or two of wedge, and no chance to recover from a false move.
The importance of getting the chassis right the first time was clearly illustrated in July's Siemans 125 at NHIS, where Dale Quarterley set his car up to be fast at the end of the race. The chassis worked better as the race progressed ,and he was able to pass both Kelly Moore and Ryan Moore in the final 20aps to score his first superspeedway victory.
Mike Stefanik put the challenge his crew faces in perspective with a wave of his hand toward the neighboring garage area. "If the NEXTEL Cup guys had to pit on lap 20 and finish the race with what they had they wouldn't be as accurate (on the setup) either," he observed.
The Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's marks the third of four occasions on which the Busch North Series will complete during a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup weekend in 2004. The Busch North Series teams will practice and run their Busch Pole Qualifying trials on Thursday, September 16 and take Friday off from on-track action in prepration for final practice and racing on Saturday, September 18. Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's race time is approximately 3 p.m., following the conclusion of the Sylvania 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
NEWS OF NOTE
* The 2003 edition of the Sylvania 125 looked like it would produce a first career win by Paul Wolfe, who took the lead from outside the front row and led until lap 97, when Brad Leighton made the pass which won his eighth NHIS race, but the first for the new Irving Oil Ford team founded by Leighton and Bob Torriere. Andy Santerre edged Wolfe for second in the closing laps, with Mike Johnson and Mike Stefanik fourth and fifth. Mike Gallo won his first career Busch Pole and the first for Fred Skaff's Woodworks/Archer Corp. Ford team.
* The last Busch North Series race at NHIS, the Siemens 125 in July, seemed ready to provide both a first career win for Ryan Moore and an unprecedented 1-2 family finish, but Dale Quarterley had other ideas as he passed Kelly Moore for second on lap 106 and Ryan for the lead one laps later. Quarterley scored his first career superspeedway victory by half a second over Kelly Moore, Jerry Marquis, and Andy Santerre. Ryan Moore faded to fifth. Mike Olsen won his first superspeedway Busch Pole.
* The NHIS track qualifying record is 29.892 seconds, 127.414 miles per hour set by Brian Hoar in 2002.
* NHIS has hosted 41 Busch North Series races, more than any other track. Brad Leighton has won eight times in just 27 starts, a .296 batting average. Other multiple winners are Mike McLaughlin, Kelly Moore, and Ted Christopher (4 each), Joe Bessey and Dale Shaw (3 each), and Rick Craven, Andy Santerre, and Martin Truex Jr. (2 each.) Jamie aube, Martin Truex Sr., Mike Stefanik, Steve Park, Dave Dion, Jerry Marquis, Tom Carey, and Tracy Gordon have one win each.
* Lincoln Electric sponsors track championships for Busch North Series and Featherlite Modified Series drivers at NHIS, based on NASCAR points scored in the two events for each series. By virtue of his July win, Dale Quarterley is the current leader for the Lincoln Electric NHIS Busch North track title.
* At release time it was reported that an entry had been filed for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series star Todd Bodine to drive the Ted Marsh-owned Whelen Engieering Ford in the Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's. Although he was born in New York and completed school in Massachusetts, Todd never competed regularly with the Busch North Series, and neither he nor his brothers, Geoff or Brett, has ever won a NASCAR race in any division at NHIS.
* New Hampshire International Speedway was opened in 1990 by the Bahre family on the site of the former Bryar Motorsports Park road course and short track complex. The Busch North Series was part of the opener, a combination race with the NASCAR Busch Series, and has been featured on every NASCAR-sanctioned weekend since that time. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at NHIS are the largest sporting events in New England.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
September 25, 1994 - Ten years ago, Joe Bessey took the lead from Robbie Crouch just past halfway to win the Busch North Series half of the fall doubleheader with the Featherlite Modified Series. Dick McCabe, Bobby Dragon, Andy Santerre, and Mike Stefanik completed the top five. Martin Truex Sr. won the Busch Pole. Dale Shaw finished 15th but clinched the 1994 Busch North Series title just by starting the race, even though he did not score a race win all season. Of the top five, McCabe is retired while Dragon,. Santerre, and Stefanik are all among the top 12 in 2004 Busch North Series points. So is Bessey, on the other side of the page, as Santerre's car owner.
What: Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Race #12 of 14
Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: Saturday, September 18, 2004, 3:00 p.m.
Track layout: 1.058 mile oval
Race distance: 125 laps, 132.25 miles
Television: HDNet live
SPEED Channel, Saturday, November 20, 12:00 noon Eastern time
2003 Sylvania 125 race winner: Brad Leighton
2003 Sylvania 125 Busch Pole winner: Mike Gallo
Schedule: Thurs., Sept. 16 - Practice 12:20 to 1:55 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying 3:45 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18 - Final practice 8:50 to 9:20 a.m., Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's 3:00 p.m. (No on-track activity Fri., Sept. 17)