CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': BUSCH NORTH SERIES TEAMS READY FOR DRIVE TO NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN INVITATIONS & POST-SEASON SERIES HONORS DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 2, 2005) - Although the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series...
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': BUSCH NORTH SERIES TEAMS READY FOR DRIVE TO NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN INVITATIONS & POST-SEASON SERIES HONORS
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 2, 2005) - Although the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series has not quite reached the halfway mark of its season, the brief pause before resuming with the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway on Wednesday, August 10 is a good time to size up the championship contenders. It also provides a chance to track the teams looking to finish in the top 15 and nail down an invitation to the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in southern California, November 10-12. So far, the trip to the left coast has been a rewarding one for the Busch North Series, as its representatives have defeated their cousins, the Grand National Division, West Series handily for the team championship in both 2003 and 2004. Last year, Mike Johnson added the individual title as well.
So who will be following the trail of the pioneers, and who will be watching the Showdown on SPEED Channel?
START PACKING, WE'RE GOING TO CALIFORNIA...
1. Mike Stefanik, #55 Grizco Racing/Burnham Hydronics Chevrolet (998 points, 2 wins): The team's reorganization and move to North Carolina have reinvigorated NASCAR's biggest championship winner among active drivers. He's melded his talents with crew chief Jerry Babb to make a formidable combination.
2. Matt Kobyluck, #40 Kobyluck Motorsports/Mohegan Sun Chevrolet (991 points, 3 wins): Like Stefanik, he's come back strong after a couple of disappointing seasons, but here there's no visible change- just the rededication to win the title that slipped through his fingers in 2002. His victory at Adirondack International Speedway came in one of the best Busch North short-track races in recent memory.
3. Andy Santerre, #44 Grizco Racing/Castle Chemicals Chevrolet (968 points): The three time defending champion has more on his plate than ever before, preparing two cars every week and three when Brad Leighton races. He's already spent more time out of the point lead than in the last three seasons combined, but don't sell him short in his "Tour for Four".
4. Mike Johnson, #96 Johnson Racing/Johnson Lumber Ford (895 points): If consistency makes champions, you can start engraving Mike's name on the trophy. Only Stefanik and Santerre match his clean slate of top-tens. Plus he really enjoyed that trip to California last fall, returning with the Showdown individual title and the largest purse of his career.
5. Ryan Moore, #74 Moore Racing/R.C. Moore Transportation Chevrolet (880 points, 1 win): Ryan felt a weight lifted from his shoulders when he finally won at Lake Erie Speedway one week before making his NASCAR Busch Series debut for Dale Earnhardt Inc. He has a score to settle with Irwindale Speedway- last year his car was so badly damaged there that his crew virtually cut the body off and left it in the infield.
6. Mike Olsen, #61 Fadden Racing/Little Trees Chevrolet (880 points): In 2004, Mike started strong, hung onto Santerre's draft in the point race, but tailed off at the wrong time. This year his start was nothing to write home about, but he's gotten hotter with the summer temperature.
7. Bryon Chew, #99 Chew Motorsports/Buzz Chew Auto Group Chevrolet (829 points): Their second place at Waterford could not have come at a better time for the Chew Crew, lifting them out of the 12th place rut and making them dream realistically of running up front like they did at the inaugural Showdown in 2003.
MAKE THE RESERVATIONS, BUT DON'T CHARGE THE CREDIT CARD...
8. Dave Dion, #29 Dion Brothers Racing/Berlin City-Continental Paving Ford (825 points): The first big question mark in the field for both championship standing and Showdown invitation is Dynamite Dave. He certainly can be a title contender and grab an invitation from the top of the deck, but last year he skipped two tracks that aren't on his list of favorites- Dover and Lime Rock. In '05, those tracks host the last two races of the regular season.
9. Brian Hoar, #45 Hoar Motorsports/Goss Dodge Intrepid (800 points): Take away his second place at NHIS, and it's been a bleak season for the only Dodge driver on the circuit. If he doesn't put on a regular-season ending charge, the Showdown will take on greater importance.
10. Joey McCarthy, #8 STI Motorsports/Tech-Air Chevrolet (799 points): Joey saves his best for the Showdown. In 2003 he led until the inversion,. and last year he scrambled from the back to a top-five. This year he's again been aggressive, usually passing more cars than anyone else after getting behind in the early laps.
11. Sean Caisse, #5 Motion Racing/Trik Custom Sleds Chevrolet (756 points): Sean should earn a Showdown invitation, but even if he doesn't it's been an impressive debut for the rookie who comes to NASCAR by way of the open cockpit ranks, and a well-deserved taste of success for car owner-crew chief-spotter-mentor Barney McRae.
12. Eddie MacDonald, #77 Triple Crown Motorsports/One Stop Toy Shop Chevrolet (748 points): There was no period of adjustment for these guys. Eddie Mac stepped into Jerry Morello's car and immediately began posting top tens. A couple of mechanical issues have dropped them back in points, but barring further setbacks, they should cruise into the Showdown.
KEEP THE DATE OPEN AND REMEMBER TO CALL THE TRAVEL AGENT...
13. Ryan Seaman, #06 ERS Motorsports/Erbe Carting Chevrolet (710 points): Last year's top rookie and most improved driver finally broke the ice in '05 with a ninth place at Adirondack. A little nudge from Lady Luck can send him to California again.
14. Kip Stockwell, #16 Stockwell Racing/Sabil & Sons-Randolph National Bank Chevrolet (658 points): Kip's qualifying performances have shown major improvement, and the week after his wedding, he notched his first top ten finish since 2002. Things are definitely looking up for the driver whose streak of consecutive races is now second to Mike Olsen.
15. John Salemi, #63 Salemi Racing/DelCorp Co. Pontiac (636 points): The only Pontiac left in the series has been sneaking up on Showdown invitation territory. The rookie's strong point has been his consistency; his peril is from a couple of tough customers stalking him from behind.
ON THE PROVERBIAL BUBBLE...
16. Dale Shaw, #15 Willoughby Motorsports/Waste Management-BG Environmental Chevrolet (616 points): If it can go wrong, it's gone wrong for this team. There's potential in the driver, who was the 1994 series champion, and the team, which ran fifth in the Showdown last year with driver Bobby Dragon. They just have to put the pieces together.
17. Scott Bouley, #26 Bouley Racing/Shorty's Towing & Recovery Chevrolet (615 points): Nothing would be a greater reward for this family-run, independent operation than a trip to the Golden State. Scott's specialty is finishing races, which made his broken rear end after a strong run at Adirondack a major setback.
18. Jeff Anton, #30 Anton Motorsports/Prime Media Chevrolet (607 points): A long shot, but this Dale Quarterley protege has shown marked improvement, including his first career top ten at Adirondack. Ironically, his chances of making the Showdown got their biggest boost when Quarterley cut back his schedule and began running the NASCAR Busch Series.
19. Charles Lewandoski, #01 Lewandoski Racing/Lewandoski Construction Chevrolet (558 points): If anyone comes close to Dale Shaw's level of bad luck, it's the rookie who located his shop in Charlotte. A qualifying crash at Waterford set him back, and so did an early-out with a borrowed car at Adirondack.
A little quick subtraction shows there are only 78 points between 19th place and the last invitation to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. That should make a hot summer even hotter for the Busch North Series teams looking to spend a week in November under the California sun.