STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. (June 12, 2003) -- While it's several races until the halfway point of the 2003 season, the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series reaches a milestone in the Carquest 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday,...
STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. (June 12, 2003) -- While it's several races until the halfway point of the 2003 season, the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series reaches a milestone in the Carquest 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, June 20. Stafford is the first track the series visits for a second time in 2003, and the first time teams will bring a full set of notes on how to set up their cars under the new engine and weight rules which govern the 2003 campaign.
The Carquest 150 is scheduled as a one-day event on June 20 in conjunction with Stafford's regular NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series classes. Practice is set from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., with Bud Pole Qualifying to follow at 5:30 p.m. The Carquest 150 is expected to take the green flag at approximately 9:00 p.m.
The NASCAR Grand National Division was created to bring the Busch North Series and the Winston West Series together under a common rule structure, facilitating crossover between the series and making possible this November's Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, California. The major changes for Busch North Series teams were an increase in engine compression ratio to 12 to 1 from the previous 9.5 to 1, a different carburetor rule, and the addition of 200 pounds to make the minimum weight 3,300 pounds. Everyone had an opinion on subjects like lap times and tire wear, but until a few races went in the books, no one was sure what would result on the track.
For TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet driver Joey McCarthy and crew chief Jason Weissman, the results have been positive. After the first three races under the new rules, McCarthy stood fourth in the Busch North Series standings, recording both his best career finish (third at Lee, N.H.) and his best qualifying effort (second at Lake Erie, Pa.) during that streak. In the first round at Stafford, the New England Dodge Dealers NASCR 150 on May 9, McCarthy came home ninth after qualifying tenth.
"We were really expecting to feel a lot more power than we did," McCarthy noted, referring to the gain of about 50 horsepower from the 2002 configuration. "From the handling standpoint, we really haven't seen any difference," he continued. "I guess it equaled out. When we got the 12-to-1 motor, the weight cancelled out the increased horsepower."
The other predicted outcome of more power and weight, increased tire wear, has also posed no problems for McCarthy. "We thought we were going to be spinning our wheels, but we haven't seen it, he said, adding "We haven't had any tire wear problems. Goodyear has done a great job with our tires."
Jason Weissman, who oversees rookie Tim Andrews' car for the J.T. Mase Motorsports team as well as McCarthy's, echoes his lead driver's comments. "It was not as different as we thought it was going to be at Stafford," Weissman observed. "The feedback I got from Joey was that it helped him. We're going to notice the power of the new engines mostly when we get to Loudon and Dover and Watkins Glen. Yes, they have more power, but on shorter tracks it's not much of an issue."
Jason admits to initial misgivings about the relationship of weight and tire wear, which changed with the first race. "Initially I was nervous about the added weight. Joey said it wouldn't be a big deal, and he definitely feels like it's easier to drive, " the crew chief said. Sensing the tire wear was minimal, he chose not to change tires on either car at Lee USA, helping the team to a pair of top-five finishes. Summing up what he has learned the first time around, Weissman declared, "I think the key is weight placement. If you place the weight properly, you won't have excessive tire wear."
The no-change tire strategy proved to be the winning hand in the New England Dodge Dealers NASCAR 150 at Stafford, where Martin Truex Jr. led all the way. However, Andy Santerre, who pitted at mid-race, moved into second with six laps remaining and might have run Truex down if one more caution flag had appeared. Thus the Busch North Series teams return to Stafford Motor Speedway for the Carquest 150 with one chapter of their notebooks full, but another chapter yet to be written.
NEWS OF NOTE
* In previous years, the Carquest 150 was the first Busch North Series event of the year at Stafford, but in 2003, the New England Dodge Dealers NASCAR 150, traditionally a July race, was moved to Mother's Day weekend. The May race was a sweep for Martin Truex Jr., in his only Busch North Series start of the season so far. He won the Bud Pole and led every lap, taking the checkered flag 3.63 seconds ahead of Andy Santerre, who started eleventh. Santerre pitted at mid-race and passed Matt Kobyluck for second on lap 144. Ryan Moore, in just his third Busch North race, also got around Kobyluck to take third. Tom Carey, marked his return to semi-regular Busch North action by taking fifth after running as high as second.
* Martin Truex Jr. won the pole in May at a statistically-elegant but non-record 20.000 seconds, equal to 90.000 miles per hour on Stafford's half-mile track.
* The 2002 Carquest 150 was won by Kelly Moore, his second straight win in the event and the record 22nd win of his Busch North Series career. He passed Dale Shaw, who chose not to pit for tires, on lap 108 and beat Andy Santerre by .22 second. Dale Quarterley, Bryon Chew, in his best career finish, and Dave Dion completed the top five as Shaw faded to sixth. Martin Truex Jr. won the Bud Pole but never led and finished tenth.
* Stafford's track record is the oldest in the Busch North Series record book. It stands to the credit of Kelly Moore, set two years ago at this race in 19.674 seconds, 91.491 miles per hour.
* Martin Truex Jr.'s May victory at Stafford made him the sixth two-time Busch North Series winner at the track. The others are Mike Stefanik, Andy Santerre, Brad Leighton, Kelly Moore, and Mike Johnson. All except Leighton are expected to be in action at the Carquest 150. Scoring one Busch North victory at Stafford have been Tommy Houston, Mike McLaughlin, Keith Lamell, Tom Bolles, Jerry Marquis, Rick Fuller, Dennis Demers, Ted Christopher, and Dale Shaw.
* Stafford Motor Speedway, built as a fairgrounds dirt track in the late 1800's, hosted its first auto race in 1948. The track was paved in 1967 and has been a member of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series throughout the modern era.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
"At a track where you have less bite, like Beech Ridge or Seekonk, it makes it a little more difficult to hook up the rear tires. As far as the weight goes, I think it's made some of the older cars more competitive, since you can get down to minimum right side weight There's a little more work for us to do at the track, because of the horsepower and weight, but it's minimal. You just have to pay attention." -- Busch North Series champion crew chief Roger Tryon, commenting on the effect of the new engine and weight rules in 2003. Tryon's driver, Andy Santerre, started the season with two wins and a second place finish.
What: Carquest 150, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series
Race #6 of 18
Where: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, Conn.
When: Friday, June 20, 9:00 p.m. (approx.)
Race length: 150 laps, 75.0 miles
Schedule: Friday, June 20 -- Practice 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., Bud Pole Qualifying 5:30 p.m.; Carquest 150 9:00 p.m. (approx.)