BNS: Stafford II:

Tight races in progress for series title and special awards as Busch North Series hits Stafford Motor Speedway for NASCAR 150 this Friday, July 26. STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. (July 23, 2002)& ...

Tight races in progress for series title and special awards as Busch North Series hits Stafford Motor Speedway for NASCAR 150 this Friday, July 26.

STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. (July 23, 2002)– A tight battle among five drivers that could grow to encompass six or seven title contenders is enough reason to focus attention on this Friday night's NASCAR 150 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring race at Stafford Motor Speedway. In addition, there are four lucrative special award programs up for grabs as the season swings into its second half on the half-mile oval.

The NASCAR 150 is the second of three scheduled appearances for the Busch North Series at Stafford in 2002, the most of any short track on the circuit. Practice begins at 3 p.m., with Bud Pole Qualifying at 6 p.m. and the green flag set for approximately 9 p.m. A full program in Stafford's NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge classes is also part of the evening's entertainment.

After dropping to ninth place in the 2001 rankings, Brad Leighton has returned to the form that made him and the Grizco Racing team back-to-back champions in 1999 and 2000. As the teams roll into Stafford, Leighton is riding a two-race winning streak and holds a 43-point lead over Kelly Moore in the Busch North Series standings. Moore, the all-time leading winner in Busch North Series history and victor in Stafford's Carquest 150 in June, also recorded a win at nearby Waterford Speedbowl to run his record total to 23, along with 43 Bud Poles.

Andy Santerre, returning to full-time Busch North Series action for the first time since 1997, is third in the rundown, 67 markers behind Leighton and only one point ahead of Stafford weekly racing graduate Matt Kobyluck. Santerre has two wins and Kobyluck one, meaning the top four in points have accounted for eight of the ten race victories in 2002. Dale Shaw, winless so far in 2002 but third on the all-time win list behind Moore and Leighton, is fifth and trails the leader by just 109 points.

How fast those margins can change is illustrated by Kobyluck's fate at Stafford in June. Engine failure left him 23rd in the Carquest 150, losing 86 points to winner Moore and 76 to runner-up Santerre in one night.

While the top five have been close all year long, with all but Shaw leading after at least one race, a couple of other pre-season favorites have begun to make up ground. Mike Johnson, winner of July stop at Stafford in 2000, is now sixth, and Dale Quarterley, on the strength of four straight top ten finishes, is seventh, and within 200 points of the leader. Just starting to make a move is last year's NASCAR 150 winner, Martin Truex Jr., who moved into the top ten for the first time all season last week at Loudon, N.H.

While Truex has struggled to post consistent race finishes, he has been the undisputed king of Bud Pole Qualifying. The second-generation racer from New Jersey has registered four Bud Poles, including one at Stafford, compared to two for defending series and Bud Pole champion Mike Olsen and last year's Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year, Brian Hoar. Kelly Moore and Paul Wolfe each have one Bud Pole. The Bud Pole Award is worth $900 at each race, with $10,000 to the Bud Pole champion.

The Gatorade Front Runner Award, which recognizes race leadership, has seen 15 drivers score points by leading at least one lap, and nine different drivers in ten races receive the $750 award for leading the most laps. Kelly Moore, who has led six races, leads the Gatorade standings headed to Stafford by one point over Santerre and Olsen. Leighton is three points behind. The seasonal Gatorade Front Runner Award winner collects a check for $7,500 at the annual awards ceremony in November.

The Flowmaster Star of the Race Award rewards the drivers who improve their position the most from start to finish. Kip Stockwell is the current leader in the Flowmaster standings by one point over Bill Penfold and two points over Greg Schaefer. The Flowmaster Star of the Race annual award is worth $7,500.

Finally, the Raybestos Rookie award program, worth $1,000 per race and $5,000 at the end of the year, has been dominated by Robbie Harrison. He has collected the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Race check six times in nine starts. Gary Shackford has two race awards and Rick Bell one. Harrison leads Bell by 40 points and Shackford by 47 in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings. None of the registered rookies started one race, so no award was made.

The NASCAR 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway marks the last Busch North Series appearance in New England for four weeks, and the last in Connecticut until Stafford's own Fall Final on September 29.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Greg Schaefer , Dale Quarterley , Paul Wolfe , Mike Johnson , Rick Bell