Carquest Fall Final 150, Stafford Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 29 When it was all over at Stafford on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, the Busch North Series point race didn& ...
Carquest Fall Final 150, Stafford Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 29
When it was all over at Stafford on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, the Busch North Series point race didn’t change a great deal heading to the Lime Rock finale in two weeks. Andy Santerre added ten points to his lead over Matt Kobyluck, and 27 to his margin over Brad Leighton. But there was a time, as Leighton raced Mike Johnson for the lead after lap 100, that a big shakeup seemed a real possibility. Had Leighton won and no other positions changed, the three leaders would have been separated by 33 points.
In the real world, Santerre can close out his rivals at Lime Rock by finishing no worse than seventh if Kobyluck wins, and no worse than 20th if Leighton wins.
Mike and the Blue Oval. That’s not the name of a Nashville band, just a way of pointing out that Mike Johnson asserted himself as the leading Ford driver on the Busch North Series for 2002 with his performance at Stafford. On Saturday he became the first Ford driver to win a Bud Pole this year, and on Sunday he became the first to win two races. (Bryan Wall owns the other Ford victory, at Watkins Glen.) Johnson’s fifth career win broke a tie with Butch Leitzinger as the second most prolific Ford winner in series history. Dave Dion, with a dozen, is still the leader by far.
The Bud Pole was the second of Johnson’s career, both at Stafford. The first came in his rookie season of 2000 and led to his first Stafford win. That was a night race in which he led every lap, obviously following the same no-pit strategy that worked on Sunday afternoon.
The second half of the season had seen Mike Olsen turn things around after a dismal first half, but the defending series champion saw the bad times return at Stafford. In practice he hit the front straight wall at the end of a chain-reaction tangle, doing enough damage to roll out the backup car. After the Little Trees team thrashed to install the primary engine in the reserve car, Olsen recorded the second fastest qualifying time with no practice. In the race he was a solid top-five contender until something broke in the right front, causing him to turn sharp right into the turn three guardrail. Again he walked away, but two wrecked cars headed back to North Haverhill, N.H. along with a 25th place finish.
The odds would have been long on Ted Christopher not qualifying for a race at Stafford. But "TC" never came to grips with the Kimball Oil Chevrolet #28, partly due to splitting his time with both his Featherlite and SK modifieds. Being first in the qualifying line didn’t help either, and he timed 28th of 34 cars. When all the provisional start criteria were applied, rookie Jimmy Renfrew just barely had priority for the 30th and final starting position.
Meanwhile, Featherlite Modified Series driver Nevin George made his Busch North Series debut in Christopher’s semi-regular ride, the Ralph Solhem-owned, Ferguson Contractors Pontiac #13. George made the field on time and learned some hard but valuable lessons about racing a heavy car on narrower tires before being sidelined with rear end problems.
Stafford Milestones… Mike Rowe’s top-ten streak grew to four straight… Paul Wolfe notched a top-ten in his first short-track start of the season… Joey McCarthy qualified fifth for the third time…. The only short-track SPEED Channel coverage of the season is set to air on Monday, November 4.