BNS: USA-Lee: Season opener preview

Momentum, in two senses of the term, is top priority in Busch North Series season opener at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 21. LEE, N.H. (April 12, 2002)-- Momentum is a physical concept, related to Newton's Law of Inertia. It's also a ...

Momentum, in two senses of the term, is top priority in Busch North Series season opener at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 21.

LEE, N.H. (April 12, 2002)-- Momentum is a physical concept, related to Newton's Law of Inertia. It's also a psychological trait, related to the idea that success, once achieved, becomes easier to repeat. Both kinds of momentum will be in play when the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring, kicks off its 2002 season on Sunday afternoon, April 21, at Lee USA Speedway's .375-mile oval.

The 150-lap event will mark the start of the 16th campaign for NASCAR's premier full-bodied series in the Northeast, and the seventh consecutive season the lid-lifter has taken place at Red and Judy MacDonald's track near the New Hampshire seacoast. A full program of racing for the classes in Lee USA Speedway's regular NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge will also be featured. Busch North Series practice starts at 12 noon, with Bud Pole Qualifying at 2:45 p.m. and the main event at 4:30 p.m.

Two-time Busch North Series champion Brad Leighton's record at Lee USA is unmatched, with four consecutive wins, including three on opening day from 1997 to 1999. The last victory in that hat trick set him up for a wire-to-wire run to his first championship. Brad says the psychological momentum generated from coming out of the gate in front sets a winning tone for the whole season.

"You want to come out of the box solid and strong and be competitive. It's a real motivator for the rest of the season," he said. Noting that his team never recovered its edge after being off the pace in the 2001 opener, Leighton added, "Lee can be a real morale-booster. If we go there and do well, we'll be ready to kick some tails this year."

While he hasn't yet visited victory lane at Lee USA, defending Busch North Series champion Mike Olsen has shown a knack for coming on strong in the closing stages. He chased down Leighton to close within a car length in 1999 and made a blazing stretch run to third behind winner Tracy Gordon and runner-up Mike Johnson last year. Olsen has learned to use the other kind of momentum to move forward in the waning laps on Lee's wide racing surface with its long, sweeping turns.

"What usually happens at Lee is that late in the race the tires heat up and you lose the forward bite off the turns. If you can get hooked up in the high groove you can make up a lot of ground, especially off turn four," he observed. During the 2001opener, Olsen gambled by pitting out of a top five spot. He took on new right-side tires, and nearly pulled off an upset win.

"We pitted with about 30 laps left and we were able to pass a lot of cars," he recalled, adding "Of course, the closer you get to the front, the harder they are to pass!"

The notebooks which Busch North Series teams have compiled at Lee USA Speedway over the years will need some revision in 2002, as the series' seasonal debut will also mark the debut of Goodyear Eagles as the official tire. Mike Olsen noted that the change of tire supplier makes the annual open practice session set for this Saturday, April 13, even more important.

During the 2002 season, the Busch North Series will compete in 19 races at 14 tracks in eight states for race purses exceeding $2,000,000, plus post season awards. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., through its Busch beer brand, has sponsored the series throughout its 16 year history.

NASCAR.com, NASCAR's official internet site, now provides upgraded Busch North Series coverage, including team, track, and series information updated as the news breaks.

-nascar/bns-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Mike Johnson