BNS: Watkins Glen: Race preview

Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi. Winner at Watkins Glen likely to have solid Busch North credentials; three former winners on entry list. Watkins Glen, N.Y. (August 7, 2002)-- When the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring made its annual...

Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi.
Winner at Watkins Glen likely to have solid Busch North credentials; three former winners on entry list.

Watkins Glen, N.Y. (August 7, 2002)-- When the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring made its annual visits to the road courses at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock a few years ago, the series regulars would scan the entry list for "hired guns". Road racing specialists like Butch Leitzinger and Kim Baker were expected to have the edge over the short track bred regulars. The entry list for this weekend's Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi at Watkins Glen International shows several road racing masters- but they're also familiar names on the ovals. The likes of two-time Glen winner Andy Santerre and one-time victors Ted Christopher and Bryan Wall give nothing away when braking and shifting enter the equation. Neither do Brad Leighton, Dale Quarterley, returning Busch North alumnus Brad Bennett, or a dozen others in the field.

Santerre is the only two-time Busch North Series winner at the Glen as a driver, and he was also the winning car owner in 2001 with Tom Carey at the wheel. Returning to full-time Busch North Series action in 2002, Watkins Glen presents Santerre with an opportunity to "get well" in the points race. A late-race crash at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in the most recent Busch North race changed a potential win into a 16th place finish and dropped him 76 points behind leader Leighton.

Christopher is running only a handful of Busch North Series races in 2002, but there was never any doubt the Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi would be one of them. He won this race in 1997 and also owns two Featherlite Modified Series wins at the track. So far in 2002, he's perfect in Busch North competition- one start at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway, and one victory.

For Bryan Wall, a Watkins Glen victory would be a great turnaround for a dismal season which has seen the fourth place finisher in the 2001 point standings still without a top-five finish. He will gain a teammate and lose a spotter at the Glen, as his father, John Wall Sr., makes his usual road course driving appearance.

Both Leighton and Quarterley have scores to settle with the 2.45 mile circuit in the hills above Seneca Lake as a result of "what if" situations in last year's race. Leighton got boxed behind a lapped car two turns from the white flag and was passed by Carey for the win, then he overdrove turn one on the last lap and was trapped by the gravel bed, dropping to 13th. Earlier in the race, Quarterley was racing for the lead when he cut a tire, made an unscheduled pit stop, and finished sixth.

No one has more of a score to settle with the former U.S. Grand Prix venue than Bennett, who had victory at the Glen in 1998 seemingly within his grasp when he was assessed a penalty for unnecessary contact, dropping him to 18th. It will be the first Busch North Series start in four years for the Connecticut native who has raced in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and served as crew chief for former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope in the interim.

While not yet road course winners, several other Busch North Series drivers have shown their skills in the road racing environment, including Paul Wolfe, current points runner-up Matt Kobyluck, and Martin Truex Jr., who finished third through fifth at Watkins Glen last year behind Carey and Wall. Sure to be competitive wherever the Busch North Series races are Kelly Moore, Dale Shaw, and Mike Johnson, while 2001 series champion Mike Olsen carries the colors of race sponsor Little Trees as well as the determination to revive his trouble-plagued season.

A dark horse contender could be Rick Bell, who has joined the Busch North Series full-time in 2002 after competing only at Watkins Glen and his home track at Lime Rock for many years. He's currently ranked second behind Robbie Harrison in the Raybestos Rookie standings.

The Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi is scheduled for practice and Bud Pole Qualifying on Friday, August 9, with the green flag at approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 10. It is the primary supporting event for the Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup race, the largest-attended sporting event in New York State. The Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi will be taped for national telecast by SPEED Channel on Monday night, September 9.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Derrike Cope , Butch Leitzinger , Martin Truex Jr. , Bryan Wall , Dale Quarterley , Paul Wolfe , Matt Kobyluck , Mike Johnson , Rick Bell