Rogelio Lopez Parlays NHIS Pole Position Start Into Third Place Finish Loudon, N.H. (Sept. 14, 2007) - Rogelio Lopez proved that his fast qualifying time at New Hampshire International Speedway on Thursday was no fluke as he spent the entirety...
Rogelio Lopez Parlays NHIS Pole Position Start Into Third Place Finish
Loudon, N.H. (Sept. 14, 2007) - Rogelio Lopez proved that his fast qualifying time at New Hampshire International Speedway on Thursday was no fluke as he spent the entirety of Friday's Aubuchon Hardware 125 in the top-five, finishing third in the next-to-last NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of the season.
Lopez, from Aguascalientes, Mexico, put his No. 03 Telmex/Lucas Oil Chevrolet on the pole for the race in Thursday's qualifying with a fast lap of 125.624 MPH around the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, New Hampshire. After earning his first Busch Pole Award in Busch East Series racing, he was ready to follow that up with the race win.
Lopez took the lead at the race's start, but lost that lead after a lap four restart. He fell to fifth place, and was content to ride in that position as the Dave Davis Motorsports team, led by crew chief Fred Skaff, worked on pit strategy.
The second caution of the race flew on lap 33, setting up the first opportunity to pit. Almost the entire field came to pit road with differing strategies, some opting to change tires while others went with a gas-only stop. Lopez opted for no tire change, and this resulted in a quick pit stop that saw him line up fifth for the lap 40 restart.
Lopez continued to ride in fifth until he got an opportunity to improve his position, taking fourth from Tim Schendel just after the race's halfway mark. He lost that position to fellow countryman Ruben Pardo on a lap 75 restart, but took that spot back after a two-lap battle.
Late in the race, Lopez had been running behind Jerry Marquis but passed him for third after a lap 107 restart, and was in that position when the final caution of the event came out on lap 114. He lost third position to Sean Caisse on the following restart, but gained the position back when Mark McFarland faltered with just three laps to go. He crossed the finish line third, which became his fifth top-five finish of his rookie season. He moved up to eighth in the season points standings, just 53 points away from fifth place.
"We were pretty good at the beginning," he said after the race. "We had a really good car during the long runs, and we never changed tires which shows how well-balanced the car is. We were waiting for those who changed tires to catch back up to us but only one or two did, so we made the right decision to not change tires and instead just make a couple of adjustments during our pit stop for fuel. I struggled on the last restart and spun the tires, and that let the 44 [Caisse] pass me, but we still think we made the right pit call. We took a shot at winning the race but finished third.
"I feel good for the team, and I have to thank Telmex, Lucas Oil, Dave Davis Motorsports, and Fred Skaff. They gave me a great car, maybe even better than the one I had at Nashville. We still have some work to do to finish the season, but we're looking forward to it," Lopez continued.
Only one race remains on the 2007 Busch East Series schedule. Dover International Speedway hosts the series for a Friday afternoon 150-lapper on its concrete high banks on September 21st. The race will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on HDNet.
"We're looking forward to going to Dover," Lopez said. "We have a new car for that race but it's not completely finished yet, so we'll be busy this week."