NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES NEWS & NOTES
* Olsen Recalls Last Lap, Last Turn Pass In Scoring
First Superspeedway Win At NHIS
* NASCAR Busch East Series Drivers Have Universal Affection For NHIS
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 20, 2007) -- Last July, it was a last-lap pass that brought a first superspeedway victory for a veteran champion NASCAR Busch East Series driver at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Mike Olsen, a favorite among the region's fans, drove his No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet to a sliver of a second victory over Sean Caisse's No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet at the finish-line of the 1.058-mile oval.
Caisse had led the previous 84 laps, but Olsen set up his last-turn-of-the-last-lap surge perfectly.
"I was pretty happy," Olsen said. "It's no secret that I've been trying to do that for quite a while. Then to do it on the last lap of the last corner was pretty awesome. Gosh, I felt really happy. I felt like I had fulfilled a goal of mine. As anybody who fulfills a goal in their life knows, that's a pretty cool feeling."
The win played a major part in his team's already rolling momentum toward its second series championship. Olsen and the Little Trees team, based in nearby North Haverhill, N.H., arrived at NHIS hot off their victory a week earlier at a half-mile track in Northeast, Pa., where he and Caisse had also battled to a one-two finish.
"Momentum was on our side," Olsen said. "It was still a tight (points) battle all the way, but we kept the lead in the points from there on out."
As he climbed from his car in Victory Lane, he could hear the vocal cheers his "home turf" fans.
"You can definitely hear the crowd there. The track's not far from my shop, so we have a lot of fans there, and a lot of fans of my grandfather (New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame member Stub Fadden) ... they knew what it was all about and how long we had been trying to win there. It was definitely a pretty cool feeling. We'd like to be able to do that again, for sure. It was exciting for the fans, too, which is what it's all about. If the series puts on good races for them, they'll want to come back and be part of it."
The car Olsen will enter June 29 at NHIS has been raced once previously in 2007 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, a .875-mile D-shaped oval, reminiscent in configuration to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. It wasn't a "red letter" day in crew chief Harry Norcross' notebook.
"Unfortunately, we ran the car at Iowa, and got caught up in a wreck with Matt Kobyluck," Olsen said of his 29th-place finish. "We both had to do quite a bit of repair work. We're pretty confident we got the car back to where it was."
Kobyluck is also entering the NHIS event with the same No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet he raced to an abbreviated 36th-place finish at Iowa.
Preparation in their race shops will be a big part of race day success in the New England 125. June 28 qualifying is preceded by one 90-minute practice session. Teams will have more than two hours to make final adjustments between practice and qualifying.
Veteran NASCAR Busch East Series drivers have always appreciated the opportunity to race at NHIS. The Bahre family, led by Bob Bahre and his son, Gary, built the Loudon track without guarantee of any NASCAR-sanctioned races, but hosted the original NASCAR Busch North Series as many as six times in a single season when they operated a .333-mile paved oval in Oxford, Maine, helping establish the series. Later, in 1990 when NHIS opened, they hosted as many as four events in a single season to help grow the series into a division that has become a destination series for some, and a driver development series for others.
"The Bahre family and Bob and Gary supported us very heavily with their track in Maine," Olsen said. "They did whatever they could do to make the series work. When they built Loudon, they made sure we were included in all the big weekend events there. That's huge for us to race in front of a crowd that size when the Cup cars are there."
Drivers also appreciate the race purses that their events at NHIS offer. The New England 125 has posted awards of $221,048.
The prize money is important, but the Bahres' relationship with the series drivers goes beyond the business of racing.
"Bob and Gary are very thoughtful and have always taken care of the competitors very well. They are very good to the people in our series," Olsen said.
Olsen is the reigning NASCAR Busch East Series "Milestone Man." Among active full-time drivers, he leads the series in many categories: longevity, now in his 19th consecutive season; starts, 274 entering Loudon; consecutive starts, 190 entering Loudon; money won, $1,146,114 entering Loudon. He's won plenty of awards in the series in addition to his 2001 and 2006 championships: 1993 Most Improved Driver; 2001 Busch Pole Award champion and Most Popular Driver Award winner, and was a 2006 AARWBA All-American Racing Team nominee in the Touring Series category.
Olsen is beginning a transition period in his career. He is contemplating a reduction in his own racing schedule as early as 2008 to begin focusing on his team ownership roll. He added a second team this year for NASCAR rookie Maxime "Max" Dumarey (No. 16 BodyCoach.net Chevrolet). BodyCoach.net is an Internet marketer of exercise equipment. The Belgium teen's on-track performances have improved under Olsen's guidance.
NEWS & NOTES
O MacDonald Qualifies For Showdown ... Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., became the latest NASCAR Busch East Series driver to win a guaranteed starting spot in the rich and prestigious post-season NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway October 20. Each NASCAR Grand National Division Busch East Series and NASCAR West Series race winner this year wins a guaranteed starting spot in the nationally televised on SPEED all-star race. Next up for MacDonald, who earned his Showdown spot by winning the TSI Harley Davidson 150 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway June 8, will be the New England 150 at NHIS June 29. MacDonald, a part-timer in the NASCAR Busch East Series this year, said he will enter the NHIS event with the same car he drove to his upset win at Stafford.
O East Series Stars Entered At Infineon ... Two young NASCAR Busch East Series stars who drive for Joe Gibbs Racing are entered in the NASCAR West Series Blue Lizard Suncream 200 presented by Supercuts race at the 1.99-mile road course of Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Saturday, June 23. Joey Logano (No. 10 Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet), who turned 17 last month, won the West Series race at Phoenix in April and the Grand National Division combination race at Iowa in May. Marc Davis (No. 92 Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet) -- who will celebrate his 17th birthday on race day, June 23 -- finished in the runner-up spot to Logano at Phoenix. Both teens are running full-time this season in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series. Their 1-2 Phoenix finish marked the first career superspeedway start for each driver. The Infineon race is the first road course start of their careers. Other NASCAR Busch East Series drivers taking advantage of the "open" weekend on their racing schedule back east include Dale Quarterley (No. 32 Carpet One Chevrolet), who raced in 139 Busch East Series events between 1994 and 2006. In his most recent NASCAR West Series race in 2004 in a regular-season event at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, Quarterly finished second to Austin Cameron. Quarterley also served as crew chief for NASCAR Busch East Series driver John Salemi in the series' 2007 season-opening event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., April 28. Also entered at Infineon is Eric Holmes (No. 62 Van Dyk Baler/Bollegraaf Chevrolet), who runs full-time in the NASCAR Busch East Series this year. He makes his second NASCAR West Series start of 2007 at Infineon after winning the West Series championship in 2006.