BUSCH: Joe Bessey Cutting Back on Busch Program

Bessey cutting back Busch program By Dave Rodman HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 4, 1999) Joe Bessey Motorsports, which had attempted to qualify for every NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division event since late in the 1996 season, will take a ...

Bessey cutting back Busch program By Dave Rodman

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 4, 1999) Joe Bessey Motorsports, which had attempted to qualify for every NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division event since late in the 1996 season, will take a brief hiatus from the circuit to insure the continued success of its newborn NASCAR Winston Cup Series team, owner Joe Bessey said Thursday.

The team, which fields No. 6 Power Team Chevrolets in the NASCAR Busch Series, will skip the next six events on that circuit's schedule, including Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, before returning for the April 24 event at Talladega Superspeedway.

"Once we come back, we will probably run about 15 races for the rest of this season in the Busch Series," said Bessey, whose lone series victory came at Dover Downs in 1997. "The schedule will get heavy toward the end of the year because we want to come back with a full schedule in 2000."

Bessey's NASCAR Winston Cup Series team -- running No. 60 Power team Chevrolets -- debuted at the Daytona 500 in February with veteran Geoffrey Bodine, capping a tumultuous, two-month adventure that saw the team go from a dream to a competitive reality in little more than a blink of an eye. In fact, Bessey said there was more to it than that, and that was what ultimately led to his decision.

"It wasn't as hard as you might think," Bessey said of the decision, from his new shop. "Something had to give and the Busch team was the only place with any flexibility. Obviously, I thought long and hard about it.

"The Busch team was instrumental in getting the Cup team up and running well -- but unfortunately it's paying the price and it paid the price at Daytona. The Busch team never got an off-season, and I didn't feel like we could recover."

Bessey and his wife Nancy, who own the team together, made the decision in early December to hire Bodine, 49, the "hero" of the veteran driver/owner from Scarborough, Maine.

It began a great adventure for the former competitor in the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring. Bessey had owned his own cars since he came south from Maine for the first time in 1991, for a single race.

When the Power Team came on as his sponsor for the 1997 season, Bessey began a two-year run of making every race that ended when he failed to qualify for the season opening NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway. More than anything -- the 16- to 18-hour days he had been working included -- that frustration made him re-think the direction his racing operation was headed.

"It had a lot to do with it -- missing the race in Daytona obviously made me sit down and take stock of things," Bessey said. "I was in shock to a certain extent and just really went looking to find out what went wrong."

For the first time, Bessey thought his driving, for the short term, might be hurting the overall picture.

"My biggest problem is I've never had to separate the owner's role from the driver's role," Bessey said calmly. "This year, I didn't realize how much effort I had put in as an owner in years past. With all my focus over the Winston Cup program I had fallen down as an owner in the Busch program. I was not concerned about that coming into it&but the piece I never factored in was a lot that goes into the ownership of the Busch team."

That he's done his work well is apparent in the success of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. Bodine finished eighth, on the lead lap, in the Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. In only the second race in its existence, it's got the organization in a buzz.

"I'm very, very happy and thankful for that," Bessey said. "The run at Rockingham& I expected top-10s this year but in race No. 2 -- that was a pleasant surprise. Everyone here has made huge sacrifices to do it as quick as we have. To have that instant gratification feels really good."

The shot of good fortune has been such a tonic it even makes Bessey say the top-10 mostly makes up for the "huge amount of disappointment we felt after we didn't make Daytona."

The blazing start has not made the pragmatic Bessey change his goals for his race teams much, if at all.

"At the beginning of the year our goals with the Cup team were to get into the top-25 in points and keep it there," Bessey said. "I suspected it could be a top-15 team. Given that it's race number two&it's hard to project your whole season but it seems like this is what we thought could happen, happened. I feel we have the possibility of a top-15 team.

"Geoffrey is carrying that Winston Cup team with his enthusiasm and excitement. He's going around telling everybody he's gonna win and it won't surprise me if he does. The way it's gone nothing surprises me any more."

Bessey said if his teams could establish solid, competitive runs he'd be the most pleased.

"For the Busch team, the goal is to get the team competitive consistently," Bessey said. "Consistency was the goal for this year and we're hoping by going to this latest plan we'll get right back into 2000 getting back on track. We'll have the model built with the Winston Cup team to the point where the Busch team won't do anything but add value to that.

"The bottom line is I feel like I have some good competitive runs left in me, but more than anything we're excited and I don't want to do anything to take away from what the Cup team has already accomplished."

Source: NASCAR Online

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