BUSCH: Loudon Pole Story

Bessey bags Bud Pole at New Hampshire By Dave Rodman LOUDON, N.H. (May 8, 1998) New England native Joe Bessey gave himself and his team the best possible homecoming gift -- a completely unexpected Bud Pole Award -- in qualifying Friday for...

Bessey bags Bud Pole at New Hampshire By Dave Rodman

LOUDON, N.H. (May 8, 1998) New England native Joe Bessey gave himself and his team the best possible homecoming gift -- a completely unexpected Bud Pole Award -- in qualifying Friday for Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Gumout Long Life Formula 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Despite his claims, Bessey left virtually nothing on the table Friday at the slightly-banked "Magic Mile." His No. 6 Power Team Chevrolet swept the fastest time in each of the morning's practice periods and, when Bessey drew the opening qualifying number, he left very little suspense in that session.

Bessey, of Scarborough, Me., turned a track record lap of 29.826 seconds, an average speed of 127.701 mph. That comfortably eclipsed defending race champion Mike McLaughlin's former standard of 30.494 seconds, 124.903 mph, set in May 1995, and earned Bessey his second career series Bud Pole Award.

"I'm real happy we could back up, and actually improve our practice speeds," Bessey said. "We have run well in this race but we've never really qualified well. Goodyear had a new tire compound and it stuck real good."

Nashville, Tenn., teenager Casey Atwood, who shocked the series with a Bud Pole Award at Nashville Speedway USA in March, made only his second appearance since then and qualified only .055 seconds behind Bessey in the Red Line Oil Chevrolet. Atwood was clocked at 29.881 seconds, or 127.466 mph.

Steady series veterans Mark Green, in the Timber Wolf Chevrolet, and Elton Sawyer, in the Barbasol Ford, qualified third (126.404 mph) and fourth (126.328) before another youngster, Virginian Wayne Grubb, locked-in the fifth spot in his Link-Belt Chevrolet (126.249).

Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Andy Santerre, another Maine native from Cherryfield; Elliott Sadler; two-time defending series champion Randy LaJoie; Robert Pressley; and Phil Parsons rounded out the top-10.

"This is awesome, and to have it happen right here in our backyard, I'm about speechless," Bessey said as he made the rounds with the media. "Believe it or not, this (pole) is a big surprise. Coming in here we hadn't even thought we'd have a shot at it.

"But, despite what everyone might've thought, our expectations for the race are that we came here to win. We've run good the past five or six weeks, we've just gotten caught up in something that's prevented us from finishing.

"The way we've been running, we just know that when we can finish one of these races, it's gonna be a good finish. With all of the trouble we've had leading up to coming here, we know we're due for something great to happen. Of all the places, if it could only happen here -- that would be the greatest."

NASCAR Busch Series point leader Matt Kenseth qualified his Lycos Chevrolet in the 14th spot at 125.591 mph as a little more than seven tenths of a second separated the first 36 starters. McLaughlin is only 22nd best in the Goulds Pumps Chevrolet and third point man Dale Earnhardt Jr., is 16th in the ACDelco Chevrolet.

"When we only had two hours of practice, I knew my experience here would be an edge," said Bessey, a former NASCAR Busch North Series standout.

Newcomers Matt Hutter, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year point leader, and Jarrett, were each forced to go to back-up cars and to use provisional starting positions after they crashed in qualifying.

Featherlite Modified Series, a NASCAR Touring Division driver John Preston; Raybestos Rookie Kevin Schwantz; veteran Dennis Setzer; returnee Stevie Reeves; and newcomer Mark McFarland took provisional starting spot.

Among those failing to qualify for the event were Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring Division regulars Mike Olsen, Joey McCarthy and Tom Bolles and Ernie Irvan's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team co-owner Brian Simo.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ernie Irvan , Matt Kenseth , Elton Sawyer , Robert Pressley , Casey Atwood , Kevin Schwantz , Brian Simo , Mike McLaughlin , Dennis Setzer , Mark Green , Phil Parsons , Mark McFarland , Elliott Sadler , Stevie Reeves