BUSCH: New Hampshire Qualifying Notes

LOUDON, N.H. (May 7, 1999) Notes and quotes Friday following Bud Pole Award Qualifying for Saturday NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division New Hampshire 200 at the New Hampshire International Speedway: What a difference a year made for ...

LOUDON, N.H. (May 7, 1999) Notes and quotes Friday following Bud Pole Award Qualifying for Saturday NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division New Hampshire 200 at the New Hampshire International Speedway:

What a difference a year made for Scarborough, Maine, native Joe Bessey. In 1998 Bessey set the New Hampshire International Speedway track record in Bud Pole Qualifying for the New Hampshire 200 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division event.

But on Friday afternoon, while nine cars broke his Bud Pole Qualifying record, the man who established that mark a year ago did not even make the field for Saturday's event. Bessey clouted the Turn 4 wall in his No. 6 Power Team Chevrolet on his first lap, which was the fastest of his two tours but only good for 43rd on the chart.

Bessey's was one of only four teams sent home after qualifying, along with New Hampshire's Bryan Wall, NBS regular Wayne Grubb and former regular Bobby Dotter. It was the second DNQ for Bessey since he tried to make his return to the series after taking a break to attend to his NASCAR Winston Cup Series team, with driver Geoffrey Bodine.

Bessey quickly left the race track after his abortive qualifying run, according to a crewman, and was unavailable for comment.

Republican presidential candidate Dan Quayle made a stop at NHIS as he stumped for the New Hampshire primary, the first such event leading up to the 2000 presidential election. Quayle spent time in the stands, in between rain showers, and also visited the NASCAR Busch Series garage area, where he visited with Raybestos Rookie of the point leader Adam Petty, among others.

"I'm from Indianapolis, so obviously I am a race fan," Quayle said. He did not state whether or not his favorite event was the Brickyard 400 or the Indianapolis 500.

Tony Roper's breakneck run through his first tour in the NASCAR Busch Series continued Friday as he placed the IWX Motor Freight Pontiac fourth on the grid. It could have been even better than the 128.186 mph lap he recorded.

"I should be happy with that," said Roper, who was still shaking his head. "That was my first lap, but I had an awesome second lap going. The car pushed coming off the fourth turn or I had a shot at the pole. I did think about catching the apron off the fourth turn because I thought the car might push. I didn't do that and it pushed so I had to get all the way out of the gas. I'm still happy. We've got a god starting spot and now we can race from there." Matt Kenseth said his 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup team -- an alliance of Mark Martin and Jack Roush, was "super close to having a sponsor lined up. We hope to have an announcement to make in Charlotte (prior to May 30 Coca-Cola 600)," he said. He added that his current team owner, Robbie Reiser, was also looking to make the move to NASCAR Winston Cup racing in 2000.

Shaky weather at NHIS led to three rain delays and a loss of practice time for both the NASCAR Busch Series and Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring competitors. The NBS teams had their pre-qualifying practice time cut in half, from two hours to one. The Busch North teams lost their final practice.

Record-setting pole winner Jeff Green had a simple explanation for the assault on the track record in qualifying. His answer was music to the ears of track officials and also would be good news to NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams that will be back in July for the Jiffy Lube 300. "To me, the track feels like it's got a lot more grip," Green said after he beat Bessey's record by more than two tenths of a second. "I didn't race a Busch car here last year, but it feels like they did a great job with this track. Everybody's got their cars better, Goodyear's got the tires better, so all that makes for better speed."

Green had a simple plea for his 42 competitors in Saturday's 200-miler.

"I hope it goes green the whole way," Green said. "I hate cautions. I hope everybody uses their heads. This track is real wide. Up until now, I don't think you could run really two-wide. But hopefully that new sealer (applied before last August's Farm Aid on CMT 300 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race) will let us run on the outside a little bit and give us two grooves that we can run all day long. We've got some great race drivers. They want to race hard, just like I do. Hopefully we'll go green a long time. This track favors a lot of green flag laps and hopefully that'll work again."

Todd Bodine had a wild -- but heads-up ride in Bud Pole Qualifying. Bodine apparently messed-up Turn 4 on his first qualifying lap, nearly slamming the outside wall in his Phillips 66 Chevrolet. But he had the presence of mind to whoa the car down before the start/finish line, reverse direction and go all the way back to the pit exit. He turned around to get a running start and completed his first lap in two minutes, 12.475 seconds -- an average speed of 28.751 mph. After all that effort, his 125.455 mph lap was only 39th best, which forced his Cicci-Welliver team to use a provisional for the 38th starting spot. Afterward, he wasn't too interested in talking about the run, preferring to discuss his physical condition following a race-ending crash at the California Speedway last weekend.

"I feel pretty good, but my knee is pretty sore," Bodine said. "Actually, the top of my foot is the worst. I broke the clutch pedal with my foot in the wreck, and it hurts."

Buckshot Jones, the defending winner of the New Hampshire 200 who is moonlighting on an off weekend from his full-time gig as driver of the NASCAR Winston Cup Crown Fiber Communications Pontiacs, brought out the only caution of the Happy Hour practice 15 minutes into the session. Jones spun coming off Turn 2 and tapped the wall, causing minor damage to the nose cone of the No. 00 Cheez-It Pontiac. NASCAR Winston Cup crew chief Ricky Pearson took the lead on welding a broken exhaust header, which allowed Jones to rejoin the session and post the sixth-best speed in the hour, 127.410 mph.

Mike McLaughlin was quickest of the 43 cars that practiced in Happy Hour. He turned a lap of 128.010 mph in the Goulds Pumps Chevrolet -- a remarkable turnabout after he did not even qualify for the New Hampshire 200 on speed, being forced to take a provisional. Former NHIS winner Randy LaJoie was second-best at 127.971 in the Bob Evans Chevrolet, followed by Bud Pole winner Jeff Green's Kleenex Chevrolet (127.967), teammate Jason Keller's Fleming Team Chevrolet (127.538) and Matt Kenseth in the DeWalt Tools Chevrolet (127.453).

Jeff Green was a fount of wisdom on Friday. He offered his thoughts on everything from his chances at victory in the New Hampshire 200 to the possibility of Dale Earnhardt Jr. dominating the show. "Well, I read here somewhere a statistic where there have been 12 different winners here (in 12 NBS races at NHIS)," Green said. "I haven't won here so hopefully it's 13 tomorrow. I don't think anybody's going to get away. He's (Earnhardt) just been real consistent on his finishes. But as far as leading or dominating, I don't think he's done that yet. Hopefully he won't (Saturday)."

Phil Parsons is one of several NBS drivers dealing with current streaks of "bad racing luck." Even though he only qualified his ALLTEL Chevrolet 30th for the New Hampshire 200, he remains optimistic about contending for the NBS championship.

"We've got good people working on the car and we have the advantage of working with one of the best sponsors in the sport," Parsons said. "Right now, we're working to change a little of our racing luck. Every single race team goes through a stretch of bad luck. The championship teams, the good teams and everybody else has to deal with these kinds of situations.

"The teams that handle it well are the ones that separate themselves from everybody else. I think that's our advantage. We don't dwell on the past. We concern ourselves with the future. The nice thing about racing is you have a chance to turn everything around the next week. New Hampshire is a great chance for us. This entire race team is full of positive energy for this race."

Former NASCAR Busch Series driver J.D. Gibbs proved at New Hampshire that his migration to the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring might have been the right choice for Joe Gibbs' oldest son, who had mostly struggled in his NASCAR Busch Series attempts. Gibbs qualified fifth for Saturday's New Hampshire 100, turning a lap of 123.598 mph in his MBNA Chevrolet.

It was a night for visitors at Memorial Field in Concord, N.H., Thursday as a powerful softball team made up of NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division drivers scored a 23-16 victory over a squad from the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring. It was the third victory in four games for the NBS squad.

Hermie Sadler, driver of the MGM Brakes Chevrolet -- who made a strong return to the series after a one-race absence by qualifying 13th -- earned MVP honors through a stellar seven-inning pitching performance and a home run. Busch North Series Director Bunk Sampson led his charges from the mound, and driver Glen Brehio slashed two inside-the-park home runs. The event benefited Ronald McDonald Children's Charities.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Todd Bodine , Geoffrey Bodine , Jeff Green , Buckshot Jones , Mike McLaughlin , Bobby Dotter , Hermie Sadler , Bryan Wall , Phil Parsons , Jack Roush , Bob Evans