POST-RACE NOTES THE QUEST FOR THE 2006 TITLE BEGINS: Everyone expected the team of Sean Caisse and Andy Santerre would be strong from the start, but to gain the maximum 185 points for winning while leading the most laps in the season opener...
THE QUEST FOR THE 2006 TITLE BEGINS: Everyone expected the team of Sean Caisse and Andy Santerre would be strong from the start, but to gain the maximum 185 points for winning while leading the most laps in the season opener sets the bar at a high level for both the Caisse-Santerree team and the rest of the field.
A closer look at the boxscore shows that most of the top pre-season contenders had a good night as well. The next five in the rundown- Brian Hoar, Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck, Bryon Chew, and Mike Johnson- were all top-ten point finishers in 2005 and the spread from Caisse to Johnson is only 35 points.
Two other members of the '05 top ten took an early hit in the points, but made their presence felt. Eddie MacDonald set third fastest qualifying time with a team he and crew chief Rollie Lachance put together in less than two weeks and ran with the leaders until late-race problems dropped him to the tail of the lead lap. Ryan Moore, after his top-15 finish in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, was the first among the lead group to pit for tires, came back to lead again, and was still in the thick of the battle until he spun in the traffic jam off turn two in lap 142.
ONCE BEFORE: Saturday night did not mark the first time Andy Santerre has visited victory lane as a non-driving car owner and crew chief. Tom Carey drove Santerre's #44 to victory at Watkins Glen in 2001.
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SOPHOMORES SHINE: It was a great return to their alma mater for the Sunoco Rookie Class of 2005. Three classmates joined Sean Caisse in posting career best finishes- Jeff Anton seventh, John Salemi eighth, and Charles Lewandoski ninth. Anton and Lewandoski are continuing with their family based teams from '05, but Salemi has taken over the controls of the respected Mark Willoughby #15, following in the big footsteps of Bobby Dragon and Dale Shaw. Salemi's sponsorship by Daddy's Hot Sauce joins Waste Management and BG Environmental on the car.
THE NEW FRESHMAN CLASS: Dion Ciccarelli did more than pilot the first composite-bodied car in the NASCAR Grand National Division at Greenville-Pickens, He led the new Sunoco Rookie class home as well. Also registered for the rookie program are Jeremy Clark, Pierre Bourque, Patrick Dupree, John Freeman, Ruben Pardo, and Brent Cross. Several other competitors in the opener are eligible to join the program if they choose, but they cannot receive points from the opener retroactively.
NEVER GIVE UP: Look next to the word "perseverance" in your racing dictionary and you'll find a picture of the Bouley family's Team 26. Reported brake problems kept the purple car in the pits until the last minute before engines were fired, but after starting at the back Scott Bouley stayed on the lead lap to finish 17th. The team enjoyed sponsorship from Towne & Aurell Excavating at Greenville-Pickens.
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: Kip Stockwell and Alex Hoag shared more than tenth row starting spots at Greenville-Pickens. Both the veteran Stockwell and first-time starter Hoag had three generations of family present. The series record was set by the Fadden/Olsen family a few years ago with four generations at the track together, from Stub Fadden through Mike Olsen's sons.
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TAILGATIN': The Greenville-Pickens drive-in section began to fill when the gates opened at 8:30 Saturday morning, and by race time it was three rows deep on the back straight. Hardly a vehicle was pointed toward the track, as this was a tailgate party in the literal sense of the term.
The legendary GPS "Wall of Fame", where every track champion's name is painted in letters large enough to be read from the grandstand, provided an easy point of reference to find the biggest barbecue and also for pinpointing locations on the track. Instead of "I passed him going into turn three," the description became "I passed him right between David Pearson and Ralph Earnhardt".