NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES POST-RACE NOTES OLSEN'S WINLESS STREAK ENDS: Since 2003, Mike Olsen has enjoyed two and a half highly successful years, by most standards. From the start of 2004 until last weekend, his Busch...
NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES POST-RACE NOTES
OLSEN'S WINLESS STREAK ENDS: Since 2003, Mike Olsen has enjoyed two and a half highly successful years, by most standards. From the start of 2004 until last weekend, his Busch East Series logbook showed 16 top-fives and 25 top-tens in those last 30 races, with a runner-up finish in the '04 standings and fourth last year. He had stretched his iron man streak to 178 consecutive races and opened the 2006 campaign with a Busch Pole at Geeenville-Pickens and three straight third place finishes that put him solidly in contention for the title along with Matt Kobyluck, Bryon Chew, and Sean Caisse. But something was missing- an entry in the victory column. All his fellow front runners had been to the winner's circle, but he had not.
All that changed Saturday night as Olsen outlasted Caisse in a classic two-man battle to return to victory lane for the first time in a Busch East Series race since September 2003, when he scored at Beech Ridge Speedway. While he swept the event by winning the Busch Pole and taking the point lead, the celebration by the No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet team was low-key. One of the many truths about racing Mike Olsen learned as teammate to his grandfather and mentor, Stub Fadden, was that things are never as bleak as they look when you're losing, but never as rosy as they look from victory lane, either.
OTHER STREAKS END TOO: Sean Caisse saw his Busch Pole streak end at three; in fact, he started on the second row for the first time all season but nearly took the lead on the first lap.
More significant in the big picture were the end of the front-running streaks by Charles Lewandoski and Kip Stockwell. Lewandoski had finished no lower than ninth in the first four races and found himself fifth in points entering Lake Erie. There he was involved in two caution-producing incidents, lost three laps, and wound up 20th. He lost only one place in the standings, but fell from 70 to 138 points behind the leader.
Stockwell was squeezed into the back straight wall during the lap 65 accident that took Pierre Bourque out of the race. He was able to drive to the pits without assistance, but a look under the hood showed unrepairable steering damage and Kip was relegated to 22nd in the final rundown, dropping to 10th on the points chart.
Only three drivers now have clean sheets of top-ten finishes after five races: Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck, and Bryon Chew. The most unusual line on the performance chart belongs to Brian Hoar- he's been no worse than third on three occasions, and 18th or below the other two times out.
OUT OF THE GATE: Two teams who took provisional starting positions following major mechanical problems joined the field from the garage area during the pre-race pace laps after receiving permission from NASCAR officials to miss the frront straight autograph session lineup.. Both made good use of the opportunity. Scott Bouley, after overcoming a rear axle leak during qualifying, matched his best career finish of 13th after running as high as sixth. Dion Ciccarelli, whose crew replaced a transmission broken in practice, ran 17th.
UPDATING THE STAT SHEET: There have been 32 lead changes among six drivers in the first five Busch East Series races of the season. All but two have resulted from an on-track pass - Sean Caisse pitted from the lead at Greenville-Pickens, and Matt Kobyluck took the lead at Thompson when Caisse dropped out. Of 138 starting cars, 110 have been running at the finish, a reliability rate of 79.9 percent, with 78 cars on the lead lap.
Four drivers have won races, 12 have finished in the top five, and 20 have recorded at least one top ten. Perfect attendance awards go to 21 drivers who have started every race, including six of the seven registered Sunoco Rookie contenders.
MULTI-TASKING: The Local Dodge Dealers 150 featured Hamot Medical Center of Erie, Pa. as a presenting sponsor, and Hamot chief executive officer John Malone gave the command to start engines. Not just a ceremonial grand marshal, Malone takes time out from running one of northwestern Pennsylvania's largest hospitals to compete in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series late model division at Lake Erie, where he currently ranks in the top 20 in points.
MILESTONES: Best career finishes were recorded at Lake Erie by Rogelio Lopez (7th), Joe Masessa (14th), and Brent Cross (16th)...Tim Cowen was 15th in his Busch East Series debut... Rich Gould turned in his first top-10 qualifying run, timing 8th fastest.