DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2006) -- There is a paradox in the annual visit of the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series to Lake Erie Speedway. The facility is state-of-the-art, built just five years ago, and its compound banking was...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2006) -- There is a paradox in the annual visit of the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series to Lake Erie Speedway. The facility is state-of-the-art, built just five years ago, and its compound banking was modeled after the acclaimed Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, the site of the annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Yet Lake Erie reminds veteran competitors of the moderately-banked, almost-circular short tracks of northern New England. In other words, it's a pure handling track where finesse in the corners can trump horsepower under the hood. This year's Local Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Hamot & Highmark is set for Saturday, July 8, with HDNet broadcasting the action to a live national audience in high definition television.
Joey McCarthy, driver of the No. 8 STI Motorsports Chevrolet, has been a series regular since 2001 and competed in the NASCAR Busch Series on a limited basis prior to that. He has a stellar record in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, winning a 50-lap qualifying race and leading the first 100 laps of the main event in 2003. While the blueprints may indicate Lake Erie should drive like the southern California venue, McCarthy sees it differently. "Irwindale seems to have more banking. At Lake Erie, realistically, you have to be able to handle on the bottom," he explained.
"Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl would be the closest thing with its bottom line. You really have to work to use the outside groove. There aren't too many other tracks like that we race any more," McCarthy continued. "It really is a great facility for our series," he concluded.
By contrast, Dr. Joe Masessa was a newcomer to both the compound banked-tracks, not to mention the rest of the series' ovals, in 2005. The New Jersey dermatologist, whose 2006 ride is the No. 14 Skin Cancer Foundation Chevrolet, faced a steep learning curve, but was rewarded with an invitation to the Toyota All-Star Showdown. He concurred with McCarthy that the tracks pose different challenges. "Irwindale seemed like a bigger track. It's a faster track too," he noted.
Masessa added another perspective to Lake Erie's status as a handling track. When a car isn't handling, he explained, it can make a 150-lapper race a very long day at the office. "There was a lot of contact early in the race. My car was significantly taped up. It didn't run like it did at the beginning, and fatigue became a factor," he recalled from his initial visit last summer.
TIGHT SUNOCO ROOKIE RACE: The contest for the 2006 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award could hardly be closer after four races. Ruben Pardo is unofficially one point ahead of Jeremy Clark, with Dion Ciccarelli two points behind the leader. Pierre Bourque, Patrick Dupree, and John Freeman are all within nine points of Pardo. The top six have all made the field in every race to date. Ironically, Freeman has consistently been the top qualifier among the rookies, but he's run into problems after the green flag, while Pardo, Clark, and Ciccarelli have been steady finishers. Freeman's No. 5 MTX/Kenwood Audio Chevrolet is of course the Barney McRae-owned entry which carried Sean Caisse to last year's Sunoco rookie honors. Barney knows a thing or two about rookie races- as a driver, he was runner-up to Ricky Craven in 1990.
ON THE CLOCK: Sean Caisse has won three Busch Pole Awards in a row to take an early lead in the race for seasonal honors. The last streak of three straight poles was accomplished by Martin Truex Jr., in 2002, and he went on to add a fourth before the string was broken by Brian Hoar at NHIS.
Unofficial Busch East Series point standings: 1. Matt Kobyluck 669, 2. Mike Olsen 655, 3. Bryon Chew 629, 4. Sean Caisse 611, 5. Charles Lewandoski 599, 6. Mike Johnson 588, 7. Kip Stockwell 532, 8. Brian Hoar 525, 9. Joey McCarthy 504, 10. Eddie MacDonald 488
Unofficial Sunoco Rookie of the Year point standings: 1. Ruben Pardo 34, 2. Jeremy Clark 33, 3. Dion Ciccarelli 32, 4. Pierre Bourque 29, 5. Patrick Dupree 27, 6. John Freeman 25, 7. Brent Cross 13
Busch Pole Awards: Sean Caisse 3, Mike Olsen 1
POWERade Power Move of the Race Awards: Jeremy Clark 1, Ryan Seaman 1, Tracy Gordon 1, Jamie Aube 1
Featherlite Most Improved Driver Awards: Brian Hoar 2, Joey McCarthy 1, Mike Johnson 1
What: Local Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Hamot & Highmark, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race #5 of 11
Where: Lake Erie Speedway, North East, Pa.
When: Saturday, July 8, 2006, 7:30 p.m.
Track layout: 0.375 mile paved oval
Race distance: 150 laps, 56.25 miles
Posted awards: $113,551
Television: HDNet live, SPEED enhanced replay Thursday, July 20, 5:30 p.m.
2005 Local Dodge Dealers 150 race winner: Ryan Moore
2005 Local Dodge Dealers 150 Busch Pole winner: Ryan Moore
Track record: 15.234 seconds, 88.618 miles per hour, Kelly Moore, May 18, 2003
Schedule: Saturday, July 8 -- Practice 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. Busch Pole Qualifying 4:45 p.m., Local Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Hamot & Highmark 7:30 p.m.