* Now an NHIS Winner, Mike Olsen Says Simple Strategy Works Best * Bryon Chew Goes With Spec Engine for NHIS Power * Double Duty Is Normal Plan for Jerry Marquis, New Challenge for Alex Hoag * Caisse, Olsen Also Battle for Busch Pole ...
* Now an NHIS Winner, Mike Olsen Says Simple Strategy Works Best
* Bryon Chew Goes With Spec Engine for NHIS Power
* Double Duty Is Normal Plan for Jerry Marquis, New Challenge for Alex Hoag
* Caisse, Olsen Also Battle for Busch Pole Crown
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 12, 2006) - For many years , Mike Olsen politely fielded questions about what it would take to win a NASCAR Grand National, Busch East Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway. His answers were thoughtful, but the questions were hypothetical, because he hadn't won at his home state superspeedway.
All that changed in July when he drove the No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet around his major championship rival, Sean Caisse (No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet) on the last lap to win the New England 125. It was the only lap he led all day, but it was enough to notch his first NHIS win. Now Olsen's answers to questions about NHIS strategy, including this Saturday's New Hampshire 125, carry a ring of authority.
"You pretty much have to decide when your (fuel) window opens, pit as early as possible, and keep the car under you as you work your way back up," he said in describing the orthodox approach to the 125-lap, 131.25-mile distance run by the Busch East Series at the "Magic Mile." In his July triumph, Olsen pitted on lap 20 with all but 11 other cars, was back to sixth by lap 65, third on lap 92, and second on lap 115 before his last-lap heroics.
What about the alternative strategy of a long initial run and a late pit stop? That was tried at NHIS earlier this summer by Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series competitor Andrew Myers (No. 4 Toyota of Escondido Chevrolet), who enjoyed nearly 20 laps in the lead as a result, and by the wily veteran Dave Dion (No. 29 Berlin City/Continental Paving Ford). Olsen was noncommital on that subject, saying only "We tried that as few years ago, but it just didn't work for us."
The ultimate pit strategy at NHIS would be a no-pit strategy. After all, Olsen and the others who pitted at lap 20 in July ran 105 laps on one tank of fuel. That's nearly 110 miles on the 1.058-mile NHIS track. Can the whole race be done on one tank, with enough caution periods and enough discipline by the driver? Olsen pointed out a variety of problems with that gamble, from the possibility of the race being extended to achieve a green flag finish to the simple fact that conserving that much fuel would mean running laps too slow to stay with the leaders.
Winning at NHIS has made Olsen's 43rd trip to NHIS a more satisfying journey than any of the first 42. As an owner-driver, he has a huge variety of tasks to perform, but he doesn't have to worry about strategy at all during the race. "My crew chief Harry (Norcross) does all those calculations," he declared. "I just drive."
SPEC ENGINE FOR CHEW: Bryon Chew has received his NASCAR Grand National Division "spec" engine and plans to debut it under the hood of his No. 99 Buzz Chew Chevrolet in the New Hampshire 125. The Chew team ordered their engine in kit form and had it assembled and dyno-tested by their regular engine builder with impressive results.
Chew will be the second Busch East Series competitor to use a "spec" engine in competition, and the first on a superspeedway. Sean Caisse debuted the engine by winning the Busch Pole Award and finishing sixth after an unscheduled pit stop at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl last month. Caisse will use his previous engine package at NHIS but plans to run the "spec" engine in the final two events of the season at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
DOUBLE DUTY FOR MARQUIS, HOAG AT NHIS: A veteran and a newcomer will be pulling double duty at NHIS in both the Busch East Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which races on Friday. For Jerry Marquis (No. 52 Furnace & Duct Chevrolet) running between garage areas and balancing the needs of two widely different race cars is traditional, as he has raced in both series for more than a decade. His only Busch East Series appearance so far in 2006 was at NHIS in July, where he gave car owner Wayne Darling his best finish ever, a third place, inches from second. For Alex Hoag (No.1 Mavericks Fortune Racing Chevrolet) it's a new deal, made more challenging by the fact his family team, headed by his father Dean Hoag, is heavily involved in running both cars. He has raced in both series at NHIS, but not on the same weekend.
Last September, Ted Christopher became only the second driver to win both Whelen Modified Tour and Busch East Series races at NHIS on the same day, but he is not currently entered in this weekend's Busch East Series event. The only other driver to achieve that feat was Mike McLaughlin, who won both ends of the first appearance for either series at the brand-new NHIS facility in September 1990.
BUSCH POLE CHAMPIONSHIP ALSO A CAISSE-OLSEN CONTEST: With three races remaining, the seasonal Busch Pole Award title is nearly a mirror image of the overall Busch East Series championship contest. Sean Caisse has the lead with four poles, but Mike Olsen is still in striking distance with two fastest qualifying times. Caisse is the favorite for the award, but Olsen could beat him by running the table in time trials for the rest of the season. Should they tie in the Busch Pole standings, the seasonal award and the bonus money that goes with it would go to the driver higher in the overall Busch East Series standings.
FREEMAN ON THE MOVE: John Freeman will change teams starting at NHIS, it has been announced. Freeman will join fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ruben Pardo with FitzBradshaw Racing for the remainder of the season, according to the announcement. Pardo is currently 10th in overall Busch East Series points and leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by one point over Dion Ciccarelli, while Freeman is 15th in the series and tied for fifth in the Sunoco Rookie race. Each driver achieved his best finish at NHIS in July, where Pardo placed sixth and Freeman was seventh.
Barney McRae, the owner for whom Freeman drove in the first eight races of the season, has named himself to drive the No. 5 Motion Racing Chevrolet at NHIS. McRae was a popular Busch East Series driver from 1990 to 2004 before switching to the crew chief role in Sean Caisse's successful 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year bid.
What: New Hampshire 125, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race 9 of 11
Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006, 12:10 p.m.
Track layout: 1.058 mile paved oval
Race distance: 125 laps, 131.25 miles
Posted awards: $235,421
Television: HDNet live, SPEED enhanced replay Thursday, Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m.
2005 New Hampshire 125 race winner: Ted Christopher
2005 New Hampshire 125 Busch Pole winner: None awarded, qualifying rained out
Track record: 29.892 seconds, 127.141 miles per hour, Brian Hoar, July 18, 2002
Schedule: Thursday, Sept. 14: Practice 12:50 to 2:20 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying 4:15 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 15- No activity scheduled; Sat., Sept. 16 - Practice 8:00 to 8:25 a.m., New Hampshire 125 12:10 p.m.