Busch East Series Post-Race Notes - New England 125, New Hampshire International Speedway, Friday, July 14, 2006 OVER ANOTHER HURDLE: The Achilles heel of Mike Olsen's attempt to repeat his 2001 Busch East Series championship has been his ...
Busch East Series Post-Race Notes - New England 125, New Hampshire International Speedway, Friday, July 14, 2006
OVER ANOTHER HURDLE: The Achilles heel of Mike Olsen's attempt to repeat his 2001 Busch East Series championship has been his superspeedway program. His NHIS record hasn't exactly been bad, with five top tens and one Busch Pole between 2002 and 2005, but it hasn't been championship caliber either.
All that became history on Friday afternoon as Olsen's No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet passed Sean Caisse two corners from the finish to put his superspeedway frustration behind him. He becomes the 19th driver to win in 45 Busch East Series races at NHIS, and the 21st driver to score a Busch East superspeedway win. (Jimmy Spencer and Matt Kobyluck have won at Dover, but not at NHIS.)
Olsen's last-lap pass produced a 25-point swing in the Busch East Series standings. Had Caisse won, he would have picked up 20 points on Olsen by scoring 190 points for winning (180) and leading the most laps (10) while Olsen settled for 170 points for second place without leading. Instead, Olsen's 185 (race win plus one lap led) trumped Caisse's 180 (170 for second plus 10 for leading them most laps). Olsen's lead stands at 54 with five races remaining.
Prior to Friday, the last time a Busch East Series race at NHIS was won with a last-lap pass was on July 8, 1995, when Ricky Craven passed Kelly Moore to score his second and final "Magic Mile" triumph.
WHAT'S A GUY GOTTA DO: Sean Caisse led 96 laps in Friday's race in Andy Santerre's No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet, tying the NHIS record for most laps led by a non-winner. Paul Wolfe led the first 96 laps on September 13, 2003 before being passed by eventual winner Brad Leighton. It marked Caisse's second straight runner-up finish to Mike Olsen following last week's Dodge Dealers 150 at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa.
Caisse has led every race in 2006 and has led the most laps four times, scoring 50 bonus points. All that stands between the sophomore sensation and the series lead is the 28th place at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on June 29.
GREAT SEASONAL DEBUT: Jerry Marquis finds time in his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for only a handful of Busch East Series starts each season with the No. 52 Furnace & Duct/Seekonk Grand Prix Chevrolet owned by the Darling family of Seekonk, Mass., but he makes the most of them. His first outing of 2006 produced a third place finish, tying the team's career best together. He was less than the width of a bumper from stealing second from Caisse at the checkered flag. Marquis owns seven Busch East Series victories, the most recent coming at NHIS in 1997 driving for Mike O'Conner of Augusta, Maine.
GETTING CLOSER (I): NHIS has always been a favorite of Fred Skaff and his No. 33 Woodworks/Archer Corp. Ford team. When Skaff teamed with 2002 NHIS winner Tracy Gordon in 2004, great things were expected, but a grinding practice crash at this event last year set them back. Tracy's fourth place matched the team's effort from Holland (N.Y.) International Speedway in June.
GETTING CLOSER (II): The Sunoco Rookie of the Year class of 2006 made major strides at NHIS. Ruben Pardo extended his point lead and finished a career-best sixth in the unofficial results with Paul Wolfe calling the shots for the No. 12 SuperCuts/Family Dollar Dodge team. (Yes, that's the same Paul Wolfe mentioned above for leading 96 laps at NHIS in 2003.) Right behind him was John Freeman scoring his first Busch East Series top ten. The No. 5 MTX/Kenwood Audio Chevrolet team owned by Barney McRae took the Lake Erie event off as Freeman drove Brian Hoar's spare car, and the extra preparation showed at NHIS.
THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR (I): The Dion Brothers team has been coping with adversity on the speedways of New England for over 40 years, so Dave Dion's blown engine in Thursday practice and resulting 40th place starting position were nothing they hadn't encountered before. The No. 29 Berlin City/Continental Paving Ford was unoffically scored in 8th place, a gain of 32 positions, the most in the three-year history of the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award. Dion told his biographer, MRN radio commentator Dave Moody, that with the engine he lost on Thursday he could have been a contender to win.
THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR (II): Crew chief Jason Janvrin and the rest of the No. 96 Johnson Lumber Ford team were a tired bunch on Friday night, but they had reason to be pleased with their long day's work. Mike Johnson's accident in morning practice brought out the best in the team as they straightened sheet metal and replaced components throughout the day. Car owner Albert Johnson commented "We're starting sixth and we're racing," removing any notion they would "start and park". The result was a hard-earned 13th place and a jump to fourth in the point standings.
SNAKEBIT: It has reached a point that defies the odds, no pun intended. Matt Kobyluck retired from the New England 125 with engine trouble, believed to be a broken lifter, after 35 laps to be scored 36th in the unofficial results. The last time the No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet finished higher than 19th at NHIS was a ninth place in September 2002. From the point lead two weeks ago, Kobyluck now sits third, over 150 points back.