NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES TITLE CONTENDERS DIG IN FOR CONCENTRATED, COMPETITIVE SEASON STARTING AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS ON SAT., JUNE 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 12, 2006 ) -- The pack of contenders looking to succeed ...
NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES TITLE CONTENDERS DIG IN FOR CONCENTRATED, COMPETITIVE SEASON STARTING AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS ON SAT., JUNE 10
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 12, 2006 ) -- The pack of contenders looking to succeed four-time title holder Andy Santerre in the newly-named NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series are using the weeks leading up to the Saturday, June 10 opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. to prepare for a demanding schedule which will see them race four times in 20 days covering three states on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line to begin the campaign.
After the Greenville-Pickens opener, which debuts the new identity of the former Busch North Series, it's back to familiar ground at Stafford, Conn.) Motor Speedway just six days later. The following Saturday it's time to shuffle off to Buffalo, specifically to the Holland (N.Y.) International Speedway. The last week of the month gets no easier with a Thursday night race at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on June 29.
An extra motivation for the teams embarking on the 2005 title chase is the fact that Santerre, who proved unbeatable in the annual points race after returning to the series in 2002, has chosen to stay on the other side of pit wall in 2006 as car owner, crew chief, and mentor to 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Sean Caisse. Among those aiming to succeed Santerre are his predecessor, 2001 champion Mike Olsen, and the winner of the 2005 season finale, Eddie MacDonald.
Clearly the heavy early schedule plays to the strength of Mike Olsen. He has a decade of experience running his own team as an owner-driver, and prior to that, years as teammate and protege of his grandfather, the legendary Stub Fadden.
"It's a lot of travel, going to Greenville and back and then out to New York. What we're trying to do here is hoping we can get well prepared," Olsen said from his Little Trees Racing shop in North Haverhill, N.H. "It's going to be a busy time, so you'll want to have all your stuff ready before you go to Greenville," he added.
Olsen went on to point out there are three races in July, meaning a team which falls behind on the points chart or in its preparation schedule early in the season will have an even tougher time to catch up. "We're getting a late start, but by the end of July you'll probably know the fate of your season," he noted.
One lesson Mike Olsen has learned from his years on the road is to run his own race team and not worry too much about the rest of the field. When asked about his major competition for 2006, he responded, "They'll all be tough.. Ryan Moore if he runs the full season, Sean Caisse with Andy (Santerre) as his crew chief and owner, Matt Kobyluck, Mike Johnson, Brian Hoar... to tell the truth I haven't thought too much about who we have to run against."
Then he added, "The year before last, in 2004, we ran a real close second, so without Andy coming back this year we should have a real good shot. I was the last (champion) before he came, so maybe I can be the first after him."
While Olsen seeks to recapture the glory of his 2001 title campaign, a rookie from that season, Eddie MacDonald, is hoping to build on his victory at Thompson in October 2005 to mount a challenge for his first title. In his second year with Jerry Morello's Triple Crown Motorsports team, MacDonald feels preparation in the shop will translate into success on the track, especially with the demands of the early season schedule.
"We'll be working right up until the day we go to Greenville," MacDonald said, adding "This year it's going to be a little bit easier because for the first time we've got more than one car. We've got two cars ready to go. It shouldn't be too rough on us as long as we stay out of trouble."
Unlike teams which maintain cars for different types of track, MacDonald's crew will stick to a standard set-up."The way we've got it structured now we want to always have one car ready for the next week. That's how we plan to get through that four-race stretch," Eddie explained.
While Olsen has captured the championship before and MacDonald is a relative newcomer to the ranks of title contenders, they agree that the road to the title starts before the car is loaded on its hauler for the trip to South Carolina. As Eddie MacDonald declares, "You've got to be 100 percent ready at the shop in order to be ready at the track."