BNS: Beech Ridge: Brad Leighton - NASCAR spotlight

Brad Leighton says finesse makes success at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Busch North Series in first 2002 visit at PTM Racing 150 on Sat, June 8 SCARBOROUGH, Me. (May 30, 2002)-- You don't need a technical degree to recognize that today's Winston...

Brad Leighton says finesse makes success at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
Busch North Series in first 2002 visit at PTM Racing 150 on Sat, June 8

SCARBOROUGH, Me. (May 30, 2002)-- You don't need a technical degree to recognize that today's Winston Cup, Busch Series, or Busch North Series race car is bred to the requirements of superspeedway racing. The dart-shaped body, tall and narrow by comparison to most other NASCAR divisions, is clearly a product of the wind tunnel quest for high-speed air management. It's one of the ironies of racing that these superspeedway machines put on some of the best short track races anywhere, despite the fact they're operating in conditions which don't favor their design.

Or maybe, just maybe, they put on great short track races because they're operating in conditions that don't favor their design, putting the emphasis back on the skill of the driver and the knowledge of the crew, like it was when stock cars were much closer to stock.

The annual spring visit by the Busch North Series to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway has produced fabulously competitive races for the past two years, with nine lead changes in the 2000 edition and eight lead changes last year. That will bring the fans back to the one-third mile oval in suburban Portland for the PTM Racing 150 on Saturday night, June 8. The feature event is scheduled for a 9 p.m. green flag, following a full program for the regular Beech Ridge NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge classes. Practice get underway at 12 noon and Bud Pole Qualifying is set for 5:15 p.m.

Two-time Busch North champion Brad Leighton has a keen perspective on the difference between his Busch North Series car and the short track car represented by Beech Ridge's top Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge class, the late model pro stocks. Last September, he accepted the offer to drive a front-running local car and won the pro stock race which preceded the same day's Busch North Series event. He won from deep in the field before jumping into his Burnham Boilers Chevrolet.

"Our car is narrow, high, and heavy, so there's not a lot of thrashing the driver can do. It takes a lot of finesse," Brad reported, adding "The pro stock is lower, wider, and a lot lighter. You can hustle them around a lot more."

The need for technique is highlighted by Beech Ridge's most famous physical feature, "the lip". Dating back to the dirt track days, "the lip" is a crease in the racing surface that runs parallel to the front straight wall, a few feet inside it. Inside the lip, the track banks the right way, outside the lip, it slopes away toward the wall. "You definitely have to stay on the inside of the lip with a Busch North car," Leighton counseled. "If you get over the lip, you'll lose so much speed, and trying to get back onto the flat track in turn one will really mess the car up."

Going back to his formative years, he confessed, "When I used to run a street stock or a pro stock, that was my preferred line, to stay out over the lip and get a run down into turn one. But not now. It lightens the back end of the car as you go down into turn one where there's no banking, and the back end comes out from under you."

Whether it's their Saturday night heroes or the Busch North Series stars who visit two or three times a year, Beech Ridge fans are a hardy group in the best Maine tradition. "The fans are awesome. They've got a huge fan base," Brad Leighton observed. "If you go up there on a cold, dismal night the stands are full just like it was a beautiful 75 degree day. They're serious about their racing and hopefully we can put on a good show for them."

The numbers from the last two June visits by the Busch North Series- 17 lead changes in all- say both Leighton and the fans will get their wish.

-nascar-

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