(LIME ROCK, CT - Oct. 3, 2000) - Bill Penfold and the VIP Charter Coach-sponsored Penfold Motorsports team spent a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Lime Rock Park's 1.53-mile road course in preparation for the Busch North Series' season finale, October...
(LIME ROCK, CT - Oct. 3, 2000) - Bill Penfold and the VIP Charter Coach-sponsored Penfold Motorsports team spent a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Lime Rock Park's 1.53-mile road course in preparation for the Busch North Series' season finale, October 14's Dodge Dealers NASCAR 200 Presented by Burnham Boilers. The day was an open practice day for Busch North teams, and Penfold Motorsports was joined by 33 other teams looking for track time.
When Penfold hears the words "Lime Rock", a smile crosses his face. "It's just a great place," he said before practice started. "The people have always treated me real well. The fans have been so supportive of me, they can come in the pits before the race and I enjoy that. The crowd actually pumps you up. I look forward to seeing the fans."
As for the track itself, Penfold finds it both challenging and rewarding.
"A lot of guys say Lime Rock is a hard track, and it is. But I guess maybe that's what I like about it," he said. "Flying up over the climbing hill turn, I think that's great. It's got so many unique characteristics to it. You've got to drive the racetrack and you can't take it easy, but in the same breath you've got to save the car. You're actually running pretty well flat out the whole time as hard as you can and you're trying to shift easily and save your brakes. It's just a challenge all the way around."
Another challenge is addressed in the team's Yarmouth, Maine shop - that of converting a Chevrolet Monte Carlo more often seen racing third-mile oval tracks throughout the northeast into a nimble road course racer.
"To really change a car over from a circle track, it takes a week or two," he said. "You've got to move your battery, move all your lead, move your exhaust, and change the shifter in the car. You change the whole front end, the fuel pickups, and the whole fuel cell. You try to mount this thing here and be clever by moving something over there and shift a little more weight over. You actually need a dedicated road race car to do it. We've done it with our circle track cars for the last four years, and we've done pretty well. The guys who really dominate the road racing, they've got road race cars. Bryan Wall dominates here and he's got the right equipment to do it, but we qualified third behind him last year so we do pretty well with what we've got."
Penfold described the team's goals during this practice day. "We're going to be running on old tires today, we didn't buy new ones so our times will be a little off," he said. "If I can get the feel of the car and know how it's going to react in certain turns, I'll know if I'm going to be fast on race day.
"We've got new brakes on the car which should help things a lot, but I've got to learn to drive with them," he continued. "You remember certain things and how you did them, but now I've got to break the habit of what I did for the last four years braking where I did. I've got to do a lot of learning today. We've got the car set up a little different than what we did last year to see if that will help us. If it does, maybe I can run with the guys with brand new tires when we have old tires on. We're trying to get a solid feel with the car, you've got to have a good feel with the car, but you've still got to be quick on the watch. If we're half a second off with old tires, we'll be in real good shape for race day."
The team was happy to report that no unexpected problems showed up during the day of testing. The car was fast, turning laps in the 56-second range even with the old tires. Penfold Motorsports was so confident with their car that they put it in the trailer and were ready to head back to Maine well before most other teams had stopped practicing. They'll be ready to show their hand when the track opens for practice and qualifying on October 13th.