SEEKONK, Mass. (May 17, 2001) - If the 2000 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring season produced one timeless image, it must be the victory lane scene following the Budweiser 150 at Seekonk Speedway. In the light of the cameras stood two of the ...
SEEKONK, Mass. (May 17, 2001) - If the 2000 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring season produced one timeless image, it must be the victory lane scene following the Budweiser 150 at Seekonk Speedway. In the light of the cameras stood two of the legendary figures in New England stock car racing, Dave Don and Mrs. Irene Venditti- each smiling from ear to ear after one of the most satisfying moments of their long associations with the sport.
Dion had just scored his first victory in nearly two seasons, made especially sweet as he passed and then held off the closing challenge of Tracy Gordon, the hottest driver on the circuit. For Mrs Venditti, a full house justified the investment of bringing the Busch North Series back for the first time since 1987 to the track her late husband, D. Anthony Venditti, founded in 1946 and which her family has operated for 55 years.
The Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring makes its second straight Memorial Day weekend appearance at Seekonk on Saturday night, May 26, with the Budweiser 150 set for a 7:30 p.m. green flag on the one-third mile oval ringed with the concrete grandstands which gave it the enduring nickname "The Cement Palace".
Although Dion led the last 96 laps of the 2000 Budweiser 150, Gordon closed in as the finish approached. Dion settled the issue with a spectacular move between a pair of lapped cars with less than five laps remaining. "I didn't really have any choice," he recalled. "We'd run well all day, and I thought we were equal to Tracy at the end. It looked like we were going to lose it all, so it didn't matter if I rolled it up in a ball. We'd worked too hard and too long. I had to try it."
"It's never over until the last lap, especially on short tracks," Dion continued, "because lapped traffic is part of the makeup of the race. You can't get frustrated. The lapped cars pick their groove and you pick yours."
Of course, traffic technique can't get the job done without a race car that responds to the needs of the track. Dave Dion is quite specific about the requirement of Seekonk's nearly-circular racing surface. "All handling. Nothing else on the car counts," he declared. "You could take technology from 30 years ago and go down there, and if you had a chassis man who knows how to adjust it you'd be in the hunt."
While Hudson, N.H., native Dion had been only an occasional competitor at Seekonk during most of his career, he won the final championship at the Norwood (Mass.) Arena in 1972. After Norwood's closing, many of its competitors and fans migrated 25 miles south to Seekonk for their Saturday night racing. Three decades later, they made Dave Dion feel at home with a standing ovation as he won the 2000 Budweiser 150. "It's a pretty friendly neighborhood for me," he noted, adding "There's a lot of people I grew up with in racing . I like the track. I like the enthusiasm of the fans. The people that own the track still appreciate the competitors and the fans."
"It's just fun, and I think they look forward to having us back," Dion concluded.
"The Budweiser 150 is scheduled as a one-day event on Saturday, May 26. Practice starts at 1 p.m. and Bud Pole Qualifying is set for 4 p.m. Seekonk's regular NASCAR Weekly Racing Series classes will also be part of the evening's program.
Seekonk Speedway is located on U.S. Route 6 (Fall River Avenue) approximately six miles east of downtown Providence, R.I., in the heart of the Providence-Fall River metropolitan area, the third largest market in New England.
2001 BUSCH NORTH SERIES NASCAR TOURING RACE FACTS
<pre> WHAT: Budweiser 150 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring, Race #3 of 21
WHERE: Seekonk Speedway, Seekonk, Mass. .333 mile paved oval
WHEN: Saturday, May 26, 2001
DISTANCE: 150 laps (50 miles)
POSTED AWARDS: $73,150 (including $2,800 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring Championship point fund money)
FIELD: 30 cars (Fastest 25 through two rounds of time trials, four provisional starters based on the 2000 Busch North Series point standings, plus one position reserved for a former Busch North Series champion, if needed)
SANCTION: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)
PROMOTER: Bristol County Stadium, Inc.
SCHEDULE: Saturday, May 26 10:00 a.m. Registration & Inspection 12:00 noon Mandatory Drivers Meeting 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Practice 2:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Practice 4:00 p.m . Bud Pole Qualifying (pos. 1-20) 5:45 p.m. (approx.) Second round qualifying (pos. 21-25) 7:30 p.m. (approx.) Budweiser 150
</pre> NOTES OF INTEREST
* The Busch North Series returned to Seekonk Speedway in 2000 after an absence of 12 years. Dave Dion won the Budweiser 150, swapping the lead twice with Tracy Gordon and holding off Gordon's final challenge for his 11th career Busch North Series win. The victory broke a winless streak dating back to August 1997 for Dion, who started fourth. Following Dion and Gordon to the checker were Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Race Martin Truex Jr., Mike Olsen, and Dale Shaw. Dion averaged 61.581 miles per hour through five caution periods for 31 laps.
* Tracy Gordon won the Bud Pole for the 2000 Budweiser 150 at 91.989 miles per hour (13.032 seconds), which becomes the track record.
* While the 2000 Budweiser 150 was a hard-fought short-track battle, it was also an exceptionally clean race, with no "walking wounded" on the track at the finish. Only two cars retired, both with mechanical problems, and all of the 28 cars running at the finish were within five laps of the winner.
* Seekonk native David Darling is the only full-time Cement Palace graduate in the Busch North Series driving ranks, but Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender Travis Benjamin won a 100-lap pro stock race at the track in 2000.
* Seekonk Speedway opened on May 30, 1946 and has been operated by the Venditti family continuously for 55 years. Founder D. Anthony Venditti was honored as the Auto Racing Promoter of the Year in 1978. Opening day at Seekonk was the same day the first Indianapolis 500 was run under the Hulman family's ownership.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Kelly Moore's Bud Pole at New Hampshire International Speedway was the 39th of his career, extending his own record. He now has more than double the total of his nearest rival, Dave Dion with 18. Moore won four poles in just 12 starts in 2000. He is also the series career leader in race wins (19), races started, and money won.