BNS: Busch North Series season preview

LEE, N.H. - As the countdown begins toward the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring season opener at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 22, Brad Leighton's drive for a third consecutive series championship shares the spotlight with the richest and...

LEE, N.H. - As the countdown begins toward the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring season opener at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, April 22, Brad Leighton's drive for a third consecutive series championship shares the spotlight with the richest and most challenging schedule in the series' 15 year history. Those two story lines will intertwine as the 2001 Busch North Series progresses through 21 races at 14 speedways in seven states from April to October.

Leighton's arsenal is well-stocked, as the 1999 and 2000 championship-winning Grizco Racing team returns virtually unchanged, except for the addition of sponsor Burnham Boilers. Crew chiefs Brian Latuch and Karl Osha will again prepare the #55 Chevrolets for Leighton and car owners Steve and Peg Griswold. Leighton completed every lap of every race during the 2000 season, scoring three wins, 12 top-fives, and a perfect 17-for-17 in top-ten finishes.

If Leighton is to be denied the hat trick which would equal Jamie Aube's feat of 1988-90, Dale Shaw and Tracy Gordon are once again leading contenders to break the streak. Shaw finished second in the 2000 standings, with two wins and 11 top-tens, while Gordon led the circuit in wins and Bud Poles with five of each. Their teams are also intact from 2000, with Shaw driving the Guaranteed Overnight Delivery Chevrolet, while Gordon wheels the Tic Tac Chevrolet.

Meanwhile, the Busch North Series' all-time leading race winner, Bud Pole winner, and money winner, Kelly Moore, returns to full-time action with NAPA backing for his Chevrolet. While Moore failed to add to his total of 19 victories during an abbreviated 2000 season, he did win four Bud Poles in just 12 appearances, running his career total to 38, double that of his nearest rival, Dave Dion.

Among the other drivers expected to figure prominently in the championship battle are Mike Olsen and Bryan Wall, the fifth and sixth place finishers in the 2000 season, along with Most Improved Driver Dennis Demers and Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year Mike Johnson. Other contenders for the title include Jamie Aube, seeking to become the first four-time Busch North Series champion, Dale Quarterley, and 2000 rookie runner-up Martin Truex Jr.

The driver who emerges as the 2001 Busch North Series champion will have done so in the richest and most demanding schedule the series has ever provided. Five events have been added to the 2001 schedule, bringing the circuit to 21 races. The highest profile new events take place near the end of the season, when the Busch North Series returns to Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa., on Sunday, August 26, and to Dover Downs International Speedway in Dover, Delaware, on Friday, September 21. Also added to the schedule are additional races at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me., and Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn.

At Nazareth, the Busch North Series is paired with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, while at Dover Downs, the BNS teams share the weekend with the Busch Series, Grand National Division, and the Winston Cup Series.

Other Busch North Series events on Winston Cup weekends take place at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, July 21 and Saturday, September 15,and at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, August 11. The Watkins Glen race will mark the Busch North Series' first appearance on live national network television, with NBC scheduled to show the Little Trees 150 at the Glen from flag to flag.

The Busch North Series is one nine NASCAR Touring Series which blanket the USA, bringing special events to NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks as well as superspeedways and road courses. The NASCAR Touring program is well established as the primary training ground for NASCAR's national series, while also offering career opportunities to professional racers at the regional level. Corporations making major contributions to NASCAR Touring point funds include Anheuser-Busch Inc., Featherlite Trailers, Goody's Headache Powders, Gatorade, RE/Max International, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, and R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand.

-Al Robinson

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Bryan Wall , Mike Johnson