BNS: Lee: Bill Penfold race notes

Bill Penfold Salvages Eighteenth From Difficult Lee USA Speedway Race (Lee, N.H. - April 25, 2004) - Bill Penfold, embarking on a full-season assault on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, got his season off to a rocky start...

Bill Penfold Salvages Eighteenth From Difficult Lee USA Speedway Race

(Lee, N.H. - April 25, 2004) - Bill Penfold, embarking on a full-season assault on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, got his season off to a rocky start at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire. Penfold, running in the top twenty early in the race, had a pit stop miscue that left him scrambling to stay on the lead lap, but penalized to remain a lap down. For the rest of the race he battled valiantly to get back on the lead lap, but was unable to do so. He finished eighteenth, the first car one lap down.

Penfold's VIP Charter Coaches Chevrolet was certainly capable of a top-ten finish, based on its timing in ninth best in both afternoon practice sessions. In qualifying, though, Penfold was only capable of a sixteenth-place effort, though he dismissed that before the race started.

"The car's driving real well," he said. "I did my normal qualifying deal, but we actually learned something out of qualifying so that's a good thing. Bob [Harrison, crew chief] has given me a great car. We came down for practice and it ran well, we're running steady and consistent. I've never been a good qualifier so it didn't surprise me that we ended up about where we normally do. The team's worked together really well, and I'm looking forward to the race. I think we've got something for them."

Working in heavy traffic in the race's early laps, Penfold was seventeenth when the race's second caution flew on lap 39. He pitted under this caution, but the right front tire changer's air gun jammed and by the time the stop was completed, Penfold was nearly lapped. As he left pit road, he was accused of passing the pace car and ordered back to pit road to be held for a one-lap penalty.

Through the balance of the race, Penfold tried repeatedly to get his lap back. He lined up inside the leader for restarts and challenged to get ahead of him, but had to fall in behind. He raced hard to keep himself in position to get his lap back if the opportunity came, but it never did and Penfold could never return to lead lap status. He finished eighteenth in a car that he proved could run with the leaders.

"We had an air gun jam up in the pit stop," he said afterwards. "When I pulled out of my pit stall, I was even with the pace car, so I wasn't quite a lap down. Pit road speed is 25 MPH, and the pace car speed is 25 MPH. Pit road is a lot shorter than the racetrack, so when I was doing 25 MPH going into turn one on pit road, I got ahead of the pace car. I wasn't speeding, but I'm passing the pace car which I thought was legal because I'm still doing 25 MPH. But according to NASCAR, no matter where you are or how fast you're going, you cannot pass the pace car. So that is a big grey area that they're going to clear up in the future. We had a long talk with NASCAR officials, and now I understand it a lot better and I understand what they were doing.

"It's a shame, we had a really great race car," Penfold continued. "It's got a little dent in the right front fender, but that didn't bother the car at all, it was still fast. It showed, I had a car that could run in second place because the second place car couldn't pass me until I let him. This team really could have used a good run, it's just that some rules that we didn't understand, and that weren't explained to us at the drivers meeting, bit us in the race. After that, I just wanted my lap back and I wanted to finish on the lead lap. It's just one of those things where they didn't explain the rules too well and I didn't understand them real well, now we're all more knowledgeable about it and it won't happen again. We'll just have to live with it, and take our second or third place car and go home with an eighteenth and get ready for the next race."

The next race will be at Thompson International Speedway on Saturday, May 22nd. The Lee USA race can be seen on SpeedTV on Saturday, May 1st, at noon. For more information on Bill Penfold, visit the team's site at www.penfoldmotorsports.

-ajc-

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