BNS: Lee USA: Joey McCarthy race notes

Joey McCarthy leads most laps, finishes third in Busch North season opener. Randolph, New Jersey's Joey McCarthy started the 2003 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series season on a high note as he led the most laps of Sunday's...

Joey McCarthy leads most laps, finishes third in Busch North season opener.

Randolph, New Jersey's Joey McCarthy started the 2003 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series season on a high note as he led the most laps of Sunday's Freedom 150 at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway, putting his TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet at the front of the field for 65 laps, the most of any competitor in the field, and finished third.

This was the first race in McCarthy's four-year Busch North career in which he has led laps, and the third place finish is his career best race result. McCarthy's teammate at J.T. Mase MotorSports, Tim Andrews, ran second to McCarthy for many laps and finished behind him in fourth place.

The day of racing at Lee began with good results as McCarthy qualified sixth out of a field of 27 cars, recording a best time trial lap of 15.836 seconds on the third-mile oval.

At the drop of the green flag on Sunday, McCarthy settled into the fifth position and held that spot through two early yellows. The race's third caution, which came out on lap 61, brought most of the leaders onto pit road but McCarthy elected to stay on the track and took over the lead on lap 63.

"It was pretty much a group decision to stay out," he said. "The car was running so good and I didn't feel that I was using the tires at all. Track position is important at these short tracks, so we just figured we'd stay out and see what happened, and we knew that we had tires in the pits if we needed them."

When the race returned to green, McCarthy's TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet streaked off with the lead, though a series of yellow flags tested his ability to restart with lapped cars on his inside. On lap 130, two cars that had pitted and had on fresher tires caught McCarthy and, two laps later, passed him for the lead. McCarthy fell to third but held that position to the end of the race, earning 175 points that put him in a tie for second place in the standings after one event.

"This is an impressive team, it's amazing," he said after the race. "Obviously with my teammate finishing fourth it pretty much tells the story about these guys. We put the right pieces together this winter. Everybody we brought on has been amazing. The guys at the shop, the guys at the track, the tire guy, the spotter, we've got the stuff to run like this, so we have to run like this.

"The TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet had a good day, and this is really exciting for the sponsor and the team. They said this was going to happen and it happened. We led the most laps and I never even led a lap before. I felt comfortable doing it, which is good, and I think I could get used to it. We're going to shoot for the championship. We've put everything in place to do it, so that's our goal. It's going to be tough, but after today I'm very happy."

McCarthy returns to the track in two weeks for the first of three Busch North races at the half-mile Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

-ajc-

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Tim Andrews