LIME ROCK, CT - Dale Quarterley, the heavy favorite to win the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series' Burnham Boilers 200 at Lime Rock Park, did not disappoint as he won the Bud Pole Award for being the fastest qualifier, then backed...
LIME ROCK, CT - Dale Quarterley, the heavy favorite to win the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series' Burnham Boilers 200 at Lime Rock Park, did not disappoint as he won the Bud Pole Award for being the fastest qualifier, then backed that up by coming from behind to win the race in front of a near-record crowd on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Berkshire hills of northwest Connecticut.
Quarterley, driving the Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet out of his Westfield, Massachusetts-based 1/4 Ley Racing operation, made things interesting in Friday's qualifying session when he set fast time despite running off the track on his final timed lap.
"The cars on the track have absolutely zero traction," he said. "For whatever reason, the front of the cars do not want to turn, and the longer we practiced, the worse it got. We tried a couple of things for qualifying and it definitely picked it up just a little and I think that was enough to get it on the pole.
"When I finished my second timed lap, my guys tried to tell me what my time was, and I couldn't hear them," Quarterley continued. "Their tone of voice didn't sound like we were on the pole. So for that last lap I was beyond full-on, all the way around. Usually coming down off this last turn, you have the throttle floored just before you get up to the outside edge of the racetrack, but I already had it floored halfway around the turn and I was just hanging on. I almost had the turn finished and it started getting away from me. At that point, I knew there was no saving it. I could either let it go in the grass, or try and save it and probably end up in the inside guardrail. Normally you slow down a little bit before you hit the grass and it's no big deal, but I hit the grass going about 130 MPH and it took me a long time to get it back on the asphalt."
Under Saturday's cloudless sky, Quarterley led the field around the 1.53-mile road course to start the race. He held the lead for the race's first ten laps before giving way to Brad Leighton and Matt Kobyluck. Leighton pitted out of the lead for his required fuel stop on lap 15, and Kobyluck pitted the next lap, handing the lead back to Quarterley. He pitted himself on lap 17 and rejoined the race with enough fuel to go the distance.
As the cycle of pit stops played out, Quarterley moved back into contention, running fourth under caution thirty laps into the race. Just a few laps later, though, he was back in the pits with tire trouble.
"What kept happening was that everyone was pinching the bottom because that's the only place there's grip on the track," he said. "They'd pinch it so tight that they'd get into the dirt and spit a bunch of dirt into the groove. When you hit the dirt you drift up, and when guys would drift up I'd get under them clean, but I don't know if they thought I hit them to make them move up the racetrack, when we came down the straightaway, I was side by side and I was on their right, and they just turned left right into me, and that made the left rear go flat. A couple laps later I couldn't drive the car, it felt like it was falling over. I didn't know if the tire was flat or if the tire just picked up a lot of crud, but it was too early to take a chance so we pitted under caution to change it."
Quarterley pitted under the following caution for fresh left-side tires, restarting 20th with half the race to run. On lap 50, he was already back in the top ten. He passed a number of cars on the lap 61 restart, moving all the way to fourth, then passed Kelly Moore for third on lap 64. Two laps later, he was past Andy Santerre for second, and started chasing down Leighton. While doing so, with the laps winding down, he got off the track but held second place. He was applying pressure to Leighton in the final laps, and that pressure got him into the lead as Leighton slipped off the track with just two laps to go.
"I overshot the left-hander and I probably lost a second and a half on my own," Quarterley explained. "Then Leighton dropped a wheel off and the cloud of dust glued itself to my windshield, so all of a sudden I had to start over get new marks since I couldn't see some of my old ones, and it took a couple of laps to get going again. At the end, I don't know if I could have got by him without his going off the racetrack again. That one lap he went off was the only lap I stood a shot at doing that, because it was the first lap I connected the turns coming down the hill and on the front straightaway on the same lap. The car wasn't turning like it should, but I put those turns together spot on thinking it was my one shot at it. And at the same time he went off and I had it at that point."
Quarterley completed the Busch North Series season seventh in points after recording two wins, three top-fives, and ten top-ten finishes. He did this despite losing his main sponsor over the off-season and having to pick up many different sponsors as the year progressed.
"At the beginning of the year when Land O Lakes changed marketing firms and the new guys didn't want to do this, it put us in a predicament where the chunk of money that I get trickled at the beginning of the year went away from us," he said. "We didn't really get going until April. At that point, guys like Mike Olsen already had six cars done and I hadn't even started getting things ready. We struggled at the beginning of the year to get going because of that. With Bully Hill Vineyards and the other sponsors coming on board, it, little by little, picked us back up to bringing us into contention. Two weeks ago we were third in points, working our way back up from eighteenth. We had a roller coaster year. We didn't set the world on fire, but we ended the year strong. It comes down to having to get the sponsors signed sooner, so come next April I've already got cars ready to go and I've already gone down south and done some testing. That's the key to us being in championship contention instead of struggling from week to week."
While the Busch North season is over, Quarterley earned an invitation to the inaugural Toyota All-Star Shootout which pits the best of the series against the best of the NASCAR Winston West Series. The race will be held in early November at Irwindale Speedway, located just outside Los Angeles, California, and Quarterley will make the trip a week early to run the Winston West race at the two-mile California Speedway in Fontana.
"We're going to take a brand new Winston Cup car that we bought last year," he said. "It's a Pontiac with roof flaps and everything, and we're going to run that at Fontana. Then I'm going to take the car that I haven't run all year, the car called 'Little E' that I've been killing them at Dover with, that'll go to Irwindale. That car also has roof flaps in it, so if I have a problem with the other car at Fontana I can use Little E there."