Busch North 200K, Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn., Saturday, May 29, 2004 While it may never equal the fame of Dale Earnhardt's "pass in the grass" at The Winston in 1987, Brad Leighton's move to gain the lead and ultimate victory at Lime Rock...
Busch North 200K, Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn., Saturday, May 29, 2004
While it may never equal the fame of Dale Earnhardt's "pass in the grass" at The Winston in 1987, Brad Leighton's move to gain the lead and ultimate victory at Lime Rock Park will become a part of Busch North Series legend. The West Bend section of Lime Rock is not supposed to be a spot to pass a car of equal performance. Lapping, yes, if the driver being lapped is cooperative, but not passing for position.
HDNet's high definition technology and camera positions showed the pass to be a three part maneuver. As he crested the hill before West Bend, Quarterley, feeling intense pressure from Leighton, carried just enough extra speed to break the rear tires loose and moved off the fast line to make the save. Leighton seized the opportunity and the two cars charged through West Bend side-by-side and trading paint, with Leighton gaining a slight advantage. Finally, Leighton completed the pass on the downhill run to the final turn. The Skip Barber Racing School, headquartered at Lime Rock, doesn't teach that technique, but it worked.
Quarterley summed it up philosophically in the post-race press conference by saying, "I made a mistake, and Brad helped me make another one." During their hectic battle, they both lapped consistently in the 54-second bracket on well-used Goodyear Eagles, while no one else got under 55 seconds all day.
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Chasing down and passing Quarterley wasn't the only challenge Leighton faced during his run from 19th to the front. In the press conference he reported rear brake trouble, which his crew was able to correct at his pit stop, and the loss of fourth gear which forced him to stay in third all the way down the straight, twisting the Ford engine far beyond builder Cosworth's recommendation. Brad said he saw over 9000 rpm on the tachometer before he stopped looking!
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In recent years, every leading team has used the same pit strategy at Lime Rock: pit under green for fuel only as early as the fuel window allows. This year, that meant between lap 14 and 19 of the 82-lap race. Eventually, someone would try an alternative strategy, and it turned out to be Mike Stefanik and the Burnham Boilers Chevrolet team. Leading from the green flag, Stefanik pulled out an impressive lead, at one point nearly lapping Dale Quarterley.
The cautions which started at lap 20 kept the field close, but Stefanik was still unchallenged. He finally pitted for fuel and tires on lap 42, just past halfway, but a caution came out while he was on pit road and the innovative tactics never got a chance to work. Eventually, Stefanik would bring out his own caution when he stopped on the back side of the course. His 27th place dropped him from second to seventh in points.
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The Pontiacs are coming! That may be an overstatement, but after being completely absent from the first two races of the year, the Tin Indian brand was represented with five cars at Lime Rock. Rick Bell always runs Jack Evans' car on the road courses, and Jeremy Treadway acquired a former Dale Shaw mount for his Busch North Series debut. John Murphy made his second Lime Rock appearance with an ex-Brett Roubinek Pontiac, and series regulars Kip Stockwell and Barney McRae, who've run newer Chevrolets on the oval tracks, brought their Pontiacs out of retirement.
It may not be coincidence. After all, the model name of the racing-style Pontiac is the Grand Prix.
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Jeremy Treadway and Jack Lewis are both road racers by trade; both acquired cars from notable sources, and both had outstanding Busch North Series debuts at Lime Rock. Treadway, as noted above, was aboard a Dale Shaw creation complete with paint job, though not decals, from the G.O.D. era, and came from 30th to 10th. Lewis picked up a former Junie Donlavey Ford with the legendary car owner's #90 and edged Treadway for the PowerAde award by climbing from 32nd to 11th.
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Not so successful was Bryan Wall's return with the JBR Racing Ford, one of the Wall Racing cars from 2002. Bryan never really got rolling all weekend and wound up with major front sheet metal damage, apparently from a car which slowed suddenly in front of him. Wall will try it again at Watkins Glen, while Mike Gallo handles the superspeedway assignment for owner Jim Burgess.