BNS: Lime Rock: Season finale preview

LAKEVILLE, Conn. (October 2, 2003) -- When the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series drivers arrive at Lime Rock Park for their season finale, the Burnham Boilers 200 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers on Saturday, October 11,...

LAKEVILLE, Conn. (October 2, 2003) -- When the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series drivers arrive at Lime Rock Park for their season finale, the Burnham Boilers 200 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers on Saturday, October 11, they will need to shift more than gears in the transmission. They will need to shift into a different mode of thought to be successful on the 1.53 mile road course.

"Race the track, Don't try to race anybody else because this place will bite you real fast," said Mohegan Sun Chevrolet driver Matt Kobyluck during a break in the on-track activity at Lime Rock's annual open test day.

"It's definitely a technical race track. It's an awesome race track because it's divided into sections," observed Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet driver Dale Quarterley, the author of a legendary last-to-first victory at Lime Rock in 2001.

"Discipline, discipline, discipline," repeated Raybestos Rookie contender Tucker Reynolds Jr. after his first taste of Lime Rock aboard the Kimball Oil Chevrolet.

Regardless of experience level, all three agreed the Lime Rock layout, with its varied turns and sharp uphill and downhill sections, is a challenge, even for the thinking driver.

The 11th annual Burnham Boilers 200 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers begins with practice and Bud Pole qualifying in groups on Friday, October 10. Race time for the 82-lap, 200-kilometer feature event is approximately 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 11. Several of the SCCA road racing classes which compete regularly at Lime Rock will also be part of the weekend program.

Quarterley, the most experienced road course competitor in the Busch North Series field due to his previous career as a nationally-ranked motorcycle racer in the 1980's, pointed out the different requirements for single lap at Lime Rock. "You've got turns with big, high speed entries like the end of the front straight, Then you've got turn two and three- super-tight with no traction and real slippery," he described. "You've got sections like the run up to Wheelie Hill, where you just have to completely manhandle it through there if you want to set a good lap time. You also need some car to back you up- the straightaway is long enough you need horsepower to get you to the other end."

The uphill section is perhaps the most spectacular feature of Lime Rock's topography, and a test of driver skill and concentration unique among American road courses. The crest is so sudden a 3300-pound Busch North car gets light on its suspension as it reaches the top. Apply too much power, and the rear wheels spin; back off too much and the car bogs down. Get it just right and the car is set up for the next right-hand turn and the downhill plunge to the main straight.

To a limited degree, the road course takes some of the burden off the crew chief and places even more on the shoulders of the driver. Dale Quarterley used an analogy to one of the series' popular short tracks to make that point. "Setup is less important here," he said. "At Beech Ridge, for example, you're not going to win by yourself. You put Ted Christopher, or even Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a tenth-place car, and instead of finishing tenth they might finish fourth. Here you can take a fifth place car and if you're willing to drive it 100 percent all the way around you can win."

The experienced drivers agree the key to success is concentration on the track and avoiding the obvious distraction of three dozen other cars sharing the same mission. "You just have to race the track and try not to race anyone else and pick your spots to pass," Matt Kobyluck reiterated. "There's only a couple of good places where you can pass. If you try to do it some oddball place you'll probably wind up off course."

Quarterley elaborated on that thought. "If you get paying attention to someone else, you'll get two feet off line, and two feet off line in some parts of the race track there is zero traction," he emphasized. "You get in those spots, and the thing just takes off. There's no possible way to save it. You let somebody else mess you up, and you're done."

While Lime Rock frustrates the unwary, it also rewards those who learn its lessons and apply them on race day. The 2003 Burnham Boilers 200 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers winner will again reach victory lane as much with brain power as with horsepower.


* The 2002 Burnham Boilers 200 was twice postponed by inclement weather, which also interrupted the race when it was finally run. Impending darkness shortened the event to 63 laps of its scheduled 82-lap distance. Denny Doyle scored the first victory of his Busch North Series career over Bryon Chew, who claimed his best career finish, and Brad Leighton. Paul Wolfe and Greg Schaefer completed the top five. Matt Kobyluck finished sixth while Andy Santerre struggled to 14th, giving Santerre the 2002 Busch North Series title by 9 points.

* Bud Pole Qualifying in 2002 was also a victim of the inclement weather, leaving the track record of 53.591 seconds, 102.778 miles per hour set in 2001 by Bryan Wall unbroken.

* This will mark the 11th consecutive year that the Busch North Series finale has been run at Lime Rock Park. The inaugural race in 1993 was won by Ken Schrader. That event continued a tradition of nationally-prominent oval track drivers winning special events at Lime Rock. Two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward won Lime Rock's first professional race in 1959, and Mario Andretti won a midget event in 1963.

* Butch Leitzinger is the only three-time Busch North Series winner at Lime Rock. The current international road racing star drove his family's Ford Thunderbird to three straight wins from 1994 to 1996. Bryan Wall also won consecutive races in 1999 and 2000. Other Busch North winners at Lime Rock are Ken Schrader (1993), Ted Christopher (1997), Mike Stefanik (1998), Dale Quarterley (2001), and enny Doyle (2002). Christopher, Stefanik, Quarterley, and Doyle are entered for the 2003 Burnham Boilers 200.

* Mike Stefanik is the only Busch North Series champion to win a race at Lime Rock. He completed his second championship season with his 1998 victory.

* Lime Rock Park was built in 1957 by Jim Vaill, whose family owned a gravel pit on the site. Much of the design was done by John Fitch, the only American driver ever to race with the Mercedes-Benz factory team. Fitch still lives in nearby Falls Village, Conn. Current owner Skip Barber enjoyed a long and successful racing career, driving in Formula 1 during the 1971 season, before founding the racing school which bears his name and which is based at Lime Rock.


"Every time you come back you figure out where you can do something a little different. That's why these test sessions help a lot because you can try different things without worrying about having to go out and qualify or race right away." -- Matt Kobyluck, commenting on the value of the annual Lime Rock Park open test day, held September 30 in conjunction with Burnham Boilers 200 media day. Nearly 20 Busch North Series teams participated in the open test.


What: Burnham Boilers 200 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race #17 of 17
Where: Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn.
When: Saturday, October 11, 2:00 p.m. (approx.)

Track layout: 1.53 mile road course
Race distance: 82 laps, 125.46 miles (200 kilometers)

Schedule: Friday, Oct. 10 - Practice 11:00-11:45 a.m., 1:20-1:55 p.m., 2:25-2:55 p.m., Bud Pole Qualifying 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 11 - Burnham Boilers 200 2:00 p.m. (approx.)


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ken Schrader , Butch Leitzinger , Mario Andretti , Skip Barber , Greg Schaefer , Bryan Wall , Dale Quarterley , Paul Wolfe , Matt Kobyluck , Rodger Ward , Ted Christopher , Bryon Chew