BNS: Loudon II: Round 10 preview



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2005) -- On the same weekend and at the same track where the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series begins its 10-race Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series will embark upon a four-race run which will decide its own champion, with four tightly-bunched contenders for that crown.

The place is New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H., the signature track of the Busch North Series where more races have been held than at any other, and the race is the Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's. HDNet will telecast the race nationally in high definition with the green flag set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, September 16.

The Busch North Series "Final Four" will come on consecutive weekends at widely differing venues. After the relatively flat 1.058-mile oval at NHIS, the scene shifts to the high banks of the one-mile Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Friday, September 23, then to the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park road course in Lakeville, Conn., on Saturday, October 1, and finally to the 5/8-mile Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on Saturday, October 8.

Three-time defending champion Andy Santerre enters this grueling stretch drive with a 28 point lead over teammate and two-time champion Mike Stefanik and a 39-point margin over Matt Kobyluck, the 2002 championship runner-up. The fourth contender, Ryan Moore, is the only member of the quartet without experience in the pressure of a Busch North title race, but since his father, Kelly Moore, won the 1995 title and was runner-up three times, he will not lack for sound advice. Moore enters the "Final Four" 68 points behind Santerre.

For every Busch North team, the twice-annual visits to NHIS have Daytona-like or Brickyard-like significance. "A win there makes your season. A win at NHIS is like two or three wins somewhere else," Mike Stefanik explained. Yet the title contenders must keep their eyes on the big picture while not passing up the chance to win a race whose prestige and financial reward are second only to the championship itself.

"I don't think you would approach the race any different as far as preparation., but as the race unfolds, for a race strategy you might," Stefanik continued. "If you weren't chasing points, you might try something that's a bit risky, a bit out of sync to try to get an advantage. I don't think the four of us would get too far off the beaten path."

Stefanik's teammate and team manager, Santerre, concurs. "I've been in this situation a few times in the past. You've got to go out there and not take any chances," he related. "Everybody wants to win but I know I've got to go out and finish in the top five. If I'm trying for the lead and the guy's not making it easy for me I've got to be careful where I make my passes, just protect the car and keep the fenders on it."

Both Santerre and Stefanik have reached the championship goal more than once. While they are certainly hungry, the primal instinct may beat a little bit harder for Matt Kobyluck and Ryan Moore. Kobyluck has seen a potential title slip through his fingers by nine points -- no more than three positions- in 2002, while for Moore this is likely to be his only shot at the Busch North crown prior to moving full-time to the NASCAR Busch Series with Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2006.

"We cannot afford to have another bad race at New Hampshire like we did the first time," Kobyluck declared, recalling his 19th place finish at NHIS in July. "NHIS will be pivotal as to whether we're in contention at the end," he added.

"We're at the stage with the Busch North Series where it's time for us," Kobyluck continued. "We've been able to maintain our battle in the points, but we just need to finish it off. Everybody wants it, but only one guy gets it. I think at every track we've been to this year, we've had a better car than the first and second guys in the points, and not to be able to capitalize on that would be disheartening,"

Ryan Moore is seeking to duplicate the feat of Tony Stewart in 2002, when he finished last in the Daytona 500 but went on to capture the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title. Ryan was 28th and last in the Busch North season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway, but now finds the title a realistic goal. "We had a couple of races where we had bad luck and didn't end up with a good finish, and the leaders haven't had that happen," he noted. "All I can hope right now is that they have a little bad luck and I just go out and drive as hard as I can every lap."

Echoing Stefanik's game plan, Moore cites preparation as the key for NHIS and the entire championship run. "We're trying to be real conservative, going over everything twice to make sure we're not going to have problems. Something that on another day we might say, 'that'll be all right', we're going ahead and making sure," he stressed.

The Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's begins with practice on Thursday, September 15 at 12:20 p.m, with Busch Pole Qualifying to follow that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. Race time is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, September 16 before one of the season's largest crowds and the live HDNet cameras. An enhanced replay will be broadcast by SPEED Channel on Friday, October 7, at 1:00 p.m.


* The 2004 Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's was won by Andy Santerre after three seconds and one fourth in the preceding four races at NHIS. It was his third NHIS victory but his first since the 2000 season. Santerre passed underdog Mike Gallo with 19 laps remaining and held off Paul Wolfe by 1.1 seconds. Ryan Moore, Dale Quarterley, and Gallo completed the top five. Gallo qualified for the outside of the front row and led 24 laps. Busch Pole winner Mike Johnson led only the first three laps and finished sixth. The race was run on Monday due to inclement weather on the scheduled date.

* Earlier this summer Mike Stefanik captured the New England 125 at NHIS over Brian Hoar, Ryan Moore, Kelly Moore, and Andy Santerre. Matt Kobyluck started on the pole as the point leader but lost a lap in the pits and finished 19th. It marked Stefanik's second win at the track but his first since April 1995.

* Brian Hoar holds the Busch Pole Qualifying record at NHIS, set in July 2002 at 29.892 seconds, 127.141 miles per hour.

* NHIS has hosted 42 Busch North Series races, by far the largest number of any track. Brad Leighton has won eight times, including three in a row in 2001 and 2002, four out of six from 2001 to 2003, and six of eleven from 1999 to 2003. Mike McLaughlin, Kelly Moore, and Ted Christopher are tied for second with four wins each.

* The Busch North Series has raced at NHIS in September eleven times since 1990. Only twice has the September NHIS winner gone on to take the Busch North title- Brad Leighton in 1999 and Andy Santerre in 2004.

* Entering the Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's, Matt Kobyluck has scored three Busch North Series victories in 2004. Mike Stefanik and Ryan Moore each have two wins, with one victory going to Andy Santerre and Dave Dion.

* Matt Kobyluck, Ryan Moore, and Mike Johnson have all won two Busch Poles in 2005. Mike Stefanik and Sean Caisse have one pole each. Qualifying at NHIS in July was cancelled.

* Sean Caisse leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings and has led the freshman class on six occasions. John Salemi and Jeff Anton are second and third in the Sunoco Rookie points. Salemi has been the top rookie twice and Anton once.

* New Hampshire International Speedway was developed by the Bahre family on the site of the former Bryar Motorsports Park road course and short trrack. It opened in July 1990 with a NASCAR Busch Series race which was actually a combination race with the Busch North Series.

* The first stand-alone Busch North race at NHIS was on Labor Day weekend 1990. It was won by Mike McLaughlin on the day he also won a NASCAR Whelen Modified tour event. The same-day double has never been repeated, but Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher, and Jerry Marquis are expected to attempt it this weekend.


What: Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's, tenth race of the 2005 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series season

Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

When: Friday, September 16, 2005, 1:30 p.m.

Track layout: 1.058 mile paved oval
Race distance: 125 laps, 131.25 miles

Television: HDNet live
SPEED Channel, Friday, October 7, 1:00 p.m.

2004 Sylvania 125 race winner: Andy Santerre
2004 Sylvania 125 Busch Pole winner: Mike Johnson

2004 Sylvania 125 top ten: 1. Andy Santerre, 2. Paul Wolfe, 3. Ryan Moore, 4. Dale Quarterley, 5. Mike Gallo, 6. Mike Johnson, 7. Bobby Dragon, 8. Jerry Marquis, 9. Joey McCarthy, 10, Brad Bennett

Schedule: Thursday, September 15 -- Practice 12:20 to 1:55 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying 3:45 p.m.; Friday, September 16 -- Sylvania 125 presented by Lowe's 1:30 p.m.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Mike McLaughlin , Dale Quarterley , Paul Wolfe , Matt Kobyluck , Mike Johnson , Jeff Anton , Ryan Moore , Ted Christopher , Sean Caisse , John Salemi