Brad Leighton's third place finish puts him atop of the point standings. Nazareth, PA (May 18, 2002): Brad Leighton became the second driver to lead the Busch North Series point standings in the young season after posting a third place finish in...
Brad Leighton's third place finish puts him atop of the point standings.
Nazareth, PA (May 18, 2002): Brad Leighton became the second driver to lead the Busch North Series point standings in the young season after posting a third place finish in Saturday's Burnham Boilers 100 at Nazareth Speedway. Leighton started the race from sixth and ran in the top-three for the duration of the event.
"I love this racetrack. We had a good car underneath us that handled great in the turns," Leighton said. "I have to thank Mike and Julie Stefanik who helped us all weekend long. I went to Cooperstown, New York to watch my son, Nick, play at Doubleday Park in a Babe Ruth Championship game and was unable to practice the car. Unfortunately, my son's game was rained out. We came back to the track, jumped in the car, and ran the sixth fastest time in qualifying. Mike (Stefanik) really helped the guys nail a good set-up for me, and Julie spotted for me during the race. Their help was definitely an integral part of our success today."
Leighton's speed of 127.497 mph (28.236 seconds) was one of fourteen times to break the track record in qualifying. Leighton attributes the speeds to a combination of factors.
"Well, there is no doubt in my mind that Goodyear Tires are a significant factor in the higher speeds here this weekend," Leighton said. "But there are a lot of considerations: for one, we ran here in August last year when it was a lot hotter. It was pretty cloudy and cool during qualifying, which makes a big difference with the track. You'll see faster times in cooler weather."
Rain showers put a halt to any early-morning activities the track had scheduled, but Leighton was busy meeting and greeting many of his fans in the Burnham hospitality tent. Despite the bad weather, many of Burnham's distributors came out to see Leighton and the No. 55 Burnham Boilers car.
"They are such a great bunch of people," Leighton said. "We went out there and signed autographs for an hour or so and talked with some of the people. That is one of the best parts of racing. The team came with me and they were introduced to all of Burnham's guests. We all had a great time! If I didn't have to get back for a driver's meeting I would have stayed longer!"
The green dropped on the Burnham Boilers 100 at 3:30 p.m. only one hour past the scheduled start time. Leighton started moving forward right away, and after two circuits had gained two spots.
Caution came out on the speedway at lap seven with Leighton lining up behind Paul Wolfe, Kelly Moore, and Matt Kobyluck for the restart at lap 11. Leighton immediately mounted a challenge on the 40 car coming out of the first turn, but driver Matt Kobyluck shut the door. Leighton waited behind Kobyluck knowing that the secret to success at Nazareth is patience. On lap 17, Kobyluck passed the 47 car for the second spot with Leighton attempting to follow. Moore blocked the inside lane and Leighton was forced to back out of it. The following circuit, Leighton got a run on Moore and passed for the third position.
The top three remained much the same until a crucial turning point in the race came at lap 48. Several of the front-running cars elected to come down pit road for gas and fuel. Leighton was not one of those.
"Track position was too important to give up here today," Leighton said. "The team knew we could make it the distance so we stayed out. In fact, I don't think we even questioned the decision for a second."
Up front, Kobyluck was leading followed by Ted Christopher and Leighton. Christopher was putting pressure on for the lead with Leighton putting pressure on for the second spot. For the next several laps, Leighton filled Christopher's rear-view mirror looking for a way around him, but unfortunately it was not to be.Christopher drove by Kobyluck for the lead.
"All three of us had strong cars," Leighton said. "But with this racetrack you have to give a little through some of these corners. If you don't you'll just end up in the wall. We wanted to give the Burnham people out in the stands a good car to cheer for, but we wanted one that would be in the entire race."
Leighton mad a last chance effort to get by Kobyluck for second in turn four of the last lap, but had to settle for third. The finish put Leighton on top of the Busch North Series point standings.
"We're definitely happy with the finish today," Leighton said. "We put on a good show and came home with another top-10. Consistency is the goal this year. It is so important in the bigger scheme of things. I think the bar has been raised some in terms of competitiveness. We're up to that challenge and I believe this team will prevail as long as we keep in mind the consistency factor."