NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH NORTH SERIES POST-RACE NOTES Fisher Snow Plows 150, Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Maine, Sat., Aug. 27, 2005 It wasn't a tough call to predict that Dave Dion could win the Busch North Series return...
NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH NORTH SERIES POST-RACE NOTES
Fisher Snow Plows 150, Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Maine, Sat., Aug. 27, 2005
It wasn't a tough call to predict that Dave Dion could win the Busch North Series return to its birthplace, not just because Dion and Oxford Plains together represent a large portion of the series history. Oxford is a handling track, and no one can make a car handle on a short, round, momentum race track like the Dion Brothers team.
Once Dion slipped under Mike Johnson on lap 6, he never put a wheel wrong, not even when Ryan Moore charged around the outside on a restart at lap 62. "Dynamite Dave" simply held his line and two laps later he was back in front. Moore- who was born after Dion had scored many of his 18 Oxford victories in various series- was one of the first to congratulate the winner in victory lane.
The race was timed in just under one hour. Dion took at least that length of time receiving congratulations and posing for photos on the track, then holding the media enthralled with reactions, recollections, and philosophy in the pressbox. It was truly a memorable return to Oxford Plains.
* * *
It had been one week less than four years since Dave Dion's last Busch North Series win at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont on Labor Day weekend of 2001. That's not the longest time between Busch North wins. Jimmy Spencer won at Shangri-La Speedway in Owego, N.Y. in July 1987 and didn't win again until Dover International Speedway in July 1998. Spencer, however, was never a long-term Busch North Series regular.
Previously the longest broken dry spell by a continuous series regular belonged to Kelly Moore, who didn't win from a Beech Ridge victory in June 1995 to his NHIS triumph in May 1998, edging Dale Shaw's 1990-1993 drought by one month. The longest current non-winning streak involving an active former winner is Kip Stockwell's, going back to Thunder Road in August 1997.
* * *
Dick McCabe returned to Oxford to serve as Grand Marshal for the Fisher Snow Plows 150. Fisher was McCabe's sponsor during his reign as Busch North Series champion in 1992 and 1993. Although retired since the end of the 1994 season, the "Irish Angel" appeared ready to jump behind the wheel for 150 laps without too much persuasion. McCabe still ranks 11th in career money won in Busch North Series competition.
* * *
Matt Kobyluck was Dion's most persistent challenger until losing the runner-up spot to Moore in the final five laps. "Dave did his job tonight. I rode behind him waiting for him to make a mistake, and he never made a mistake," Kobyluck related.
His best shot came on the final restart at lap 141. "I wanted to be able to make the pass, but he could get up off the corner better than I could. I could get a run on him, but I couldn't get by," the eventual third place finisher explained.
* * *
Track position was more important at Oxford than in the previous races at Stafford and Motor Mile, both of which were won after pit stops. The only top five finisher at Oxford to stop for fresh Goodyear Eagles was fifth-place Andy Santerre after an early spin.
* * *
Defending three-time champion and current point leader Andy Santerre has a good job for a man with a ruptured disc in his back, since he works while sitting down -- more or less. "My back didn't bother me during the race. In fact, it felt better after the race than it did all day," he commented after increasing his margin over teammate Mike Stefanik from 13 to 28 points. Santerre indicated that his doctor has cleared him to drive for the remainder of the season, but surgery may be necessary to repair the disc permanently.
* * *
"Snakebit" is the only term to describe Mike Johnson's current run of bad luck. He was never out of the top ten during the first six races of 2005, but in his last three starts the 12th place he managed at Oxford is his best result, despite two Busch Poles in that stretch. He was 23rd at Stafford and 19th at Motor Mile.
The hardest luck of all, however, belongs to Joey McCarthy. After 26th at Stafford and 24th at Motor Mile, the STI Motorsports team was forced to miss Oxford for lack of an engine. It was the first time since he was injured at NHIS in 2000 that McCarthy has missed a race. As a result, Joey dropped out of the top 15 in points.
* * *
It may not be a revival like the buffalo or the bald eagle, but the Pontiac has returned from the edge of extinction on the Busch North Series. There were three Grand Prix bodies at Oxford. John Salemi has run in Pontiac sheet metal all year, while Bill Penfold made his first appearance of the season and Jeff Anton was back in the car he ran twice last year, rather than the Dale Quarterley Chevy he has used for most of 2005.
* * *
Like James Bond's martini, the Busch North point standings were shaken but not stirred at Oxford. The top five remained the same, while Brian Hoar moved ahead of Mike Johnson and Bryon Chew for sixth. Eddie MacDonald held on to ninth in spite of the accident that relegated him to 21st in the race results, with Sean Caisse still tenth. McCarthy's absence allowed Dave Dion to assume 11th, despite missing Motor Mile while the damage from his Stafford accident was repaired. Ryan Seaman remained 12th.
In the positions that decide the final invitations to the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in southern California, November 10-12, Kip Stockwell's third top-ten finish of the year lifted him to 13th and Dale Shaw moved into the top 15, vaulting one point ahead of John Salemi, who will ride the bubble to NHIS in two weeks. Joey McCarthy is now 16th.
* * *
Milestones... Andy Santerre and Mike Stefanik kept their top-ten finish records clean with nine in a row. Ryan Moore has eight straight and Mike Olsen seven straight and eight for the season. Matt Kobyluck has only missed the top ten twice. Not surprisingly, they are the top five in the standings... For the second time, John Salemi was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie contender. Sean Caisse continues to lead the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings over Salemi and Jeff Anton. Rookie Charles Lewandoski missed his first race of the year... While his plans to run for Sunoco Rookie honors in 2005 didn't come to fruition, Anthony Demonte made a strong statement for the future with his 13th place run after qualifying 15th... Remarkably, after four races, Brad Leighton's best finish remains his 11th at NHIS in July. He was 18th, two laps down at Oxford. Fortunately for the two-time champion and 24-time race winner, the next race is at the Magic Mile, where he has dominated Busch North Series action since 1999.