BNS: Penfold Motorsports season preview

Bill Penfold, entering his sixth year of Busch North Series racing, was chosen third most popular driver in a fan poll conducted by "Busch North Scene", a newspaper devoted to covering the series. The only drivers receiving more votes than ...

Bill Penfold, entering his sixth year of Busch North Series racing, was chosen third most popular driver in a fan poll conducted by "Busch North Scene", a newspaper devoted to covering the series. The only drivers receiving more votes than Penfold were Dave Dion, New England legend and past series champion; and Tracy Gordon, who won the most poles and races in the 2000 season.

"I'm really surprised," Bill said at first, "but I really can't say that. The fans really come around and talk to me a lot and I love seeing the fans. And even the ones that don't like me, I like seeing them too because I know they're there to see what it's all about. Being voted third, I lost to two real good guys so I have nothing to complain about. Congratulations to Dave, he's been a fan favorite for years and he's been at it a long time. Tracy's been running strong, his name's been out a lot. I'm in good company. I'm real happy to be third, we're a small team and it gives me a proud honor to say I finished third to two great race car drivers in popularity. Maybe in a couple years I can win it."

Team owner Ray Penfold was especially proud of Bill's standings with the fans.

"This will give you the real perception of what Bill Penfold is," he said. "There's no question that he's a hard driver, but he doesn't quit. And Bill likes people. There were times when we had a pink car and it was a target, everybody hit it. The problem we were having was if people hit our car, they'd say that it's only Bill Penfold. But if Bill touched anybody, there was hell to pay. There was quite a difference in how we were perceived.

"The fans are showing how we're really perceived in the grandstand," Ray continued. "These are the people that pay for the tickets, putting money in the promoters' pockets, and they're saying to people 'Hey, I like Bill Penfold,' and I'm hoping they'll give us a break because of it. I'm not asking for special favors, but just to treat us fair."

Preparations for the 2001 season continue at a furious pace at Penfold Motorsports, with an emphasis on reducing the number of mechanical failures that limited the team's success in the past season.

"We're pretty much going through all our parts trying to rebuild what we can," Bill said. "It's kind of hard to buy new stuff where we don't have any backing right now, so you've really got to go through our old stuff to make sure it's going to last and not break on you. That's what got us a lot last year. There were seven races that things broke and we were running in the top seven. So now we're looking at our old parts and trying to make new parts out of them.

"We're so far ahead, so much better prepared now of any year that we've been racing," Bill continued. "By February we should have all of the cars done and most of the running gear put in them, and just going over things and working on new setups. I'm glad we got Dover back. I love that place and I love Nazareth. We've got 125-lappers at New Hampshire again. This series deserves big races. These are big-money cars and we've got good drivers. The series is showing that we can support ourselves if you give us the races on big tracks. This series can do the job, and I'm glad NASCAR is finally seeing Busch North is a contender for any television coverage."

One more thing on the team's mind is pre-season testing.

"We'll be at Lee at its test day," Bill said. "I don't know if we're going to go to Dover or not but we might. They just paved Thompson so we're definitely going there. We're going to do as much testing as we can because that's what the teams that were beating me were doing.

"Hopefully we can get somebody to put their name on the car and we can do some testing and win some of these races," he continued. "We're run up front all year and just had bad luck or parts break. I'm going to win a race. I'm going to win a couple of them, and I'm going to give someone a run for the championship this year."

-Alan Claffie

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Series NASCAR