BNS: Rookie class of 2005 preview

BUSCH NORTH SERIES SUNOCO ROOKIE CLASS OF 2005 BOASTS YOUTH, EXPERIENCE, & TALENT DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 27, 2005) - The eight drivers currently registered to contest the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award on the NASCAR Grand National Division,...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 27, 2005) - The eight drivers currently registered to contest the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series in 2005 represent a fascinating mixture of youth and experience from many motorsports venues. The largest rookie class since 2001 brings together talent from the modified, late model, and open-cockpit oval track ranks as well as road racing and motocross.

The Sunoco Rookie of the Year will earn $3,000 from Sunoco, the Official Fuel of NASCAR, and will follow in the footsteps of such former award recipients as Ricky Craven, Andy Santerre, Brad Leighton, Mike Johnson, Brian Hoar, Ryan Moore, and 2004 winner Ryan Seaman.

These first-year drivers will get their first chance to challenge the Busch North Series veterans on June 12 in the New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. This will mark the Busch North Series' 22nd appearance at Thompson and will be televised live, in high definition, on HDNet.

First to register for the 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year program was Charles Lewandoski of Stafford Springs, Conn, who just celebrated his 20th birthday. A graduate of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series late model division at his hometown track, Stafford Motor Speedway, Lewandoski has based his Lewandoski Consruction Chevrolet racing effort in Concord, N.C. under the direction of crew chief David Hirsch. Lewandoski ran three Busch North races in 2004, with a best finish of 12th.

The rookie contender with the most Busch North Series laps under his belt is Don Wagner, who has run 14 races since 2002, preserving his rookie eligibility by limiting his schedule to six races per year. Driving Jim Pritchard's Mannings USA Chevrolet based in the driver's hometown of Dover, N.J., he has recorded a best finish of 11th. Wagner, 37, is a veteran of asphalt modfied racing across the northeast and a former track champion. For the 2005 campaign the Mannings USA team has added an associate sponsor, Snacketizers, and has retained the services of Mark Durgin of Lynn, Mass., as crew chief. Durgin prepared Eddie MacDonald's Busch North cars in 2001 and 2002 and was runner-up as a driver in the 2003 rookie contest.

James Civali, 21, of Meriden, Conn., comes to the Busch North Series with a track record of success in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series ranks of his home state, including 2004 victories in the Budweiser Natonals at Waterford Speedbowl and the Sunoco Modified division of the World Series at Thompson International Speedway. His family team has acquired a former Andy Santerre Chevrolet to campaign in 2005 under the banner of Dr. Nick Perricone.

Sean Caisse, the youngest member of the rookie class at age 19, has teamed with one of the most experienced competitors in the Busch North Series, Barney McRae, to launch his Grand National Division career. The Pelham, N.H. driver moved quickly up the racing ladder from street stocks at Lee USA Speedway to the Northeast Midget Association in 2003 and then to the NASCAR Whelen Modfiied Tour in 2004, running five races for the Art Barry team. McRae, in the role of owner-driver, has been a Busch North stalwart since 1990.

Marc Rogers, 30, of Brick, N.J., shares a racing background with the 2004 Rookie of the Year, Ryan Seaman. Both began their careers at Wall Township (N.J.) Speedway and moved directly from the low, offset, wide-tired modifieds to the entirely different Grand National cars. Adapting to change should not be a problem for Rogers, as he interrupted his Wall career to race for three seasons at the Flemington (N.J.) Speedway, the flat, square track known as one of the toughest setups in racing before its closure. He ranked fifth in NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series points at Flemington in 2000 and third in points at Wall in 2003.

After single starts each in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Anthony Demonte, 36, of Ronkonkoma, Long Island, New York, is ready for a Sunoco Rookie run in 2005 with the Long Island Business Solutions Chevrolet. Demonte's Stalco Racing team was the major purchaser when Tracy Gordon's team sold off its inventory in 2003. Demonte's racing experience includes road course competition and NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series action at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway and Thompson International Speedway.

Two of the 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates have limited oval racing backgrounds, but that should not deter them. Jeff Anton, 24, of Russell, Mass., has enjoyed success at the national level in AMA professional motocross and as a youth ski racer, and holds a multi-engine commercial pilots' license. He competed twice with the Busch North Series in 2004, scoring a 15th on his debut at the Watkins Glen road course. His father and car owner, Dr. Ray Anton, raced Corvettes with the Sports Car Club of America.

Joe Masessa, 45, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., is a noted road racer, competing regularly with the Grand American Road Racing Association in its Grand-Am Cup Series. Masessa has also raced late model stock cars in Pennsylvania. His family's business backed the Busch North Series efforts of Joey McCarthy during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Several other drivers are eligible to enter the 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year program, including John Salemi of Nashua, N.H., Chad Beahr of Mechanicsville, Va., and Chappy Knaack of Linthicum, Md., all of whom were entered for the Whelen 150 at Lee USA Speedway before its postponement.


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Drivers Ricky Craven , Joe Masessa , Mike Johnson , Jeff Anton , Ryan Moore , Chappy Knaack , Sean Caisse , Charles Lewandoski , Eddie MacDonald , John Salemi