BNS: Seekonk: Event preview

After a pair of superspeedway classics, Busch North Series returns to its short track roots for Budweiser 150 at Seekonk Speedway, Saturday, May 25. SEEKONK, Mass. (May 20, 2002)-- It's been a memorable ride for the Busch North Series, NASCAR ...

After a pair of superspeedway classics, Busch North Series returns to its short track roots for Budweiser 150 at Seekonk Speedway, Saturday, May 25.

SEEKONK, Mass. (May 20, 2002)-- It's been a memorable ride for the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring the past two weekends. Superspeedways at Loudon, N.H. and Nazareth, Pa., television cameras and famous commentators in the TV booth, motorhomes in the infield, photo finishes, celebrity grand marshals and the other uptown touches of NASCAR's popularity in today's sports world.

But the Busch North Series teams and fans never forget their short track roots, and this Saturday night will produce blue collar racing at its best when the series returns to one of its original home tracks, the Seekonk Speedway. Known as the Cement Palace, the wide, nearly-circular one-third mile oval on Route 6 between Providence, R.I. and Fall River, Mass. is ringed by concrete stands that bring the term "bullring" to mind in its most positive sense. That's especially true when they're filled with savvy and enthusiastic race fans who appreciate the artistry of racing full-bodied stock cars at close quarters.

The only Busch North race of the 2002 season at Seekonk is the Budweiser 150, scheduled to take the green flag at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday evening, May 25. Practice starts at 1:00 p.m. with Bud Pole Qualifying set for 4:00 p.m. A full program in Seekonk's regular NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge will accompany the Budweiser 150.

No one is a harder competitor, or a more articulate spokesman for short-track racing than Dave Dion. For over 30 years has been slinging orange Fords prepared by his brother, Roger Dion, around New England's oval tracks. In 1996 he won the Busch North Series championship, and in 2000 he scored a memorable triumph as the series returned to Seekonk after a 13-year absence. The victory lane photo of Dion with speedway owner Mrs. Irene Venditti- two of the most recognized faces in New England stock car racing- is one of the images which define Busch North racing.

Showing just how narrow the line is between the proverbial thrill of victory and agony of defeat, Dion could manage only 12th in the 2001 edition of the Budweiser 150, although he rebounded to fourth in the series' midsummer return to Seekonk last year. "We went back last year coming off a win the year before, and we found out how tough it is," he chuckled. "All those people who we were lapping the year before; I know now what they felt like."

Since 150 laps at Seekonk amounts to one sweeping, 50-mile left turn, the physical demands are daunting. The driver's arms, shoulders, and especially the neck are under constant strain. "It's not as bad today in a Busch North car with a good head restraint," Dion noted, recalling that it wasn't always that way: "I saw George Summers pull out when he was leading a modified race. I asked him if the motor blew and he said,' No, my head fell off'!"

Along with driver skill, patience, and stamina, Seekonk calls for a race car that handles. Scheduled pit stops aren't practical, since the pit area is located outside turns three and four, connected to the track by a tunnel under the grandstand. The car that rolls off the line is the car that has to be competitive 150 laps later. That puts the premium on experience and chassis setup, one reason why the three Busch North Series races at Seekonk since 2000 have been won by Dave Dion, Kelly Moore and Dale Shaw- three of the series smartest and toughest veterans.

"You don't need any horsepower. You don't need any aerodynamics. You don't need any brakes," Dave Dion stressed when asked about the winning combination at Seekonk. Proudly he added, "There's no excuse for the blue collar teams not to go to Seekonk and run well in that race. The money teams have absolutely no advantage."

That's enough to make Dave Dion, perhaps the ultimate blue collar racer active in 2002, welcome the challenge of Seekonk. But there's one more attraction that makes the Cement Palace irresistible to him: "It's up close and personal with the fans."

-nascar-

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