SEEKONK, Mass. (May 17, 2003) & ...
SEEKONK, Mass. (May 17, 2003) – The atmosphere surrounding the speedways that make up the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series schedule sometimes invite comparison to other places and events, both inside and outside the world of sports. The enormous camping crowd at Watkins Glen International has been likened to Woodstock, and the pageantry surrounding a major race at New Hampshire International Speedway to the Super Bowl. Seekonk Speedway, site of the Budweiser 150, round four of the 2003 Busch North Series on Saturday night, May 24, is known as the Cement Palace thanks to the concrete stands which ring the one-third mile oval. When those stands are full of race fans, they produce an ambience reminiscent of the Coliseum, either the first century version in Rome or the 20th century reproduction in Los Angeles.
The fourth annual Budweiser 150 is scheduled as a one-day event on its now-traditional date, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, with practice starting at 1:00 p.m. Bud Pole Qualifying is set for 4:00 p.m., and the main event is scheduled to start at about 7:30 p.m. At full program of racing for Seekonk’s regular NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series classes will be part of the evening’s agenda.
A wide, slightly-banked bullring where the racing line is virtually a circle, Seekonk’s gladiatorial atmosphere begins with the competitors’ entrance to the arena, a tunnel under the stands between turns three and four. Once the chariots are unleashed, the intensity of the action is matched only by the enthusiasm of the crowd. It’s an exciting spectacle to watch, but it can be intimidating to all but the most seasoned racers. Not surprisingly, since the Busch North Series returned to the Venditti family’s storied facility in 2000, three of the four race victories have been shared among the elite of series veterans: Dave Dion, Kelly Moore, and Dale Shaw, who have combined to win over 50 Busch North Series races. Only fourth-year driver Matt Kobyluck, in the 2002 Budweiser 150, has overcome the veterans’ stranglehold.
"The action is definitely intense," Kobyluck observed. "It’s really a tight track and there’s never a dull moment," he added, noting "When we're running you're always in some sort of traffic. You’re never out in the open. It’s non-stop action all night and you’ve really got to be on your toes to be there at the end."
As the laps wound down in the 2002 Budweiser 150, the decision came down to a pair of the toughest and hungriest drivers in the Busch North Series- Bill Penfold leading, looking for his first career win, and Kobyluck chasing, looking for his first short track win and the series point lead. "I ran behind him for quite a few laps trying to see where he showed a weakness," Kobyluck recalled. "I pushed him hard enough so that when I went to pass him I had more rubber under me than he did."
The gladiators were in full battle mode at that time, as Penfold went back on the attack. "When I got by him, he tried to drop back underneath me and we made a little contact," Matt continued, "but he was a gentlemen and didn’t spin me out so we pulled off the win." He also left Seekonk with the Busch North Series point lead for the first time in his career.
The action is close and the atmosphere adds to the show. Fans from either of those more famous Coliseums would appreciate the Budweiser 150 for the Busch North Series at Seekonk Speedway.