BNS: Stafford II: Round seven preview



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 3, 2005) -- There's no "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series; no point at which the field of possible title winners is formally narrowed down and the points reset.

That doesn't mean there is no critical moment when the contenders are separated from the pretenders, though. The moment of truth for the Busch North teams arrives on Wednesday, August 10 with the running of the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway. The Busch North Series' second appearance of the year at Stafford will be captured by SPEED Channel for national broadcast on Friday, August 26, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Three drivers will occupy the pre-race spotlight at Stafford: point leader Mike Stefanik, June Stafford winner Matt Kobyluck, who sits just seven points behind Stefanik, and Andy Santerre, who is third in the standings, trailing his teammate Stefanik by 30 points. The next driver on the chart, Mike Johnson, is 103 points out of the lead.

"Success" is almost the middle name of both Stefanik and Santerre. Stefanik owns more championships than any other active NASCAR driver- six in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and two in the Busch North Series- and is Stafford's all-time leader in touring series wins at 19. Santerre has been the Busch North Series champion for the last three years and now manages the Grizco Racing team that includes Brad Leighton as well as Stefanik and himself.

For Kobyluck, sitting among the title contenders isn't such a habit, although it's not a new experience either. He battled Santerre for the 2002 Busch North crown, losing by just nine points, the third closest margin in series history. That heartbreaking loss seemed to set his program back for a couple of seasons, but in 2005 he came out of the gate under a full head of steam, and he's been a dominant force, with three wins and two thirds in the first six races. Only a 19th place finish at New Hampshire International Speedway has kept him out of the point lead. As if that weren't enough motivation, he's on home ground at Stafford as he seeks to keep his batting average at 1.000 in his native state during the 2005 season. In addition to his season-opening win at Stafford, he triumphed last month at another Connecticut track, Waterford Speedbowl.

Aside from his NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series roots at Stafford and Waterford, Kobyluck is representing the home team in another sense. Unlike Stefanik's car, which is based in North Carolina, or the 2005 season's other race winner, Ryan Moore, who is a Dale Earnhardt Inc. development driver, Kobyluck Racing is proudly an all- New England team. Matt admits he has "some good ties down south," but stresses that his team's success has much more to do with people than with geography. "Our success has been from guys who are committed to giving 150 percent all week at the shop and at the track, focusing on what we need to accomplish, putting the plan in place, and following through with that plan," he declared shortly before pulling on his helmet to score his third 2005 win at Adirondack International Speedway in northern New York.

Returning to the subject of Stafford, Kobyluck followed the same theme, that people are the key ingredient. "Knowing Stafford is an advantage when you consider what Ted Christopher does every time he's there," he said referring to Stafford's all-time leading modified winner. "There are characteristics of Stafford that I'm able to apply when I get out on the track and maybe there's a slight advantage, but these days the competitors in the Busch North Series adapt to the track pretty quickly and any advantage you think you might have soon gets erased."

His Stafford advantage comes not from chassis setup, but from the motivation from family and friends who will make the hour's journey from southeastern Connecticut hoping to watch history repeat itself. "Being able to have all those people who mean so much to me able to enjoy victory lane with me makes it memorable," he reflected.

While its has been less than two months since Matt Kobyluck's season-opening victory at Stafford, much has changed, especially in the area of procedural rules. Both double-file restarts throughout the race and the beneficiary rule allowing the best-placed car off the lead lap to regain a lap at each caution flag have been adopted. Meanwhile, Kobyluck has not been standings still. "We had a great car when we were there, but we've learned a few things since then and that should help us go back there and be even better," he said with a smile of confidence.

The TSI Harley-Davidson 150 is scheduled as a one-day event on Wednesday, August 10, with practice starting at 2:00 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying at 5:00 p.m., and the green flag at 8:15 p.m. Stafford's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series late model class will provide the main support program.


* There was not an equivalent event to the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 held at Stafford in 2004. The most recent mid-summer Busch North Series race at Stafford was in July 2002, when Dale Shaw was the winner over Matt Kobyluck, Tracy Gordon, Dale Quarterley, and Dave Dion.

* Due to the rainy spring, Stafford hosted the Busch North Series season opener in 2005 for the first time ever. Taking place on June 17, it was the latest opener in series history. Matt Kobyluck won the Busch Pole and led all 150 laps to score his first Stafford Busch North victory over Andy Santerre, Jerry Marquis, Ted Christopher, and Mike Johnson.

* The Busch Pole Qualifying lap record at Stafford is held by Kelly Moore at 19.672 seconds, 91.491 miles per hour, set on June 2, 2001. It is the oldest current record for an active Busch North Series track.

* Mike Johnson, with three victories, is the biggest winner in 24 Busch North Series races at Stafford. Andy Santerre, Mike Stefanik, Kelly Moore, Brad Leighton, and Martin Truex Jr. have each won twice.

* NASCAR Busch Series legend Tommy Houston won the first Busch North race at Stafford on July 14, 1987. That was also a weeknight race, held on Tuesday to attract teams returning south after the Oxford 250 at Oxford, Maine, which was then a NASCAR Busch Series race.

* Mike Stefanik is the all-time leader at Stafford in NASCAR touring series wins, with 17 in the Whelen Modified Tour and two in the Busch North Series.

* While it is primarily known as the "Home of the SK Modifieds®", Stafford Motor Speedway has hosted the third largest number of Busch North Series races of any track. The TSI Harley-Davidson 150 will be the series' 25th appearance, a total exceeded only by New Hampshire International Speedway (43) and Oxford Plains Speedway (28).


What: TSI Harley-Davidson 150, seventh race of the 2005 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series

Where: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, Conn.
When: Wednesday, August 10, 8:15 p.m.

Track layout: 0.5 mile paved oval
Race distance: 150 laps, 75.0 miles

Television: SPEED Channel, Friday, August 26, 4:30 p.m. Eastern time

Schedule: Wednesday, August 10- Practice 2:00 to 3:30 p.m., Busch Pole Qualifying 5:00 p.m., TSI Harley-Davidson 150 8:15 p.m.


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Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Dale Quarterley , Matt Kobyluck , Mike Johnson , Ryan Moore , Ted Christopher