When starter Shawn Houlihan displayed the crossed flags at lap 75 of the Aubuchon Hardware 150 at Stafford, fists pumped the air in the HDNet broadcast booth and a high-five was seen in race control. The reason for the celebration? The reign of...
When starter Shawn Houlihan displayed the crossed flags at lap 75 of the Aubuchon Hardware 150 at Stafford, fists pumped the air in the HDNet broadcast booth and a high-five was seen in race control. The reason for the celebration? The reign of the rain was finally ended. For the first time in three scheduled races of the 2005 season, a Busch North Series event had become official by reaching the halfway point.
The Aubuchon Hardware 150 ran right on schedule for HDNet's 9:00 p.m. live airtime, despite a brief shower earlier in the evening during Stafford's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series late model feature which produced a spectacular rainbow over turn three.
With the New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway rescheduled as the season finale on Saturday, October 8, the Busch North Series teams now face a summer of 13 races in 17 weekends.
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At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Matt Kobyluck resembles a power forward. Like the best at that position, he played both offense and defense in leading every lap of the Aubuchon Hardware 150. He aggressively beat front row mate Ryan Moore to the first turn and never looked back. "Ryan had a great car and he was hanging right with me," the winner commented. "He needed to run the same line I was running to get by me so the only way to get by me was the outside."
After Moore's challenge ended in a shower of sparks from the broken rear axle mounting, Andy Santerre moved up to Kobyluck's bumper in the final 25 laps and never relented, despite a near miss with a lapped car who had lost radio contact with his spotter. "I was going as hard as I could and if he got by me he got by me," Kobyluck said. "I was playing defense at that point, You do that with less than five laps to go. Sometimes the best offense is the best defense."
The first Busch North Series win at Stafford, his home track in the late 1990's, was sweet for the Mohegan Sun Chevrolet driver. "I feel this is the one we've been owed quite a few times. We've led here, finished second, finished third, but never won," he said. He joins Tom Bolles, Jerry Marquis, and Ted Christopher as home-state winners at Stafford. All have been NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series regulars at the half-mile oval at some point in their careers.
Overall, it was Kobyluck's fifth career Busch North Series race win and his second career Busch Pole. He is the first winner to lead all the way from the pole since Mike Johnson at Waterford Speedbowl last July.
"The last three years, the person who has won the first race has gone on to win the championship. Hopefully we can continue that trend this year," Matt observed. The person in question, of course, was Andy Santerre.
One more item. It was Father's Day weekend, and Matt Kobyluck's daughter Vanessa celebrated her seventh birthday on Friday.
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A very impressive Busch North Series debut was made by James Civali. Putting his home track knowledge to work, he qualified his family-owned Chevrolet sixth and ran in that spot, right in Santerre's tire tracks, until electrical problems slowed him near the halfway mark and left him 26th in the final rundown.
A miscommunication resulted in Civali being listed on the Unofficial Results as out of the race due to an accident. As noted above, the actual culprit was electrical trouble.
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Three drivers did double duty at Stafford Friday night. Ted Christopher was 15th in the SK Modified race after spinning on the final lap while challenging for a top-five spot in the division where he is the all-time leading winner and defending track champion. Then "TC" made his first start for NDS Motorsports in the Recycle America Chevrolet. He qualified third and ran as high as second after Ryan Moore dropped out, but fading brakes and a chassis going tight dropped him to fourth at the finish.
Both Ryan Posocco and Kenny Horton were making their Busch North debuts. Posocco, the defending Stafford late model champion, took third in that division and was 16th, the last car on the lead lap in the Aubuchon Hardware 150, after qualifying 22nd. Horton was 19th, four laps down, after qualifying 23rd. He took 14th in the SK Modified feature.
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Dale Quarterley earned the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award, starting 16th and finishing sixth. Dale Shaw also advanced ten places, from 20th to 10th, but Quarterley won the tiebreaker of higher overall finish. "We were thinking 'we can't do what we've been doing the last few seasons when we start the year 19th in points', so we had to stop and do something about the car," Quarterley explained. "I was 12th but came down pit road and made a couple of quick changes- put a spring rubber in and raised the Panhard bar- to free it up a little more and took two new tires." He quickly made it up to sixth before the advantage of the new tires faded away.
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The impound procedure after Busch Pole Qualifying was in effect at Stafford, meaning teams could make only the most minor adjustments after time trials. Don Wagner, who achieved a career best 13th starting spot with the Mannings USA Chevrolet, had an interesting take on the system. "They make us qualify in race trim, and for a team like ours that's pretty much always qualified in race trim, that's a plus," he said.
Brake problems in the race left Wagner 23rd, the last car running. Saturday night he towed his modified to Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, Pa., and won the Race of Champions Series event by edging NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standout Zane Zeiner.
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A familiar figure appeared at the Stafford pit gate with helmet bag in hand. What was Bobby Dragon doing? Helping fellow Vermonter Brian Hoar, whose son was graduating from high school on Friday. Dragon qualified the Goss Dodge Intrepid 18th, while Hoar dashed across New England to make the 9:07 p.m. start. He made it, but pitted several times and finished 15th.
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Sean Caisse may be a teenager, but he knows how to pick a partner on the track. Qualifying Barney McRae's Trik Custom Sleds Chevrolet 19th, Caisse found himself on the starting grid directly behind Dave Dion. "During the first part of the race I was trying to follow Dion. I wanted to follow the line he was running, and with tire conservation being important, I wanted to learn his pace," the youngster related. Dion finished eleventh, while Caisse, after a late-race spin, was 14th but grabbed the early lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
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MILESTONES... Jerry Marquis finished third, equaling the best run for Wayne Darling's Seekonk Grand Prix team, first set at NHIS last July...The field of 35 cars attempting to qualify for 28 positions was the largest for a Busch North Series short track event since 2002... Not only did Joey McCarthy earn the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award for improvement over the last Busch North Series race at Dover in September 2004, but he erased the memory of his 25th and last finish at Stafford in 2004. .. Driver quotes courtesy Alan Claffie, Penny Degre, and Dale Wolbrink.