Matt Kobyluck's fourth at Thompson moves him to second in Busch North Points Mohegan Sun Racing's Matt Kobyluck put in a strong effort at Thompson International Speedway, capped off with a twenty-lap battle for position that he finally won on...
Matt Kobyluck's fourth at Thompson moves him to second in Busch North Points
Mohegan Sun Racing's Matt Kobyluck put in a strong effort at Thompson International Speedway, capped off with a twenty-lap battle for position that he finally won on the final lap, to finish fourth in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series' seventh race of the 2003 season. Kobyluck's fourth top-five finish of the season allowed him to move up three positions in the championship standings to second, 132 points behind Andy Santerre.
"We lost a little bit of ground to Andy, but we gained ground on everybody else," Kobyluck said after the race. "We'll just keep plugging away and we'll do what we can do. We'll just keep plugging away to get top-five finishes and that's what we need, that's what we'll keep striving for."
Kobyluck's crew, led by Perry Waite, had their work cut out for them during the afternoon practice sessions as the car required frequent adjustments to come to grips with the tire specified for the event. The hard work paid off with a tenth place qualifying effort, 20.871 seconds (107.805 MPH) around the .625-mile oval.
"I've been struggling all day, for some reason," he said before the race. "But we made some changes before qualifying and that's the best lap we've turned all day by about a half a second. The car's responding to what we're doing now, so we'll just keep going in that direction. We've got a solid car, but we need to pick up a little bit more and then have some consistent laps in the race."
The Uncasville, Connecticut driver detailed the cause of the afternoon's struggles.
"You've got to do some funky stuff to get this tire to work, and that wasn't the case here last year," he said. "Before, we had a good tire that you didn't have to be right on the money to get a good lap. These new tires are very temperamental and you have to get it right on to be competitive. If you miss it by a little bit, you miss it by a whole bunch. It's very much like a radial tire."
The changes made to the Mohegan Sun Chevrolet were working in the race's opening laps, where Kobyluck was quickly up to sixth place. He picked up fifth place when Kelly Moore had troubles with a lapped car, and held that spot until lap 48, when other leaders pitted and Kobyluck picked up one more spot.
Martin Truex, Jr. had pitted earlier in the race and tore through the field on fresh tires. He caught Kobyluck on lap 90 and tried to pass, but Kobyluck held him at bay for twenty laps before Truex could finally get by. As Truex moved to third, Mike Johnson was falling into Kobyluck's clutches. With twenty laps to go, Kobyluck started looking to pass, but was continuously denied. He got alongside Johnson no less than four times in the final ten laps, but couldn't complete the pass. Finally, on the last lap, he ran inside Johnson through turns three and four, and out-dragged him to the checkered flag by just a matter of feet to finish fourth.
"We worked really hard for fourth," he said after the race. "I was exhausted there at the end. We had a little bit better of a car than the 96 [Johnson] if I could have run the line that he was running. But in order to get by him, I had to run on the bottom of the racetrack and you just couldn't get up off the corner as good. I kept working on it and working on it and Mike was getting really free on entry. When Truex got by me, I kind of messed up and got into the corner too hot, it started to go around on me and I had to chase it up the race track. The 56 [Truex] had a clean shot underneath me.
"All in all, considering how unhappy I was with the car at the beginning of the day today, to come home fourth, I'm happy," Kobyluck continued. "We changed a lot of stuff today and the guys worked really hard, the whole Mohegan Sun team really thrashed all day, and we got a fourth place finish to show for that."
Next up for Kobyluck and the rest of the Busch North Series is the first of two races to be held at the one-mile New Hampshire International Series. The race will be held Saturday, July 19th.
"We're going to bring the car that we ran out in Phoenix," he said. "It's all brand new again, and it tested well and we're really optimistic. The new pavement seems to have a lot of grip to it, and hopefully we'll come out of there with a top five. We'd like to win that race, and I think we've got a good enough car to do it, so we'll see how everything plays out. We're on a roll with top five finishes, hopefully we'll continue that momentum, and use what we learned testing to get a win next week."