BNS: Thompson: Round two preview

NEW ENGLAND DODGE DEALERS TWIN 100 AT THOMPSON GIVES BUSCH NORTH SERIES DRIVERS SHORT RACE, BIG CHALLENGE ON SUNDAY NIGHT, JUNE 12 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2005) - As New England's oldest paved speedway and the site of victories by nearly...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 2, 2005) - As New England's oldest paved speedway and the site of victories by nearly every great name in northeastern NASCAR history, even one by David Pearson, it's hard to imagine there could be anything new at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. But there is- it's a 100-lap NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race, the first short track race at that distance in many years, as the grand finale of the New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100's on Sunday, June 12.

Actually, it will be something new under the lights as the Busch North Series serves as the nightcap to an all-star doubleheader. Providing the opener to the twin bill will be the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Busch North Series race is scheduled for a green flag at 8:45 p.m. Live, nationwide high definition television coverage will be provided by HDNet, to be followed by an enhanced replay on SPEED Channel on Friday, July 1, at 4:00 p.m.

The last short track race in the Busch North Series scheduled at the 100-lap distance, rather than the standard 150 laps, was at the now-closed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass. during the 1994 season. Since Thompson is a 5/8 mile track, the mileage covered is actually slightly greater in 100 laps at Thompson than 150 laps on a 3/8 or 1/3 mile track.

No driver knows Thompson better than Mike Stefanik, who boasts three Busch North Series wins and nearly a dozen Whelen Modified Tour wins on the high-banked oval nestled in the extreme northeastern corner of the Nutmeg State. He's a big fan of the layout and the new surface, which he says is improving with time. "There's definitely more room to move around on the track than there was in the past, but the groove has gone back to the old Thompson. It means diamonding both ends and coming straight out on the bottom," he said, using the racer's term for running low into a turn, high in the middle, and low at the exit to form a diamond-shaped pattern.

Thompson's wide groove was cited by Stefanik as a reason Busch North teams, including his own, might pit during the New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100 despite the shorter distance. "Thompson seems a lot easier to pass at. It has ample areas to pass, not found on most tracks nowadays," he described, adding the observation "Pitting and coming from the back can be done. I wouldn't think you would pit in the Busch car, but if you need to take on tires and make an adjustment, you have enough race track there to show your stuff."

The same logic leads Stefanik to conclude that an up-front starting spot isn't a condition for contending status either. "I don't put qualifying at such a premium at that track because you can come from the back," he declared.

For 2005, Stefanik has stayed with the Grizco Racing team he joined for his return to the Busch North Series in 2003. The driver and the Burnham Boilers sponsorship on his #55 Chevrolet are about the only things that haven't changed for 2005. Owners Steve and Peg Griswold have put three-time defending champion Andy Santerre in charge of their team and moved operations to Santerre's North Carolina shop. Santerre will be Stefanik's full-time teammate as well as team manager, with Brad Leighton rejoining Grizco for a limited schedule, including Thompson.

"We're actually doing it as a team. All three cars will go there with very similar setups and then be adjusted for each driver's feel," Stefanik explained, adding "We'll compare notes right up until the green flag, Then there's no team orders. Steve would like to see all his cars up front, but each driver is going to do his best to be number one without taking it over the edge."

Standing in their way will be a full field of Busch North Series contenders, including a new team made up of proven parts. That's the #35 NDS Motorsports Chevrolet which Stefanik chased to the finish at Thompson last year when Brad Leighton was the driver. Now Ted Christopher is at the wheel, and Stefanik rates that new combination as his most formidable foe. "I look out for everybody, but Ted (Christopher) should be expected to be fast. The car was fast wherever they went last year and I'm sure they will be one of the cars to beat," he said. "If I was a betting man, I'd bet on 'TC' to be the man to beat."

The New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100 is scheduled as a one-day event on Sunday, June 12, with Busch North Series practice starting at 1:00 p.m. Busch Pole Qualifying is set for 4:00 p.m. and the green flag for 8:45 p.m. In addition to the Busch North Series and the Whelen Modified Tour, Thompson's regular NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series classes will be in action during the day.


* The 2004 Busch North Series event at Thompson was won by Brad Leighton, leading all but the first 19 laps. It was his second win in three years at the track. Mike Stefanik came on strong to finish second with Dave Dion third, Dale Quarterley fourth, and Ryan Moore fifth after wining his first Busch Pole and leading the first 9 laps. The hard luck story of the race was Brian Hoar who took the lead on lap 10, pulled away quickly, and hit the wall on lap 19 avoiding a lapped car. Hoar finished 27th.

* Ted Christopher, the new driver of the 2004 Thompson-winning NDS Motorsports entry, did not compete in the Busch North Series in 2004. However, Christopher is a former Thompson track champion; in fact, it was his home track when he won the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national title in 2001. He is also third on the Busch North Series winning percentage chart at 11.5 percent (9 wins in 78 starts). Only Leighton (16.5 percent) and Ricky Craven (27.1 percent) have won with more frequency.

* The Busch Pole Qualifying record at Thompson is 20.200 seconds, 111.386 miles per hour, set in 2002 by Martin Truex Jr. Most of the current Busch North Series track records were set that year, the first season on Goodyear Eagle tires and the last season before weight was increased from 3100 to 3300 pounds.

* Thompson International Speedway has hosted the Busch North Series 21 times since 1988. Ricky Craven and Mike Stefanik are tied for the most wins at three. Bobby Dragon, who won the first two Busch North races at Thompson, is tied with Kelly Moore, Bobby Dragon, and Brad Leighton for third. One-time winners are Ken Bouchard, Robbie Crouch, Andy Santerre, Jeff Fuller, Tracy Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., and Tom Carey. The victories by Bouchard and Fuller are their only Busch North Series wins.

* Craven (twice in 1991) Stefanik (1997-98) are the only drivers to win at Thompson during Busch North Series championship seasons.

* Current Busch North champion Andy Santerre owns one win three seconds at Thompson. One of the seconds came in 2003 during his title streak, but Thompson has done little for his other title runs, as he was 13th in 2002 and 9th in 2004.

* NASCAR's original Grand National Series (today's NEXTEL Cup Series) raced at Thompson in 1951, 1969, and 1970. The first race was won by Neil Cole. The last two, part of the "Northern Tour" which followed the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, were won by David Pearson and Bobby Isaac during their championship seasons.

* Thompson International Speedway was built in the wake of the devastating New England hurricane of 1938 by John Hoenig, whose family still operates the track today. When it opened in 1940 it was the first asphalt track in the USA and the first track built specifically for full-sized auto racing on the east coast. It is one of the senior tracks on the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series, hosting its regular programs on Thursday nights during the summer, and has hosted more Whelen Modified Tour races than any other track.


What: New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100, Busch North Series Race #2 of 14

Where: Thompson International Speedway, Thompson, Conn.

When: Sunday, June 12, 2005, 8:45 p.m.

Track layout: .625 mile paved oval
Race distance: 100 laps, 62.5 miles

Television: HDNet LIVE

2004 Race winner: Brad Leighton
2004 Busch Pole winner: Ryan Moore

2004 Top ten: 1. Brad Leighton, 2. Mike Stefanik, 3. Dave Dion, 4. Dale Quarterley, 5. Ryan Moore, 6. Joey McCarthy, 7. Eddie MacDonald, 8. Mike Olsen, 9. Andy Santerre, 10. Matt Kobyluck

Schedule: Sunday, June 12 -- Practice 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. & 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.; Busch Pole Qualifying 4:00 p.m.; New England Dodge Dealers Twin 100 8:45 p.m. (NOTE: Doubleheader event with NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour; WMT feature runs first)


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Drivers Jeff Fuller , Ricky Craven , Martin Truex Jr. , Dale Quarterley , Matt Kobyluck , Ryan Moore , Ted Christopher , Eddie MacDonald , David Pearson