BNS: Watkins Glen: Round 11 preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 5, 2004) - In 56 years of racing in and around the lakeside resort of Watkins Glen, N.Y. - the last 48 of them at the current course in various configurations - many legends have been made, and many hearts have been...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 5, 2004) - In 56 years of racing in and around the lakeside resort of Watkins Glen, N.Y. - the last 48 of them at the current course in various configurations - many legends have been made, and many hearts have been broken. Sometimes, the legend making and heart breaking have gone together.

In the Formula One era from 1961 to 1980, the likes of Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, John Surtees, and Niki Lauda all became part of Glen lore without actually winning the U.S. Grand Prix. The modern NASCAR era which began in 1986 has seen notable exploits by Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, and Dale Jarrett, among others, but again none of them has reached victory lane in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.

It should come as no surprise that the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, which has made Watkins Glen an annual stop since 1993, has produced its own contingent of drivers whose demonstrated skills over the 2.45 mile road course have not been rewarded with a visit to the winner's podium. Mechanical failures, on-track incidents, failed strategy, sudden downpours, and just bad luck have conspired to foil their efforts.

When the Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi takes place on Saturday, August 14, Brad Leighton, Dale Quarterley, Mike Stefanik, and Bill Penfold will be among the competitors looking for Lady Luck to smile on their Watkins Glen efforts after years of casting a frown.

Brad Leighton scored third place finish in his first appearance at Watkins Glen in 1996- actually, his first road race- and led a big part of the 2000 run. Then in 2001, he seemed to have the win locked up when a lapped car forced him off his line with just over a lap to go, losing the lead to Tom Carey. Still in contention for the win, he spun in the first turn a few seconds later.

Dale Quarterley was also a contender in 2001 before cutting a tire. In 2002 he dominated a long, caution-filled race until running short of fuel during a green-white-checker finish. Then in 2003 he was again in command, pitted on schedule, and saw the race ended by rain while he was deep in the field.

Mike Stefanik had the car to beat in 1997, winning the Busch Pole, but broke his transmission after four laps. Bill Penfold was another victim of the rain in 2003, but with a twist: he had pitted early, and was the highest paced car on the track prepared to go the distance when the cloudburst allowed the four cars ahead of him to see the checker without visiting the pits.

"It rained on my parade, but I love going to the road courses," Penfold observed, recalling "We pitted, and in 10 or 15 laps we went from 25th to fifth." Noting that his team would do the same thing again, he summarized the Glen's demands by saying, "Fuel strategy plays a big role there. You've got to be smooth and keep it on the race track. It can bite you quick, but I wish we could go back a couple of times a year."

Stefanik cut to the chase when asked about those same demands. "You can't spin out while you're leading with eight laps to go, which I did one time," he noted dryly, adding "I've had good cars there, sat on the pole, but never won."

A difference in the Busch North Series schedule this year finds the other road course, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., preceding Watkins Glen instead of ending the season as in the past. That means teams like Stefanik's, which keep a dedicated road course car, already have some miles on it this summer. "We had a good car at Lime Rock and we'll take that car to the Glen. Hopefully we can have a strong run and put ourselves in a position to win. We're ready to rock and roll," Stefanik concluded with an upbeat tone.

Leighton also calls on the Lime Rock experience in setting his sights on the quest to end the frustrations of the Glen. "The road course thing eluded me for so many year, and the we won this year at Lime Rock when we shouldn't. We ran the whole race with no high gear and ran 40 laps with no brakes. We persevered and won," he explained.

Brad feels his ace in the hole could be the fact that his team is not running for the series championship, concentrating on the major events only. "It's a comfortable atmosphere when you're not running for anything except to win," he observed. "You're not concerned with points. You make decisions based on trying to win."

The Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi is the major supporting event for the Sirius at the Glen NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. Busch North Series teams practice Friday, August 13, starting at 9:00 a.m., run for the Busch Pole in qualifying groups at 1:30 p.m., and have a final practice after the NEXTEL Cup time trials. Mohegan Sun 150 race time is 1:00 p.m. Saturday, August 14, with live high-definition television coverage by HDNet. SPEED Channel will rebroadcast the event on Saturday, October 16, at 12 noon.

NEWS OF NOTE

* As noted above, the 2003 edition of the Mohegan Sun 150 was ended by heavy rain after 41 of the scheduled 62 laps. Ted Christopher, Rick Bell, Eddie MacDonald, and Joey McCarthy had not pitted and were rewarded with the top four places. Bill Penfold was fifth. Busch Pole winner Dale Quarterley, who led the first 31 laps before pitting, was 15th. All but two of 35 starters were running at the finish.

* Dale Quarterley holds the Watkins Glen track record of 74.363 seconds, 118.607 miles per hour, set in 2002.

* Watkins Glen is the longest track on the Busch North Series schedule, with the longest lap time. It is the third fastest track on the schedule, following the one-mile ovals at Dover, Del., and Loudon, N.H.

* While the Mohegan Sun 150 is the longest race of the season at 151.9 miles, the number of laps, 62, is the smallest.

* Andy Santerre, Bryan Wall, and Ted Christopher are two-time Watkins Glen winners. Bobby Dragon, Butch Leitzinger, Joe Bessey, Kim Baker, and Tom Carey have won once at the Glen. For Baker, a Wilbraham, Mass., resident best known for his exploits driving Corvettes in cross-country races on open roads in Nevada, it was the only win of his brief Busch North Series career.

* Wall, Christopher, and Leitzinger have also won on the other Busch North Series road course at Lime Rock Park.

* The current 2.45 mile version of the Watkins Glen course follows the outlines of the first permanent circuit built on the site in 1956, except for the pit area and the turns on each side of it. It overlaps the public road course used from 1953 to 1955, in fact, the infield souvenir store is at turn one of that course. The original course through the village and around the state park, used from 1948 to 1952, is little changed in over 50 years except for widening in some spots and repaving.

WHAT'S THE WORD?

" I've got a lot of fans out on the back straight. I even wave to them under yellow. The Glen is a great place to race. I enjoy the track and the people really get me pumped up."- Busch North Series driver Bill Penfold. (Watkins Glen legend says British driver Stirling Moss used to wave to the fans as well- but under green flag conditions!)

FAST FACTS:

What: Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Race #11 of 15

Where: Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, N.Y.
When: Saturday, August 14, 2004, 1:00 p.m.

Track layout: 2.45 mile road course
Race distance: 62 laps, 151.9 miles

Television: HDNet live
SPEED Channel, Saturday, October 16, 12:00 noon Eastern time

2003 Mohegan Sun 150 race winner: Ted Christopher
2003 Mohegan Sun 150 Busch Pole winner: Dale Quarterley

2003 Mohegan Sun 150 top ten: 1. Ted Christopher, 2. Rick Bell, 3. Eddie MacDonald, 4. Joey McCarthy, 5. Bill Penfold, 6. Brian Hoar, 7. Mike Stefanik, 8. Brad Leighton, 9. Mike Olsen, 10. Tommy Beamer

Schedule: Friday, August 13: Practice 9:00 to 11:15 a.m., Busch Pole Qualifying in groups 1:30 p.m., Final practice following NASCAR Nextel Cup time trials; Saturday, August 14: Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi 1:00 p.m.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Butch Leitzinger , Niki Lauda , Bryan Wall , Dale Quarterley , Stirling Moss , Jack Brabham , Rick Bell , John Surtees , Ted Christopher , Eddie MacDonald