ES: Loudon: Rogelio Lopez race notes

Fire Cuts Rogelio Lopez's NHIS Race Short Loudon, N.H . (June 29, 2007) - Rogelio Lopez entered Friday's New England 125, the sixth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of the season, with high hopes. Between having a...

Fire Cuts Rogelio Lopez's NHIS Race Short

Loudon, N.H . (June 29, 2007) - Rogelio Lopez entered Friday's New England 125, the sixth NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of the season, with high hopes. Between having a completely rebuilt car and the knowledge gained from a day-long test session at the New Hampshire International Speedway back in May, the Dave Davis Motorsports team, sponsored by TELMEX and Lucas Oil, was set for a good result at one of the premier races on the Busch East schedule.

Teething problems with what was essentially a new car hampered the team a bit during Thursday's practice session, with gearbox problems costing them time on the track. That was taken care of and Lopez, from Mexico City, posted the 25th-fastest time in practice. That did not show what the team was capable of, though, because once time trials were over, Lopez stood fifth best out of 43 cars.

"We are doing all right, though we struggled a little bit in practice," he said. "This car is the one that was wrecked at South Boston and it's essentially a brand-new car. We got it back together to come here and it was giving us a hard time in practice with a gearbox problem. We missed a lot of practice fixing that and only got about eight laps of practice. Fortunately, we came here and tested and that helped a lot. We have a strong car for the race, it felt fast in time trials. We just have to save our tires through the early part of the race so we have something to race with at the end."

Lopez never got to see how that strategy would play out. He started out strong, settling into sixth place through the early laps, but something was amiss. Coming off turn four of lap 14, he reported to his crew that there was smoke in the cockpit. By the time he reached the end of the front straightaway, a fire had developed under the hood. Lopez pulled off the track at the entrance to turn two where he got out of the burning car safely and saw the fire put out quickly by rescue workers. The car was towed to the garage area where the damage was deemed to be too much to repair, and the car was retired from the event.

"We had a pretty strong car at the beginning," he said. "We were in the front pack, saving tires, but the car caught on fire and it was too much to try and fix to get back in the race. I'm OK, that's the good thing. I'm pretty disappointed because we have a strong car that I think would have been good for the end of the race. On the plus side, we have some good information to use at this track and we're coming back here later this year so we should be good then."

Lopez took a hit in the series points standings, falling from third to sixth, though he remains second in the Rookie of the Year standings. He will race again in two weeks when the Busch East Series makes its annual stop at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.

"We're looking forward to going to Thompson," he said. "We have a good setup for that track and I think we'll have a better day there."

-credit: ajc

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Rogelio Lopez