ES: Stafford: Round five preview

NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES NEWS & NOTES -- STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY * Car Keys: Caisse, Kobyluck Bring Hot Rods With Keys To Victory Lane * Fast Flashback: Martin Truex Jr. Twice Tops Series Champs At Stafford * Series...

NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES NEWS & NOTES -- STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY

* Car Keys: Caisse, Kobyluck Bring Hot Rods With Keys To Victory Lane

* Fast Flashback: Martin Truex Jr. Twice Tops Series Champs At Stafford
* Series Rookie Jonathan Smith Happy To Return To His Home Track

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 5, 2007) -- The NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series returns to its "home turf" of New England and the challenges of Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn.,Friday night, June 8. The smooth .500-mile paved oval requires drivers and their teams bring all the elements for victory: horsepower for its long straightaways; handling and brakes for wide sweeping turns; and instinct to know precisely when to capitalize on a split-second opportunity. Even the title of the race has a ring of rumbling heavy-duty mystique: the 17th annual TSI Harley Davidson 150.

If you happen to have a race car with a key to victory lane, it helps a lot to bring that car. That's exactly the plan the series' most recent winner, Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Casino Chevrolet), and the event's defending champion, Sean Caisse (No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet), are bringing Friday night.

Kobyluck will be bringing the car he drove to victory Saturday night at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. His pre-South Boston plan was if the car did well on that track's moderately banked .400-mile track, to make the adjustments and bring it to Stafford. He won a hard fought battle versus Danville, Virginia's Peyton Sellers (No. 83 Strutmasters.com/ Clarence's Steakhouse Chevrolet), exchanging the lead 11 times. Kobyluck's steed was immediately brought home from victory lane to Uncasville, Conn., for a quick turn-around of five days.

"You can really haul the mail around that half-mile. It has a lot of grip, and it's one of my home tracks. We'll have a good fan base there and we're bringing a hot rod, so we're really looking forward to it," Kobyluck said of Stafford.

Like Kobyluck, Caisse, the defending winner of the TSI Harley Davidson 150, has already won a series race in 2007. Caisse and the Andy Santerre Motorsports team left the car they've entered at Stafford at home last weekend. Good thing, too. Caisse cut a tire and his car took a beating in Virginia, finishing 27th, six laps off the pace. The car they saved for Stafford won there last year.

"Winning at Stafford last year came after kind of a duel between Matt and me," Caisse said. "Matt's really strong there. We both had a good race. Stafford is a beautiful race track and I'm always excited to go back up to New England. I'm from that area (Pelham, N.H.) so I enjoy going back."

Caisse also thinks the series' new optional spec engine (more economically built using specifications prescribed by NASCAR, available complete or in kits) helps drivers wring more performance from their cars.

"The spec engine just seems to keep the car underneath you and the power is always there," Caisse said.

"Taking some gear away makes it a little bit easier to drive," he said of the balance between handling and horsepower. "You don't abuse your car as badly."

Defending NASCAR Busch East Series champion Mike Olsen has not yet won this year, but has one top-five and three top-10 finishes in the first four events of 2007. Olsen has finished as high as second at Stafford, but has not won there yet. He was asked when he was going to break through at the Arute family's showplace.

"I'm hoping this Friday," Olsen beamed. "I've been up and I've been down at Stafford, but I really like the track. Each year they seem to make more improvements. The track is smooth and fast. Right now, the configuration (rules) we have with tires and weight, it can be hard to run two-wide in the corners there, but you can do it. You have to have a good set-up for the long run. It's close to home, too, (North Haverhill, N.H.) and I can't wait to get back there."

NEWS & NOTES

* Jonathan Smith happy to be home ... Jonathan Smith, 20, of Beacon Falls, Conn., is the "late bloomer" of the NASCAR Busch East Series this year. He and team owner Barney McRae's Motion Racing team paired just before the start of the season. They subsequently didn't get up to speed in qualifying for one of 30 starting spots for 38 entries in the season opener in Greenville, S.C., April 28. Smith and company have quickly improved, and remarkably turned in their best performance at the longest and highest speed track so far on the series schedule, Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Smith qualified only 27th fastest for the 42-car field. Undaunted and with a good set-up by the McRae team, Smith impressively drove to a 14th-place finish -- an improvement of 13 positions in the longest distance race of the year, 175-miles. Smith was a NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model division rookie at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2006. Smith still races at Stafford when the Busch East Series has a weekend off. "It's a tough track with good competition," Smith said of Stafford, "and the Late Model guys are really good." He said he won't have any advantage in his first series appearance in front of his home-track crowd, but it sure will feel good. "The series cars are totally different, so that's going to be a challenge," he said. "But just the comfort level of knowing the place, knowing the groove and knowing where you need to be on the track will take my stress level down a lot. It's definitely good to be going to our home track."

* Martin Truex, Jr. topped two champs, too ... On the road to winning his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Dover, Del., Monday, Martin Truex, Jr. posted two of his five NASCAR Busch East Series wins at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2001 and 2003. Coincidentally, the drivers who finished second to Truex at Stafford went on to win the series championship in the same year: Mike Olsen in 2001, and Andy Santerre In 2003.

FAST FACTS

What: 17th annual TSI Harley Davidson 150, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Race

Where: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, Conn.
When: 9:00 p.m., Friday, June 8

Track layout: .500-mile paved oval.
Distance: 150 Laps, 75 miles.

Posted Awards: $113,316
TV: SPEED (Enhanced replay premiers June 30, 2:30 p.m. EDT)

2006 winner: Sean Caisse
2006 polesitter: Sean Caisse

Record: Kelly Moore, June 22, 2001, 91.491 mph; 19.672 sec.

Pre-race schedule: Friday -- Practice (veterans) 12:30-12:50 p.m.; Practice (rookies) 12:50-1:10 p.m.; Practice (all) 1:10-1:30 p.m. Qualifying, 5:00 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.

-credit: nascar

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