KOBYLUCK SHUTS OUT COMPETITION AT STAFFORD BUSCH NORTH OPENERby Mike Twist
#40 Wins Pole and Lead Every Lap of Race, But Drama Was Never Far Behind
In the 265 days that had passed since the last NASCAR Busch North Series race (there have been a total of six rainouts since last September’s Dover race), there has been much time to speculate about who the guys to beat in the series this season will be.
Much of that speculation has focused on the Grizco Racing “superteam” of Andy Santerre, Mike Stefanik and Brad Leighton. Those three drivers have a combined total of 11 NASCAR Touring championships and know how to win. Heck, even their crew chiefs know how to drive racecars. Leighton has six-time Busch North race winner Tom Carey, Jr. as his wrench while Stefanik relies on the services of former Oxford Plains Speedway champion Jerry Babb.
On the heels of Grizco are a few other teams. Take Mike Olsen, the only guy since 1996 who has won a Busch North championship who doesn’t currently draw a paycheck from Grizco. He finished second in last season’s Busch North standings. Then there is Ryan Moore, the young DEI development driver who is hungry to win.
Not mentioned quite as often was Matt Kobyluck. But that’s OK. Kobyluck didn’t take it personally. He just went to Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) on Friday night and kicked some serious tail on his way to win the race.
“We sat on the pole and led every lap,” said Kobyluck of his Stafford race. “You can’t do it any better than that.”
“I don’t mind being the darkhorse that no one thought too much about. I’ve always known that my Mohegan Sun
team are the best guys in this series. When it comes time to get the job done, we can do it. We’ve regrouped and have a good focus going into the season. We came out here tonight what we are capable of doing. It didn’t come as any surprise to me or to this team at all.”
It wasn’t a surprise either that the guy who Kobyluck had to beat to win at Stafford was three-time defending Busch North champion Andy Santerre. Like any good competitor though, Santerre didn’t underestimate his opponent.
“Matt’s got the same group that he’s had for two or three years now,” said Santerre, who finished second. “Perry [Waite] is a great crew chief. He’s one of the best in the Busch North Series. They don’t lack for anything. They are in the same boat as we are financially. You get what you need to win. There are five or six like that out there. You can’t count them out. They will win a bunch of races – Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck and Ryan Moore. Those are guys you will have to contend with week in and week out.”
It wasn’t as easy for Kobyluck as the box score might indicate though. There were two drivers who gave him a run for his money despite not leading a single lap. One, Ryan Moore, kept on his bumper through the first half of the event before his ran into trouble. The other was Santerre, who challenged late.
Moore was right in Kobyluck’s shadow until sparks started to fly
Kobyluck. With 28 laps to go, Santerre was up to Kobyluck’s bumper and he stayed there until things got very interesting with 8 laps left in the race.
The leaders came upon the lapped #43 of Marc Rogers in turn three. Exiting turn four, the two leaders split his car.
guys were happy just to be racing after such a long lay off, tires were an issue, a few new combinations clicked right away and one young gun finally got to race a car that looked just like what his father used to drive. We’ll have all those stories and more later this week in Busch North leftovers.
The last six times when Busch North teams have gone to the track, its rained out. It also rained briefly at Stafford, but the skies cleared and a rainbow appeared before the feature. Here, Ted Christopher pauses for a moment of silence to honor Rev. Pat Evans with a rainbow over the track. (51 Photo)
from under his car. A few laps later, it slid to a stop with two flat tires and big problems under the rear of the car. The panhard bar was broken and both of Moore’s rear tires were flat. That wasn’t part of Moore’s plan.
“When Matt was leading, I was just kind of playing with him at the time and watching him,” said Moore. “I was seeing where he was good and where he was better than me. I was just messing with him really. I was trying to get him to wear out his stuff a little bit.”
“That poor car, he had one leader on one side and the other on his other side,” said Santerre. “He didn’t know what to do.”
“It’s always one of those things where somebody who shouldn’t be where they are ends up playing a factor in the outcome of the race,” said Kobyluck. “Fortunately, Andy ran the guy clean. When I went around [the lapped car] on the outside, I saw Andy drop to the inside. I thought that it was going to be ugly and I just laid in the throttle and got a good run out of the corner. It actually worked out good for us because Andy got a terrible run off the corner and the #52 [Marquis] got by. Andy got back by the #52, but he had to play catch up to me because I was letting it all hang out at that point.”
Kobyluck (#40) goes high around the white #43 of Marc Rogers, while Santerre keeps his #44 low. Jerry Marquis sits patiently behind everyone in his #52. (Howie Hodge Photo)
With Moore out of the picture completely on lap 65, Kobyluck’s next closest competitor was Ted Christopher. But TC couldn’t get up to seriously challenge the #40 car, which let Kobyluck have some breathing room.
“Fortunately, when we had a 10-12 car length lead, I was able to just maintain and save the tires and brakes for when I needed them,” said Kobyluck.
Meanwhile, Santerre was methodically working his way through the pack. He entered the top five for the first time around the halfway point and was working on up to
“That guy got in the middle of the track,” said Santerre. “Matt went high and I went low. I saw him turn left. I knew that he was trying to get the hell out of the way and I don’t even know if he knew I was there. I had to back out of it or we all would have been in trouble.”
“It was my only shot at that point to do a clean pass and not touch anyone. I definitely didn’t want to get into in with Matt. He’s a good friend and he’s always done me right. He had a good car. He led all of the race, so I couldn’t come and steal his thunder with a few laps to go and cause all kinds of controversy. That’s not how I am.”
And unless Santerre wanted to go out of character and put the bumper to Kobyluck, his chance at getting by for the lead was pretty much over.
“If I could have driven around him, I would have,” said Santerre. “But I wasn’t going to knock him out of the way.”
Kobyluck and Santerre crossed the finish line nose to tail with Marquis not far behind in third. Following that bunch were Christopher and Mike Johnson.
There were plenty of other stories from Stafford. Some
Kobyluck's #40 started the evening sitting under threatening skies... (51 Photo)
Kobyluck sits in victory lane at the end of the night's racing. (Howie Hodge Photo)
...and it ended the night by being the first car to the finish line. (Howie Hodge Photo)