Leftovers: NASCAR Busch East Series at Elko and Iowa by Penny Aicardi
Two Races in Two States Over Three Days
Sellers' #83 machine (Penny Alcardi Photo)
SELLERS FACES UPHILL MARCH TO MAKE IT TO SOBO
Peyton Sellers won’t have time to take a deep breathe now that the big doubleheader weekend is over. A Danville, VA-native, Sellers competed last year in the West Series, and began the 2007 season back where he belongs: in the East. But his transition has not been easy. With limited funds and limited equipment, Sellers went to Elko and Iowa Speedways with a single car and a single engine. There were no backups for NASCAR’s 2005 National Weekly Racing Series Champ. It was make it through in one piece or go home.
At Elko Speedway, Sellers narrowly missed destroying the car when he was spun in turn four after running in the top-five. He was able to make it back up to sixth before the checkers dropped. At Iowa Speedway, Sellers again was a strong contender and was running in the top-five when he suddenly fell off the pace. The engine in his No. 83 machine had problems, and his day was done. He finished 40th after completing only 51 laps.
“We dropped a valve,” said Sellers about his Iowa run. “It tore the block all to pieces. I hated it for everybody. They had given me a good car and I would have put it up front. We came off of turn four and boom, we lost it right there. I told the guys it was not good. We brought it down pit road hoping for a spark plug wire or something, but unfortunately it wasn’t.”
The loss of the motor has left Sellers scrambling to put something together for South Boston Speedway on June 2nd – the next event for the Busch East Series, Grand National Division.
“We’re trying to find the money to buy another motor,” said Sellers. “Hopefully, something will come up here. Strutmasters.com has helped us quite a bit. It’s a race-by-race sponsorship, and it’s a great sponsorship, but in order to compete we need to find someone else that will step up to the plate and be willing to help us out.”
“We had a tough winter,” added Sellers, “But the Good Lord was watching over us and we were able to put this team together. This is my Dad’s car, and I have my brother as a crew chief and have help from Ralph Natalizia from Ted Marsh’s team. The spec engine was what really saved us because it has a lot of power for a lot less money. I hated it that it got all tore up. I’ve had help from Wegner and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll pull something together here.”
ANTON FARES WELL IN THE HEARTLAND
Jeff Anton was the highest finishing Busch East Series driver after winner Joey Logano and third finisher Jesus Hernandez at Iowa Speedway’s Featherlite Coaches 200. Anton, now in his third year of competition, posted an eighth place finish.
“We started off with a rough year. It just makes everyone on this team happy. I don’t know how to describe it because it feels like a win to us because of how bad we’ve been doing. Scott Coyle and myself built this car over the winter and the thing is a rocketship. It’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Anton’s season began with an 18th place finish at Greenville and a 14th place finish at Elko. Anton’s eighth place finish at Iowa is the seventh top-10 of his career.
The team arrived at Iowa and had the charge of not only setting up the car, but shaking it down as well since the car had never been tested or run anywhere. Despite running less-than-satisfactory lap times in practice, Anton was confident for a solid effort.
“This car has never seen the track before. I was a little worried about the brakes on it because it had a little bit of a squishy pedal to it. In practice, I wanted to see if anything was going to fall off or what problems we were going to run into. I just had it in the back of my head that it was a good car. It felt good out there even though it was a
second slow. Then this morning we ran just about as fast as everybody else with old tires. We were like 27th fastest, but it was all old tires that we were running in practice. I knew that once we put on stickers we would qualify well and sure enough we did,” Anton said after the race.
Anton’s story is unique in that he never took on tires throughout the 200-lap race. During his pit stop, it was fuel only for the No. 30 machine – a strategy that paid off big dividends.
“We pitted for fuel around lap 80 and we didn’t change tires. I was terrified that we were going to run out of fuel or blow a tire, but the car was still running just as fast lap times at the end as we were doing yesterday in practice.”
SO-SO FINISHES STILL MAKE FOR GOOD POINT DAYS
The combination status of the both Elko and Iowa Speedways gave many teams a break in the points despite finishes that may have otherwise been damaging to a championship chase. Points were awarded separately to Busch East Series and West Series drivers. For example, even though John Salemi finished 12th at Iowa Speedway, he received fifth place points due to the fact he was the fifth highest finishing Busch East Series driver.
The biggest movers in points over the weekend were Ruben Pardo and Jonathan Smith. Both gained a total of 13 spots after all the dust had cleared. They weren’t the only double-digit movers, but the rest moved down the ladder instead of up. John Freeman lost 11 point positions while John Wes Townley lost 12. Both drivers were absent from the starting line-up at Elko Speedway.
Friday night, Freeman served as the spotter for teammate Rogelio Lopez. It was Freeman’s first time in that role. “It was interesting to see the other side of it,” said Freeman of his experience. “It was also an interesting race to spot in.”
Matt Kobyluck, who had less than satisfactory runs at Elko and Iowa, still managed to gain seven spots in the points.
“You can’t convince my guys it wasn’t a bad weekend,” joked Kobyluck, who tore up a car at Iowa Speedway. “But looking at the bigger picture, we came out of this doubleheader pretty well points-wise. It could have been a lot worse.”
John Freeman (L) stepped out of the car and into the spotters' stand at Elko. (Penny Alcardi Photo)
The top 20 in points following the Elko race are: Joey Logano, Sean Caisse, Rogelio Lopez, Jesus Hernandez, Bryon Chew, Mike Olsen, Michelle Theriault, Peyton Sellers, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Jeff Anton, Jamie Hayes, Eric Holmes, Marc Davis, Matt Kobyluck, Tim Schendel, Richard Jarvis, Jr., Ruben Pardo, John Salemi, Jonathan Smith, and John Freeman.
CAISSE GOES FROM WIN TO WRECK IN TWO DAYS
Sean Caisse had all but 24 hours to sit atop of the Busch East Series point standings. Entering Elko Speedway’s Minnesota 150, Caisse trailed Joey Logano, but surpassed him after his win there. Logano turned things around at Iowa after Caisse hit the wall and destroyed his No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet.
“We showed what this team is capable of doing. We’re in the series this year to compete. We don’t want to run around. We’re still working on it. We’re going to go testing a little bit and make the car better,” said Salemi. “Dale Quarterley gave us a great car, and has been a tremendous help to this team.”
OLSEN HANGS ON FOR SOLID FINISH
Defending series Champion Mike Olsen had a solid run at Elko only to struggle through the 200-lap race at Iowa Speedway. Olsen was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got collected in a mid-race spin. Olsen’s Little Trees Chevrolet was pretty beat up, but the driver was able to keep going despite it. He completed all but eight laps and came out sixth in the point standings – one spot ahead of where he began the weekend.
““We bent the rear end pretty bad. The body is destroyed. I was surprised the thing was still running. It was a pretty good hit. We came in and put some tires on and the crew told me to go ahead,” he said. “Before all that, we had a really good car that got
“The team definitely did a great job giving me a piece I could run up front with there,” said Caisse. “Then all of a sudden, I picked up a little bit of a vibration and I starting losing a little brake. I couldn’t figure out why. Luckily, the caution came out like two laps later and I came in the pits that time. I took on left side tires and we checked the right front and we had three loose lugnuts. This doesn’t happen at ASM Motorsports so obviously we have to have a team meeting and check on things a little more thoroughly. That’s what started our whole bad luck deal.”
When Caisse went back out, he blew a right front tire. Fortunately, he was able to get back into the race, but his troubles were far from over. Caisse was in the wall again 20 laps later. This time, however, the third-year driver was done for the day.
“Because we rode around a lot, it wore down a part on the sway bar and it only took us about 20 laps for the thing to snap. Going in three, she broke, and I went up and smacked the wall real hard. It finished the car off. It’s just really unfortunate, but you know what, points-wise, it wasn’t that bad.”
The car is destroyed, and won’t be used again this year according to team owner Andy Santerre.
“It was our New Hampshire car,” said Santerre. “The chassis is destroyed. We can take all the parts and pieces that are salvageable and put it on another one. We’ll fix it probably, but it’s not going to be this year. Thankfully, we do have another new chassis being delivered Monday.”
“Sean was fast,” he continued. “He ran Harvick down at the beginning of the race and I told him to back off. We did have a good car, it’s just one of those freak things.”
SALEMI HOLDS OWN AT IOWA
Just looking at John Salemi’s stats from Iowa Speedway – started 11th and finished 12th – doesn’t tell the entire story. The driver ran in the top-10 during the race, and put in one of his best performances of the year. The Nashua, NH-driver had a little help from a Busch North Series veteran in Dale Quarterley, who built the car for him over a four-week period.
better on the longer runs and I’m confident that we would have been there at the end. I hate it for this team because they worked so hard to get the car to that point.”
SPEC ENGINE A POPULAR CHOICE
The spec engine was a big hit at Iowa with 41 of the 53 cars in attendance utilizing the technology. At Elko, 23 teams had spec engines while 26 other drivers went with the traditional built engine. Also at Elko, 33 cars ran the steel body while only 13 teams utilized the composite body. Most teams that went with the composite were from the West Series.
Sean Caisse (NASCAR / Denyn Stremple Photo)