Leftovers: NASCAR Busch East Series at Greenville-Pickens by Penny Aicardi
The Young Guns, The Veterans and More
A lot of people have Joey Logano in mind for the BES 2007 Championship.
MOVE OVER RICKY CRAVEN
Joey Logano makes it look way too easy.
After winning the NASCAR West Series event at Phoenix International Raceway just ten days before, Logano made his Busch East Series debut at Greenville and literally kicked some butt. He didn’t lead the whole thing, but he didn’t have to. He just sat back and watched the action ahead of him until he decided it was time to go. And when that time came, there was no one, and I mean no one, that was going to hold him back.
Think about it – his margin of victory was over 4.5 seconds! That may not mean very much to you, but let me put it into perspective a little bit. The caution came out setting up the field for a restart at lap 142. Within an eight lap time frame, Logano pulled away so much that by the time cars were entering turn two, Logano was in turn three. They had an entire backstretch separating them. It’s not unusual to see that happen on a long 25-30 lap run, but unheard of in eight!
Logano has the chance to rewrite history in this series. Up to this point, no driver in the 21-year history of the Busch East Series has ever won a championship in their rookie season: not even Ricky Craven. Now Logano has the potential to. And what kind of record is he up against?
Craven produced two wins, seven poles, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in his rookie season. In fact, not a single rookie in history has ever had more than two wins their rookie season. But with a two for two record thusfar, I’d be willing to bet money that Logano will. Okay, his win at Phoenix doesn’t count toward the Busch East Series rookie record, but who cares? It’s still a win in my book.
SPEAKING OF RECORDS…
Logano set a track record at Greenville-Pickens Speedway with his qualifying effort, beating out last year’s pole winning speed by Sean Caisse. But Michelle Theriault, the driver of the No. 37 Glock Chevrolet, also set a record of her own. She became the highest finishing woman driver in the series with her eighth place finish in the Greased Lightning 150. The record was previously held by Carey Heath for her ninth place finish at Holland International Speedway on June 29, 2002.
“To be the highest finishing woman is a huge honor and I think it proves what a great team I am with this year,” she said. “This year I feel very capable of top-10’s and that’s exactly how we came out of there. Jeff (Spraker) has been so helpful and I think that has a lot to do with it. I think he will be an advantage for us as we hit all these new tracks. Our cars have been pretty fast off the truck everytime we’ve raced or tested.”
Theriault drove an impressive race Saturday night, but felt the cautions in the end hurt her. In the final ten laps, Theriault lost radio communication with the crew and got a hole in the radiator when the field bunched up on a restart.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy with (the finish), but we were so good on the long runs that I was hoping for a long run at the end. We definitely had a top-five car, but I’ll take an eighth with a car in one piece any day. Overall I can’t complain. The car ran great. Believe it or not, with the old tires we were working really good on the outside and that’s where we passed a lot of our cars.”
“We just kind of sucked it up and finished the race. Being in eighth I didn’t want to come in and give up the position,” she said.
YELLOW BRICK ROAD
There were 18 rookie drivers on hand at Greenville-Pickens Speedway: Joey Logano, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Marc Davis, Casey Wyatt, Richard Jarvis, Jr., Michelle Theriault, Jamie Hayes, Jesus Hernandez, Chase Austin, Todd Peck, Tim Schendel, Tim Cowen, Jonathan Cash, Max Dumarey, Jonathan Smith, German Quiroga, Jr., James Pritchard, Jr., and Blair Addis.
Half the Greased Lightning field were rookie competitors after five of those drivers went home for failing to qualify. Those who didn’t make the show were Wood Brothers development driver Jonathan Cash, Stafford Motor Speedway Late Model driver Jonathan Smith (now driving for Barney McRae), Jeremy Clark, Tim Cowen, James Pritchard, Jr., and Greenville regular Blair Addis.
Non-rookies that went home were Pierre Bourque and Glenn Sullivan, who is piloting Mark Willoughby’s No. 15 car.
Despite the large number of rookies, the Greased Lightning 150 went off fairly smooth and without incident. Keep in mind, there were a couple of accidents, but nothing out of the ordinary from any other race.
“These guys are in good equipment, and everybody used their heads so that they were there at the end,” said 2006 defending champion Mike Olsen.
Third place finisher Bryon Chew agreed, “I was really surprised to do 20 or 30 laps caution-free in the beginning. Everyone used their heads and it was a good race.”
CHEW ON THAT!
Bryon Chew posted a third place finish in the Greased Lightning 150 at Greenville-Pickens. It was his best-ever start to a season to date. His previous best finish in an opener was a fifth place finish at Greenville last year.
Chew battled with Sean Caisse in the closing laps of the race. The two were side-by-side at times with Chew constantly trying to get an edge on the bottom groove. In the end, the New York driver had to settle for third, but he wasn’t complaining a bit.
The rookie class was impressive at Greenville. Jeffrey Earnhardt (top) and Joey Logano (bottom).
“I was a little faster than Sean was and I got underneath him a couple times going in, and he just came right down on me. It was either wreck him or finish third and be happy with it. It was a great race, and we had a great car, but we really didn’t have anything for the 20 car. He was just in his own league. I’m very happy and my crew worked really hard. It worked out great, and it was a good start for the season.
Experience played a role in Chew’s top-three finish. He was fighting a loose condition, but used patience as a key to be there at the end.
“Our car was really good, and I was just riding back there and taking my time. I was just trying to save the tires. I was a little bit loose and I knew that. I stayed with a steady pace and did what I could,” he said.
NOT SO LUCKY
There were a handful of drivers that didn’t have luck on their side at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Ten drivers failed to complete the entire distance, and most of them were taken out by accidents.
Bryon Chew had to settle for third, but he wasn't complaining.
Matt Kobyluck was one of the first drivers to feel the wrath of Greenville-Pickens’ wall. While racing third, Kobyluck got collected in an incident between two lapped cars and sustained quite a bit of damage to his Mohegan Sun machine.
“We were lapping the 24 [Patrick Dupree] and 2 [Max Dumarey]. Sean (Caisse) went by, Bryon (Chew) went by, and then I was going by when the 24 drove into the back of the 2 and spun him,” Kobyluck explained. “The 2 went up the track and collected me. That was pretty much the end of the night for us. Our goal after that was just to stay on the lead lap.”
Kobyluck did well in achieving that goal – making it as high as 13th – but 10 laps before the race conclusion his front shock broke and then he got a flat tire. When he came into the pits to get the tire changed, Kobyluck went a lap down.
Dion Ciccarelli had his share of problems as well. At lap 37, Ciccarelli got spun in turn three. The accident caused a bent rear clip.
“I'm very disappointed,” he said. “The car wasn't working the way I wanted it to, but we got taken out before we had a chance to work on it. The 4 car [Jesus Hernandez] got under me and turned around. I wound up backing it into the fence, bending the rear clip. The car's pretty torn up but we just stayed out there to finish the race the best we could to get some points. What a rough way to start the year.”
Tim Schendel finished on the lead lap, but wasn’t happy with how many times he was hit. The 2006 Elite Division Champion finished 17th.
“It was a rough night. We started out decent and running in the top-10 and we were holding our own,” he said. “We got behind in practice a little bit and we suffered in the race. You get back there in the middle of the field and it gets scary. I’ve raced in Bomber divisions where they don’t hit you as much as here. We’ve got a tore up racecar. It was not exactly where we needed to run.”
LAST YEAR’S FRONTRUNNERS
Sean Caisse put in a strong performance with a runner-up finish. Caisse was the defending race winner, but admitted he had nothing for Logano.
“I learned a lot from Mike Olsen last year so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and finish the best I can. I want the championship bad,” he said.
Caisse honored Shane T. Wood-Norton of Maine, an eight-year-old boy who battled cancer until he passed away on April 24th, with a decal on the car and a picture taped to his dash. Caisse met the boy during a visit to the hospital and continued contact with him until his death.
Olsen, the defending series champion, posted a seventh place finish after a qualifying effort that resulted in a 16th starting position. Olsen started on the pole in 2006.
“I was trying to be patient, and I thought we were in good shape, and then when I decided it was time to go, it wasn’t there when I needed it. I thought I had been conserving the tires, but when I went I just didn’t have any grip. I was spinning the tires pretty bad.”
Sean Caisse doesn't plan on staying out of victory lane for too long.