Leftovers: NASCAR Busch East Series at Thompson by Penny Aicardi
Kobyluck, Pardo, Caisse, Lopez, Davis, Olsen and More
Caisse (#44) races with Kobyluck's #40. (NASCAR / Howie Hodge Photo)
FROM FEUDS TO FAVORS
Last season, Matt Kobyluck and Sean Caisse were barely able to manage a polite hello, let alone to do favors for each other out on the racetrack. Tensions came to a peak at the fall New Hampshire International Speedway event when contact between the two resulted in Kobyluck being parked for the day.
Back at NHIS, it began first with contact between Caisse and Kobyluck on lap 50. Kobyluck spun out of the top-five and went to the tail of the field. Next, Kobyluck on his march back to the front, turned a car around in what he said was a racing incident that was caused by the car trying to block him. NASCAR sent Kobyluck to the rear of the field. Then, in an unrelated accident, Sean Caisse was relegated to the back of the pack when he and Brian Hoar made contact in a bid for second place. This set the tone for what was to come.
Both drivers pitted just before a restart at lap 68 with Caisse returning to the field ahead of Kobyluck. Going down the backstretch, Kobyluck approached Caisse. What happened next is part of Busch East Series history as one of the best rivalries in recent years. Of course, there was contact. Kobyluck contends that Caisse checked up and he couldn’t slow down. NASCAR and Caisse’s team, led by Andy Santerre, insisted it was retaliation.
After that incident, things cooled down between the two drivers with various sightings at Dover, the following race, of the two talking. Peace? Maybe. Friendship? Unlikely!
“I think we hammered out a few things at Dover last year,” said Kobyluck. “I think there is more respect for each other now.”
Perhaps the two have put the past behind them. Last week at Thompson International Speedway, Caisse gave Kobyluck a chance at the lead for a single lap so that he could gain five bonus points.
“Last year, I would have never done it for him, but this year, absolutely,” said Caisse. “We get along really well now. I even went to his trailer and hung out with him for a little while before the race.”
Points – albeit a small number of them – are precious in a 13 race schedule. For a driver to give another a chance to gain more of them is a huge sign of respect. But Caisse didn’t mind at all. In fact, he was worried about how he raced Kobyluck, a driver he says he has a lot of respect for.
“The toughest thing about turn one is there’s a huge bump there on the bottom. When I’m by myself, I run the second groove and get out there. On restarts, it’s really hard not to use up your competitor driving it on the bottom. You’re bottoming out and it shoots you up the track. I felt a little bad on one of the restarts – I think it was the second to last one – I pushed up a little bit,” Caisse explained. “We didn’t make contact, but I knew he gave me the room. It just goes to show you how much respect he has for me and how much respect I have for him. I was trying to hold it down, and I know I washed up a little bit. We were still racing hard and racing clean. That’s what the series really needs.”
Kobyluck added, “Five points is really nothing. It’s not enough to make or break us, and if he needed five points and it wasn’t going to hurt me in anyway I would do it. It’s better to work together than against each other.”
NO DRAMA, JUST GOOD RACING
Not everyone in this sport can claim to be a nice guy out on the track, but if there’s anyone who fits that description in the Busch East Series, it’s Mike Olsen. He proved that once again last weekend at Thompson International Speedway when he literally rode bumper to bumper with eventual runner-up Matt Kobyluck for most of the race.
“Mike (Olsen) ran behind us the whole night, and he ran me real clean. He appears to be a little upset that he ran me so clean. I would have ran him the same way if I was behind him. He didn’t use me up. That showed me a lot of respect, and when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll do the same for him,” Kobyluck said.
“I thought on a couple of restarts 30 or 40 laps from the end that Mike was going to get by me,” Kobyluck added. “He had a better car than I did, but it wasn’t quite good enough that he could drop under me and go. I needed to run the line I was running. I was racing my heart out. I wasn’t trying to take up his groove. He just couldn’t quite get under me.”
The race for second was probably one of the best shows of the night. From lap 33 until the race conclusion, Olsen was glued to Kobyluck. At times, Olsen would get his bumper right under Kobyluck’s and push him down the straightaway. The two-time defending champion, however, never once lost control. Olsen never turned him.
“I could get my nose right under his bumper down the backstretch, on the frontstretch, in the middle of the corner, and coming off. We had a faster car, but I was going to race him clean,” Olsen said.
“I can’t say I could have beat Sean, but I definitely feel like we were as good as he was,” he said. “It was really frustrating for sure. We had a really good car, and we just didn’t get what we were looking for. But it’s good to be disappointed with third. We’ll take it and move on.”
BAD LUCK STILL HAUNTS LOPEZ
Early in the season, it appeared as if Rogelio Lopez would be a championship contender. He was second in the points before a string of bad luck has sent him spiraling down. Thompson’s Pepsi Racing 100 was no different. On lap 19, the fifth- and sixth-place cars got together and spun across the track in the first turn. The track was blocked and many other cars could not avoid getting collected in the melee – Lopez included.
Lopez got back into the race for the restart on lap 24, but caution was immediately back out because of cars sliding everywhere down the fronstretch. Apparently, someone had blown a rear end and left oil all over the surface of the racetrack. Again, Lopez got caught up in it.
“The first accident, there was a big one right in front of me. I don't know who spun but I was trying to avoid it but I got stuck over there,” Lopez said. “The car wasn't hurt that bad, but on the restart somebody blew a motor or put gear oil on the track and I spun around with another car. The suspension broke and I blew a tire so we had to come into the pits to fix the suspension and the tire."
“It was one of those tough days that I want to forget about,” he concluded.
Lopez is now 11th in the points.
Olsen keeps his #61 ahead of Kobyluck's #40. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
10, I have already moved up to 13th in the point standings and I feel I can continue to work my way back up to the top- 10 in points.”
STRONG BEGINNING, DISAPPOINTING FINISH
Marc Davis, a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, has had to live in the shadow of his successful teammate Joey Logano all season long. But last weekend, Davis was the one in the spotlight when he qualified second fastest for the Pepsi Racing 100. Davis led the first lap, but was pushed high in turn one on lap two. The contact on that lap knocked the toe out of his Chevy and the driver eventually retired with only 33 laps in the books.
“It’s a heartbreaker. We were really good in practice and we were really consistent. We had our
best qualifying of the year and we qualified second and my teammate Joey Logano was in fourth
right behind us. I thought we had a really good racecar tonight. If you look at the lap times, Sean
Caisse was running 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s all race long. We were running that in practice so I think
we had a chance to win this race,” he said.
“I like the track a whole lot. I’ve never been here before, but I adapted to it pretty easily. It was a
lot of fun,” Davis added. “We ran three laps with Sean and I kept it right there. I think we would
have had a real fun race if we had kept it together.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I don't like wrecking race cars," James Pritchard, Jr., driver of the No. 41 Mannings USA
Chevrolet said. "I can take my tire bill and go run a car and have less damage on it at a quarter-
mile short track than I do here. The Cup guys can start 43 cars on a half-mile track and they
don't wreck nearly as much as these guys here do. It doesn't take talent to wreck race cars,
I can put my little brother in and he can go wreck my race car if we wanted to do that, and it
seems like that's what some of these guys are doing. NASCAR has to change something
because it's getting ridiculous.”
LOGANO DOESN'T WIN, BUT HAS GOOD POINTS NIGHT
Joey Logano’s fans have gotten used to seeing him winning races. In fact, coming into
Saturday night’s Busch East Series event at Thompson International Speedway, Lognao had
won four of eight races with the NASCAR Grand National Division.
So most would think that it was a disappointment when Logano came out of Thompson with a fifth-place finish after Saturday night’s Pepsi 100 at the track. And while Logano was a little disappointed, he looked on the bright side and saw what the night really was; another step toward the Busch East Series title.
“It was a good points night, even though the #61 was right in front of us,” said the 17-year-old Logano after the event. “It was a decent night for us. We just didn’t have a winning car. (Eventual race winner) Sean Caisse destroyed everybody. He was pretty much three-thents of a lap quicker. We probably had a seventh or eighth place car and we finished fifth with it. We almost had a third-place run. The team did good and I’m sure that we’ll figure it out.
“What we need right now are top-five finishes and we got that tonight. It was pretty hairy out there a couple of times. So we’re lucky to get out of here in one piece.”
Marc Davis (Mary Hodge Photo)
Ruben Pardo became an uncle this past week when BES driver Carlos Pardo and his wife welcomed a new addition to their family.
"I am very, very happy with this past weekend,” Pardo said of his Thompson performance. “I just got back from Mexico the day before we left for the race because my brother Carlos and his wife had their first baby. I am a proud Uncle!"
Pardo went on to finish seventh in the Pepsi Racing 100.
“There were a few wrecks that caused me to lose many positions, but I was consistently able to make my way back up to the top. I am happy finishing in the top-
Pardo's #22 (Rick Ibsen Photo)