For the past three seasons, Carey Heath has had the backing to run the full Busch North schedule with her family-owned team. On Sunday, she was a spectator a Lee as the lack of a sponsor has put her team on hiatus for the time being.

"We're hoping to be able to do about five or six races this summer," Heath said. "We still have a couple of proposals out there right now. We're all ready to go. Over the winter, we put together a new car. We
don't give up pretty easily - we never have. It's just a matter of being creative and putting something together."

Two Busch North drivers from last season were also without rides for the season opener, but competed in other forms of racing at Lee's opening day. Mark Durgin drove in the 40-lap Late Model feature and Jimmy Renfrew took part in the track's Street Stock feature race.

"No matter what, I go in (to the NASCAR trailer) and say, they can't correct the mistakes that they make," said Penfold. "I had a top three car and they took me out of the top three."

The penalty for Penfold created more drama in the late stages of the race when the #0 had both the speed and track position of the cars in the lead pack, but was scored one lap down.

"I was trying to get my lap back," Penfold said. "If Andy (Santerre) would have spun, I would have been back on the lead lap. NASCAR was telling me to pull down on the bottom of the track and let everybody go. They said that I was holding up the lead lap cars, but I looked in the mirror and it seemed like I was pulling away from them. NASCAR's got some strange rules."

Penalties and Unhappy Drivers All Over, Santerre Stronger Than '03?
On lap 43, a one-lap NASCAR penalty was given to the #0 team of Bill Penfold for a pit road rules violation. This left the Maine driver both confused and frustrated after the event.
Racing from second place on back was tight in the closing laps of the event and Penfold's presence among this lead pack was not appreciated by several of the drivers who were racing for positions in the top five.

"The #0 (Penfold) was battling away with every single car like he was racing for the win," said Matt Kobyluck after the race. "This became a little difficult for those guys who were actually racing for the win."

Ryan Moore was not happy with Penfold either.

"There's certain people that you expect certain things from," said Moore. "He didn't earn any respect from me today. I've had problems with him before and that was just payback for that. He was playing games and having a good time with it. It's too bad that you have to race someone like that. I'll just take it and keep it in the back of my mind."
"They said that I passed the pace car," said Penfold. "I couldn't have done that because the pace car was on the racetrack and I was on pit road. He was in the corner and I came out ahead of him. We're doing the same speed limit in the pit as on the track. It's shorter on pit road, so that got me ahead of the pace car. Then they turned around and said
that the penalty was for going through the stop sign at the end of pit road. They don't know which penalty that they wanted to make up for me today."

Penfold went to the NASCAR trailer after the race, but he had little hope for a productive outcome.
Bill Penfold was all smiles before the race at Lee, but wasn't so happy after the event was over.
Also running solidly in the lead pack at the end of the race, but one lap down because of a NASCAR penalty for speeding on pit road, was Jamie Aube in his maiden voyage aboard the #10 car. Both Aube and his team owner, Jerry Morello, were confused by NASCAR's choice of a penalty.
"We made an early pit stop and had a problem with an air gun," said Morello. "NASCAR decided that they were going to take a lap away from us for speeding on pit road. My understanding is that for speeding on pit road, you go to the end of the longest line. We were OK with that penalty - we deserved it for speeding. But there was no reason for them
to take a lap away from us."

The reasoning for the choice of a one-lap penalty was that Aube was speeding down pit road to keep from losing a lap. Morello tried to make a case to NASCAR that this was an inconsistant ruling, but it had little impact.
Neither Ryan Moore (L) or Matt Kobyluck (R) were happy with Bill Penfold after the late laps of the race.
"We spoke to the powers that be after the race," Morello said. "But the race is over and we can't relive it. I'm heartbroken because I really feel that we had a top five car today."

Aube was quick to admit his crime, but also didn't agree with the sentence.

"We did speed down pit road." Aube said. "I don't necessarily agree with NASCAR's penalty, but it's their call and we need to live with it. We had a good car and we had something for the top five today."

Aube ended up in the 19th position - one spot behind Penfold.

Brad Leighton also received a NASCAR penalty in the middle of the race, but his was a little bit different from the rest. The #35 driver, who plans to race eight times in 2004, got penalized for not going down pit road after running a caution lap in the lower groove, which was supposed to indicate the commitment to make a pit stop.

"We were just making laps under caution in the racing groove," Leighton said. "I don't understand the penalty at all. If you don't run full-time (in the Busch North series), you don't get any bennies. We had a top five run going - that was about it. I'm not too happy about it but I've fought city hall before and lost. I'm getting too tired to argue with them."

Only a few weeks ago, the owner of Joey McCarthy's 2003 team, closed up shop and left the New Jersey driver rideless. McCarthy made a last minute deal to drive the #8 STI Motorsports car owned by Glenn Rudolph and the pairing had instant results at Lee with a second-place finish.
Jamie Aube (#10) runs with the lead lap car of Matt Kobyluck (#40) late in the Lee 150.  (Tom Gallo/NASCAR Touring Photo)
"This just came together in two weeks, so it's a little bit of a
surprise to run this well this quickly," said McCarthy. "I've had a lot of friends and family support me. A lot of my guys from last year are here and the ones that didn't come over here still helped me out in any way that they could. We weren't supposed to be here so to finish in the top five was an awesome thing."

Although McCarthy's plans for running the entire year are still up in the air, he will be back with the #8 team again at Thompson for the next stop on the Busch North schedule.
Joey McCarthy gets ready to take some practice laps at Lee for his new ride with the #8 team of Glenn Rudolph.
Ryan Moore found himself in the lead of the race with less than 60 laps to go, but a fading engine kept the 2003 Busch North Rookie of the Year from contending for his first career victory.

"I think that we had a top two car," said Moore. "About lap 90, we started losing the motor and it kept worse and worse. This isn't a big horsepower track, if this had been Loudon or a track like that we would have been straight back to 30th place. But here, I was able to gain back 75% of what I lost in the corners, the car was so good. We just tried to keep the car in one piece and do what we could to save our top five run. That's what we've got to do - finish in the top five every week and be there at the end. We want to win races and we want to win poles, but most of all we want to win the championship."

Andy Santerre has won two consecutive Busch North championships. In 2002 he won with his own shoestring operation and in 2003 he had the resources of a fully sponsored Joe Bessey-owned team. In what could prove to be bad news for their competition, both Bessey and Santerre feel that their team is even stronger and better prepared to start the year than last year.
"This is an excellent way to start out the year," said Bessey. "It's been a long time since we've won. That's hard to believe, but we won three out of the first four races last year and haven't won since. I think that we’re way ahead of where we were. Last year, we were ready for the first three or four races and pretty much played catch-up for the rest of the year. It was clear when we stopped winning races that we just didn't have the time to do the little stuff. Everything's in good enough shape now that we should be able to do the little stuff for the rest of the year."

Santerre, who works in the team's North Carolina shop during the week, agrees with his the opinion of his boss.

"We've had all winter to work on everything," Santerre said. "We didn't build any new cars. We just took everything apart that we had, looked at every little piece on the cars and asked ourselves 'how are we going to make this better?"

As a sidenote, Bessey served as Santerre's spotter during practice. His
reign was short-lived as the former NASCAR Busch Series regular turned over his duties to crew member Mike "Texx" French before the feature.

Santerre had team owner and former Busch Series winner Joe Bessey spotting for him during practice.
The fastest car late in the race may have been that of Eddie MacDonald. The #17 driver moved from outside of the top five with ten laps to go to the third finishing position.

"I really burned the tires up early on," said MacDonald. "Towards the end I figured that I'd better start ducking down on the inside of people and it ended up working out pretty good."

MacDonald made what could have been the move of the race inside the last handful of laps by passing Mike Stefanik and Matt Koblyuck to take fourth in one sweeping maneuver.

"I knew we had to something soon because the race was coming to an end," he said. "I didn't really want to finish fifth or sixth so that worked out pretty good."

An interesting accommodation was made for the event by NASCAR and track officials when a bird was found in the infield sitting on her unhatched egg. An empty pit stall was roped off between the stalls of Ryan Seaman and Brad Bennett and the bird was not disturbed enough by five divisions of racing to give up perch during the race.
A little creature got its own pit stall at Lee.