Hoar Pleased With Rookie BNS Effort
By DAVE MOODY with permission by Times Argus
After nine events on the 21-race NASCAR Busch North Series schedule, the 2001 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year chase has begun to come into focus. At the start of the year, three drivers -- Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., Joey McCarthy of Randolph, N.J., and former ACT Late Model champion Brian Hoar of Williston - seemed poised to battle for the freshman crown.
Now, however, the title appears to be Hoar’s for the taking. He has been the top-finishing rookie in five of the last six races - six times overall - while finishing in the top seven each time. His best to date has been a fifth-place showing at Beech Ridge last month, and while the Williston native stumbled slightly with a 20th place finish last weekend at Waterford, he has looked like anything but a rookie in his first trip around the BNS schedule.
"We've gotten a lot better week in and week out," said Hoar recently. "We've gotten to where we unload the race car and we know what we're doing, for the most part. We've got the car to the point where it's very adjustable, and it’s reacting to our changes.”
Hoar said his biggest challenge so far has been the sheer logistics of getting help to the racetrack.
"Most of the guys are volunteers and they have to work,” he said. “It's tough to get a consistent crew. If I had the same seven guys coming to the track every week it would help."
With the Busch North Series scheduled to return to Barre’s Thunder Road on Labor Day weekend, Hoar looms as a legitimate threat to become only the sixth rookie to win a Busch North race. Mike Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. did it last year, while defending champion Brad Leighton (1996), Jerry Marquis (1994) and Ricky Craven (1990) also recorded wins in their freshman campaigns. In addition, though not considered an official BNS rookie at the time, Randolph’s Kip Stockwell shocked the Series with a win at Thunder Road in his first career start in 1997.
While Hoar said he is pleased with his team’s efforts so far, there is one thing that could make his season more enjoyable. The longtime Mopar devotee continues to run a Pontiac disguised as a Dodge, something he would love to change.
"Maybe one day, we'll have a real Dodge out there," he said.
Like a black cat with nine lives, Phil Rowe always seems to land on his feet.
To the surprise of virtually no one, NASCAR spokesman Chris Boals announced last weekend that the embattled Busch North Series Director had resigned, effective immediately. Featherlite Modified Series Director Ed Cox will replace Rowe on an interim basis. The 42-year old Rowe headed the northeast PRO Truck Series before jumping ship to take the Busch North helm; a move that effectively forced the PRO series to disband. Since then, Rowe has been the target of constant criticism for his handling of the Series, particularly his refusal to deal with instances of rough riding on the racetrack. In addition, teams complained that Rowe either refused to communicate with them at all, or did so in a condescending, confrontational, and unprofessional manner. The phone lines to Daytona Beach have reportedly been sizzling recently with calls for Rowe’s ouster; many of them reportedly made by Rowe’s own officials.
John Wall - car owner for son Bryan Wall - spoke for many last weekend when he said, in effect: if you treat good people like second-rate citizens long enough, sooner or later they're going to begin to act like second-rate citizens.
Shelburne’s Dennis Demers was more gracious, giving Rowe credit for NASCAR’s recent decision to crackdown on rampant tire softener use on the Busch North Series. “I don’t know if it was his idea to get serious about tire softener, or if it came from somewhere else,” said Demers. “But until this season, it had been completely ignored. At the very least, I’ll give him credit for something good that happened on his watch.“
Fellow Busch North driver Kip Stockwell said he hopes a firmer hand will prove beneficial for the series.
“I can’t say I know (Rowe) that well, but I do think a lot of stuff that happened on the track hasn’t be dealt with this season,” said the Randolph native. “People saw that, and I think some of them exploited it. We need someone like (NASCAR official) Chris Boals running the show; someone who isn’t afraid to crack down on the rough riding and say `enough is enough.’”
A statement from NASCAR said Rowe had resigned “to pursue other interests.” And despite colossally unsuccessful stints with New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Maine, the American-Canadian Tour, PRO Trucks, and now Busch North, Rowe has reportedly wrangled himself a place on the staff of Waterford Speedbowl promoter Terry Eames.
Short (Track) Subjects…
…Just how over is the NEPSA Pro Stock Tour? Two weeks ago at Quebec’s Autodrome Montmagny, NEPSA drew just 11 Pro Stocks, 10 of which were able to start the main event. Former Series champion - and Montmagny owner - Ralph Nason took the win over Kenny Wright and Gary Smith. And while the rival PASS Series is doing better at the ticket gates -- both front and back -- Series President Tom Mayberry is reportedly leasing the track at virtually every stop on the schedule.
That’s a dicey financial proposition, at best, and with a pair of events scheduled this week against heavy holiday competition, the next 2-3 weeks could tell a lot about PASS’ ability to succeed where NEPSA and IPSC could not.
…Speaking of PASS, Series driver Andy Shaw is looking to field a team on the Midwest American Speed Association circuit in 2002. Shaw, nephew of Busch North Series veteran Dale Shaw, would join Nova Scotia youngster Scott Fraser on the ASA circuit.
…Second-generation driver Jarod Robie tackled NASCAR’s Gatorade All Pro Series at South Boston Speedway Tuesday, step one in a planned five-race schedule of Gatorade All Pro racing this season, in hope of a full season in 2002. Robie is the son of former ACT Pro Stock regular Carleton Robie.
…After missing four races this year - including the last three - driver Kenny Wallace has finally walked the plank at Eel River Racing. Wallace will now devote his full attention to the #48 Gould's Pump Chevrolet on the NASCAR Busch Series. Journeyman Mike Bliss is reportedly standing by to replace Wallace. Bliss would be the sixth driver in 58 races for Eel River.
…The busiest racing week of the season is well underway, and there’s plenty more to come. In the last two days, race fans have already had four race events to choose from, including Tuesday’s shows at Thunder Road and Riverside Speedway, and yesterday’s action at Devil’s Bowl and White Mountain. Another seven shows hit the ground in the next 96 hours, ensuring a massive case of “Race Fan’s Hangover” for any poor soul brave enough to attempt it all.
Tonight at Thunder Road, the “Times-Argus Midseason Championships” roll to the line, with double point, added-distance events for the Late Model Sportsmen, Flying Tigers and Street Stocks. It’s also Driver Autograph Night, so bring your Sharpies. Post time is 7 p.m.
Saturday, the ACT Dodge Tour returns to Plattsburgh’s Airborne Raceway for the “Ehler’s R.V. 100,” along with a full card of events for the Flying Tigers, Street Stocks and Renegades, with a 7 p.m. start. The NASCAR Busch North Series runs the “Irving Oil 150” at Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway Saturday, with practice beginning at noon, and with Bud Pole qualifying at 5:45 p.m.
Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford also returns to action Saturday, with all four divisions hitting the clay for the “Mekkelsen R.V. Mid-Season Championships,” headlined by 40-lap Twin State Modified Series events, plus Coupes, Pro-Streets, Fast Fours, and a four cylinder Enduro. Post time is 6:30 p.m. New Hampshire’s Riverside Speedway presents “McDonald’s/D.A.R.E. Kids Night” Saturday, with racecar rides for the kids, bicycle races, and action for the Sportsmen (Flying Tigers) Cyclones, Strictly Stocks, and Dwarf Cars. And finally, White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, presents its regular, five-division program plus Monster Trucks - sponsored by Currier RV Center -- Saturday night at 6 p.m.
Finally, on Sunday, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven presents its “Veteran’s Night” program, with all weekly divisions in action. Race time is 7:00.