Leighton Inks New Busch North Deal
By DAVE MOODY
Two-time Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring division champion Brad Leighton has a new racing home for 2003. Leighton will drive for a new team, NDS Motorsports, in six Busch North races next season, backed by a number of local crewmembers.
Peter Duto, crewchief for Phil Scott’s 2002 ACT Dodge Tour championship-winning team, will serve as crewchief for the new team, while Northfield resident Matt Goslant - crewchief on Cris Michaud’s 2001Thunder Road championship effort -- will serve as car chief. Veteran Vermont wrenchman Steve Hibbard - most recently of Brendan Gaughan’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team - will act as team manager, with a crew that will reportedly include former Thunder Road Flying Tiger frontrunner Eric Pembroke.
Leighton’s projected 2003 BNS schedule includes both races at New Hampshire International Speedway, along with events at Dover, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, and one of the two scheduled races at the Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut. His new team will be owned by Bob Torriere, former team manager for Massachusetts driver Dale Quarterley.
“When I announced my retirement from full-time competition, (Grizco Racing team owner) Steve Griswold and I talked about fielding a second car out of their shop,” said Leighton this week. “But I was concerned about putting an undo burden on their efforts to win a championship with Mike Stefanik. When Bob approached me about this deal, I saw it as a win-win situation for everybody.”
The team is currently seeking sponsorship for their part-time Busch North effort.
The 2003 ACT/New England Dodge Tour schedule is out, and as reported here two weeks ago, it includes first-time visits to the Waterford (CT) Speedbowl, Seekonk (MA) Speedway, and New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway, as well as two trips to the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.
Highlights of the 2003 schedule include a July 12 Oxford event on the eve of the legendary “True Value 250,” as well as returns to the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, and a single Canadian sojourn to the Circuit Ste-Croix in Quebec on June 28. The 16-race campaign opens May 4 at Thunder Road; and will conclude there as well, with the 40th Vermont Milk Bowl on September 27 and 28.
Second-generation New Hampshire driver Jarod Robie is set to broaden his horizons next season; adding a limited schedule of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing to his sophomore season on the NASCAR Hill’s Bros. All-Pro Series. Robie, son of former American-Canadian Tour competitor Carlton Robie, will run as many as five NCTS races next season for Scott Racing, his All-Pro Series team.
Last season, Robie recorded one top-five and four top-10 finishes on the highly competitive All-Pro Series, with a best showing of third at Memphis Motorsports Park in Tennessee. He finished fourteenth in the final standings, and third in rookie points.
"I am very excited about competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next year," said Robie. "(Team owner) Scott Williams is putting a lot of effort into this program, as well as our NASCAR All-Pro Series program and I am lucky to be a part of this."
The team, which continues to search for sponsorship for both the All-Pro and Truck Series operations, is targeting New Hampshire, South Boston, and Memphis as likely venues for their part-time Truck effort. Long-range plans include a run for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year title in 2004. For now, though, Robie said his main goal is to become a title contender on the 2003 All-Pro Series.
"We are going to be focused,” he promised. “We have
notes on every track now, and everyone is striving to win. I have a feeling we
are going to have a strong run at the championship.”
How far has Kenny Schrader fallen?
Far enough to sign a full-season deal to drive for the lowly BAM Racing Team in 2003. BAM owner Beth Ann Morgenthau generated more hype than results last season, initially putting Shawna Robinson in her generally unsponsored Winston Cup Dodges, then dumping her at midseason in favor of a string of fill-in pilots. Now, Morgenthau sees Schrader as the right man for the job, despite the fact that the Missouri veteran hasn’t won a Winston Cup race in more than a decade.
"Frankly, I like what I see at BAM, and I like the direction they are headed," said Schrader, reportedly with a straight face. "They have good people in place and good leadership. I'm excited about the future."
Schrader accepted the BAM ride despite a previous agreement to drive for Andy Petree Racing in the 2003 Daytona 500. Petree is without sponsorship for anything after Daytona, prompting Schrader to opt for BAM’s full-time deal. Petree continues to insist that he has plans for a full schedule of Winston Cup racing in 2003, despite laying-off 25 employees recently.
"I’m looking for someone who can partner with me and help us continue the success this team has enjoyed over the years," said Petree, who has two wins in the past two seasons with drivers Bobby Hamilton and Joe Nemechek. "We’ve done everything you can do on the race track. I don’t think anyone disputes that we have a strong program here. Someone who can come in as an investor and help us bring the final part of the sponsorship situation together is going to find tremendous rewards.”
Schrader’s signing with BAM leaves Hamilton as the “odd man out” in the Winston Cup garage. With no major rides still open, Hamilton is now planning to drive his own NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry next season.
…Brewco Motorsports owner Clarence Brewer has tabbed veteran
David Green to drive the Timber
Wolf Pontiac in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division for 2003. The Brewco car was driven last season by Vermonter Kevin Lepage, after regular driver Jeff Purvis was injured in a savage crash at the Nazareth (PA) Speedway.
"David Green is a good fit for Brewco Motorsports," said Brewer. "He's a past Champion in the Busch Series, and a very talented driver. He brings a ton of racing experience and knowledge to our team, and we're excited about the 2003 season with him aboard."
Green won the NASCAR Busch Series Championship in 1994, and finished second in 1996. Lepage, meanwhile, still has no deal signed for 2003.
…Kevin Grubb will not return to the Toys "R" Us-sponsored NASCAR Busch Series entry next season, after failing to come to terms on a 2003 contract with Team Bristol Motorsports owner Rick Goodwin.
"We were hoping to extend our relationship, but were unable to come to an agreement,” said Goodwin this week. “I am now in the process of interviewing drivers for the 2003 season."