Wolfe Hunting For Busch Series Ride
By DAVE MOODY
Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus
Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring division driver Paul Wolfe thinks he’s found the key to career advancement.
Cold, hard cash.
The Milford, NY, driver recorded four top-10 in seven Busch North Series starts this season, including a career-best runner-up finish at Nazareth, a third on the challenging road course at Watkins Glen, and a fourth-place showing on the `Magic Mile’ at New Hampshire in May. Those results, achieved without major sponsorship on tracks the 24-year old driver had barely seen before, pegged him as a star of the future on the Busch North Series. Now, however, Wolfe is looking to jump directly to NASCAR’s southern Busch Series, at the wheel of an established, championship caliber team.
“We’re trying to finalize a deal that would take me to the Busch Series in 2002,” said Wolfe in an exclusive interview this week. “I’ve interviewed with Innovative Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin’s new team, and a few others. We’re also looking at getting together with Herzog Motorsports, and maybe Robbie Reiser’s #17 team.
“(Former Busch North driver) J.D. Gibbs is helping me out a little, and he’s going to talk to a couple of other teams at Homestead this weekend.
With only 17 career Busch North starts to his credit, Wolfe readily admits that his resume alone will not earn a top-notch ride. But what he lacks in experience, he hopes to make up in funding.
“I’m not at liberty to say much until next week, but we’re very close to signing a major, major sponsor,” said Wolfe. “It’s not official until it’s signed, but I’m pretty confident that it’s going to happen. And when it does, I hope to have my pick of teams. The Busch Series is in a pretty major slump right now, and they barely drew full fields for some of their races this season. Sponsors are becoming tough to come by right now, and the bottom line is, money talks.
“I’ve got less than 20 starts in a Busch car, and that doesn’t give (prospective team owners) much to look at,” he admitted. “But a big check gets you past all that. It’s pretty exciting. I’m pumped up, and I’m working hard trying to figure out what’s best for me. Within the next week, we should know what we’re doing.”
While the Empire State driver admittedly lacks on-track experience, his brief Busch North career has earned him an impressive list of admirers. Foremost among them is veteran northeast car builder and crewchief Dick Glines, who called Wolfe, ”probably the best pure talent I’ve ever worked with.
“This kid has an inherent feel for the race car,” said Glines, who crewchiefed Robbie Crouch to numerous NASCAR North and ACT championships in the 1980s. “He can go to a track he’s never seen before, roll the car out of the trailer and within 10 laps, he’s practicing under the track record. In terms of raw talent, he’s the real deal.”
Wolfe said his best option for a southern ride may be the Innovative Motorsports Team, which is unsure about the status of its current driver, Kenny Wallace. If Steve Park is unable to return to the Pennzoil-sponsored Winston Cup Chevrolet next season, Wallace is a top bet to get the job, leaving the #48 Busch car without a driver. In addition, sponsor Gould’s Pumps announced recently that they will scale-back to associate sponsor status next season, leaving the team in serious need of additional funding.
Wolfe said that if a quality southern ride cannot be found, he would grudgingly return to the Busch North Series for another season.
“But I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen here in the south,” he said. “If not, I would probably come home and run Busch North. I still have the cars, but it’s `Option 3’ at best.”
The final engines have been fired in anger, a dusting of snow is on the breeze, and in racing circles, about the only action here in the northeast is on the post-season banquet circuit.
The ACT Dodge Tour honored its champions last Saturday night at the Sheraton Burlington Conference Center. Top recipients included 2001 ACT Dodge Tour Champion Pete Fecteau, Thunder Road Late Model Champion Cris Michaud, ACT Late Model Rookie of the Year Dave Wilcox, and Flying Tiger 50 Series Champion John Donahue. Bethlehem, NH, driver Kenny Dufour was recognized as the ACT Dodge Tour’s "Most Improved Driver,” after steering his Central Asphalt Paving Chevrolet to his first career win in the Merchants Bank “Freedom Lynx 150” at Thunder Road, and placed 12th overall in the final ACT Dodge Tour standings. He also had top-10 finishes at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH), Riverside Speedway (NH) and Adirondack Speedway (NY).
Pete Duto, crewchief for Phil Scott’s Northfield Savings
Bank/Formula Ford Taurus, received the
prestigious Don MacTavish Award Saturday, in recognition of his many years of outstanding performance in the sport. Duto was a key player in Scott's 1996 and 1998 Thunder Road championship seasons, and also has turned wrenches on a number of other ACT entries, including 2001 Thunder Road Late Model Champion Cris Michaud, Dodge Tour runnerup Jamie Fisher, and others. Duto began his racing career as a member of veteran Jack Bateman’s Claremont Speedway modified crew, and has also worked with former ACT Late Model driver and current Busch North competitor Dennis Demers.
The MacTavish Award is named in honor of 1966 NASCAR National Sportsman champion Don MacTavish, who competed throughout New England, New York and Canada, including Airborne Raceway and the now-shuttered Catamount Stadium in Milton, VT. His career ended with a fatal crash at Daytona on the eve of his Grand National (now Winston Cup) debut in the Daytona 500.
Canaan (NH) Speedway honored its top achievers Saturday night, as well, at its annual awards banquet at Canaan Hall on the speedway grounds.Four new points champions were crowned; Dan Douville in the 358 Modifieds, Frank Varney in the Late Models, Ryan Avery in Pro-Street Stock, and Fast Four king Joe Emery.
Douville a former champion at Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway and the former NorWay Pines Speedway in Wentworth, N.H., piled up seven feature wins en route to the title, outdistancing Chris Donnelly by a two-point margin at season’s end. Varney, meanwhile, piled up 11 feature wins during the 2001 season, along with a season-ending Open Competition win at the track. Avery copped the Pro-Street championship with relative ease, winning six times to top Duane Mansur by 47 points. Emery had edged teenage upstart Nick Berry by just four points to earn the Fast Four title, on the strength of four feature wins.
Promoter C.V. Elms, III, drew a loud round of applause when he announced that he will return to promote racing at Canaan for his third year in 2002, in addition to running Saturday night events at Bear Ridge.
Short (Track) Subjects…
…Former Winston Cup driver Ted Musgrave, who currently
steers the #1 Mopar Dodge on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, is reportedly
set to drive a second Ultra Motorsports Winston Cup entry at Homestead this
weekend. Musgrave tested the car - a Dodge numbered 07 - earlier this season
with plans to race in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those
plans never came to pass, but after reportedly re-signing to run the NCTS with
Ultra Motorsports next year, the Wisconsin native will apparently get his
Winston Cup shot this weekend.
…Second-generation Thunder Road Street Stock driver Terry Pearce, Jr., is reportedly set to graduate to the NAPA Flying Tiger circuit in 2002, as is third-generation Bear Ridge Speedway star Adam Pierson. Pierson will reportedly turn his attention from dirt to asphalt next season, after purchasing the “Fast Eddie” Patterson Ford for a planned rookie season in the Thunder Road Flying Tiger ranks. The Corinth teenager dominated the Bear Ridge Sportsman Coupe division in 2001, and was competitive in a late-season “trial run” in Patterson’s car at the Milk Bowl.
…Ricky Craven learned that timing is everything last Sunday at Rockingham. Running in the top 10 of Sunday's “Pop Secret 400,” the Maine native came down pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 176, just as independent driver Carl Long slapped the wall and brought out the second of only two caution flags on the day. Craven attempted to race out of his pit and return to the track without taking service, but ran over his team's air hose in process. The air gun became dislodged from the hose, sending the hose spraying air wildly in the pit. Wayne DeLoriea, the team's pit crew trainer, injured his left shin in the incident, and Craven was left clinging to the tail-end of the lead lap. He was ultimately passed by leader (and eventual winner) Joe Nemecek, and finished the race one lap down, in 12th place.