BNS: Tight race for Rookie top spot 2003-06-06

Ryan Moore, Tim Andrews battle for top spot in strong NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Rookie Class Of 2003 SEEKONK, Mass. (June 6, 2003) -- Like quarterbacks in the NFL and point guards in the NBA, a few Raybestos Rookie classes ...

BNS: Tight race for Rookie top spot 2003-06-06

Ryan Moore, Tim Andrews battle for top spot in strong NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Rookie Class Of 2003

SEEKONK, Mass. (June 6, 2003) -- Like quarterbacks in the NFL and point guards in the NBA, a few Raybestos Rookie classes in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series become the stuff of legends, while some slip by with little notice. Yet others are only appreciated in the fullness of time.

The Busch North Series Class of 2000, headed by Mike Johnson and Martin Truex Jr., was instantly recognized as a vintage crop. The 2001 class, including Brian Hoar, Joey McCarthy, and Eddie MacDonald, is looking better with every race. For a variety of reasons,. 2002 was a thin year for Busch North rookies, but 2003 is shaping up as one of the best- a tall order considering the recent past.

Jimmy Renfrew and Mark Durgin have laid down fine early-season performances, but the top of the Raybestos Rookie chart has belonged to Ryan Moore and Tim Andrews. Both hold top-ten point positions after three races, both have finished in the top five on the track, and both are backed by strong teams who can go the distance in the grueling Busch North Series schedule.

There are other similarities as well. They were born seven months apart- Andrews entered the season at age 20, Moore will reach that milestone in August. Neither would look out of place as a sophomore shooting guard that the coach wants to put on a few pounds- Moore is listed at 6-1 and 170, Andrews at 6-4 and 160. Most important, each comes from a family rooted in NASCAR success.

Ryan Moore's father, coach, and teammate is Kelly Moore, the winningest driver in Busch North Series history. Ryan's career followed a steady path, up through the ranks of weekly classes to touring late model series and now to the premier full-bodied series in the northeast. Wearing the colors of R.C. Moore Transportation, the family business, Ryan scored a top-ten in his first race and a top-five in his second. When the series reached Seekonk Speedway for the season's fourth event, the Budweiser 150 which would ultimately be rained out and rescheduled for August 2, his hauler was parked third in line, indicating his position in the overall point standings.

"We've been running real good," Ryan said in a major understatement. "The guys have been working together and getting the car real good right out of the truck. It's real comfortable for me and we've been lucky to have some good runs. We're focused on getting the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year and wherever we fall at the end of the year will be a big bonus," he added.

"We have Rollie Lachance as crew chief and he's got a lot to experience, along with Chris Chagnon. They've got the knowledge so that when I tell them what I think we need to do, they can tune it up," Ryan continued. Lachance is a former crew chief with Tracy Gordon and Dale Shaw, while Chagnon turned the wrenches for Travis Benjamin.

The Busch North Series will run its first eight races on short tracks, but starting in July, the scenery changes dramatically with three superspeedway races and two road courses dotting the second half of the schedule. Ryan Moore knows he'll have to step up his game when he moves into unfamiliar territory "I'm playing it by ear, but if I've got time, between working in the shop, I'd like to go to one of the road racing schools, especially if we're still up there in points," he said, adding "Superspeedways I'm not too worried about. We've got some good notes to go by, and I've got a good car, the car we ran at Stafford, so we should have a good piece for Loudon and Dover. As long as the guys keep working together, we'll be in good shape."

Ryan credits his dad for letting the new team- which runs #74, the reverse of Kelly's famous #47- develop their own system without too much parental advice. The younger Moore knows, however, that there will be a moment of truth on the track when father and son want the same turf. He's ready for it. "We're both pretty serious racers, but I don't think he's going to race me any differently and I don't plan to race him any differently," Ryan declared. "We're both focused on racing, and if it comes down to the two of us, I'm sure we'll race each other with respect, they way we try to race everyone else."

For Tim Andrews, the family presence isn't on the track, or even AT the track until the Busch North Series reaches New Hampshire International Speedway in July. Tim's dad, Paul Andrews, is one of the premier crew chiefs in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He won the Winston Cup title wit Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and now he calls the shots for Jeff Burton at Roush Racing.

Despite the distance that may separate them, the age of wireless communication has made Paul part of the Palermo/Moen Chevrolet team. "He's definitely hands on. I called him on the cell phone as soon as practice was over," Tim noted as the showers began to fall at Seekonk. Tim is quick to point out that doesn't diminish the role of crew chief Jason Weissman and the rest of the J.T. Mase Motorsports crew.. "Of course I always talk to Jason and the crew to see what they think," he added, concluding with a reminder of the significance of a teammate, in this case Joey McCarthy. "Joey's got a lot of experience at all the tracks where we go. He and Jason carry everything on their shoulders and we look to them for guidance."

In addition to the cars and the tracks, the whole concept of "running for points" is new to Tim Andrews. "I've never been in a traveling series," he explained. "I a spent full year at Concord (N.C.)and then two years just traveling around here and there to places like Hickory (N.C.) and the other tracks down south," he continued. He might have added that Concord Motorsports Park and Hickory Motor Speedway provide a wide breadth of experience themselves. The former track, in Tim's hometown, features a nasty dogleg in the back. Hickory, one of the oldest NASCAR tracks and the home of Winston Cup races on dirt until the late 1960's, is an asymmetrical third-mile where the fourth turn wall reaches out to grab the unwary, a bit like the "Widow Maker" at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vt.

Neither the road courses nor the superspeedways he will soon face hold Tim Andrews in awe. "I've run road courses in the Legends cars and Thunder Roadsters, and I ran real well in the one race I had at Loudon last year, he said while striking one note of caution: "Dover is a whole 'nother challenge- the Monster Mile, they call it. I look forward to everyplace we go."

Whether it's learning a new car, a new track, or a new series, it all comes back to the team concept for Tim Andrews "Communication is crucial for anything you do in racing, whether it's driver to crew chief or driver to dad," he stressed. "You've got to let the guys know what you think about the car and what it's doing on the track. There's always somebody to bounce your ideas off."

Heading into the summer months, with a race almost every weekend, Ryan Moore led Tim Andrews by one point in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings. The Class of 2003 should be poised to write its own chapter in the proud history of Busch North Series debut seasons.


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