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Monday, June 12, 2017

Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac

    Hello once more, and welcome back to the NASCAR Racing Champions diecast blog~ Today's post is going to be on Mike Olsen and his time in the #61 Little Trees Pontiac~ Olsen is the grandson of legendary New England driver, Stub Fadden~ Olsen also had one of my favorite sponsors of all time.. I mean, who doesn't love Little Trees?~ Sure they smell generic, and only last a couple of days before their fragrance disappears, but they're cool looking and cheap~

    Olsen got his start in NASCAR with the help of Fadden, who was almost godlike in their hometown of North Haverhill, New Hampshire~ Fadden and his family ran the local NAPA store in North Haverhill, and NAPA would also sponsor Fadden's cars in various racing divisions~ Click on the blue link above to read more about Stub's career~ Now let's get into the Olsen post, and see what he was doing in the #61 Little Trees Pontiac~

                                                           One of many Olsen postcards~ 
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Mike Olsen was born on February 8th, 1968 in North Haverhill, New Hampshire~ He won the Camping World Series East championship in 2001, as well as 2006~ His first BGN attempt came in 1990 @ Oxford, for the "True Value Oxford 250", but resulted in a DNQ~ He wouldn't make another attempt in the BGN series until 1996, where he made his first start in the "Meridian Advantage 200" @ Nazareth~ 

    Olsen qualified 38th in the 42 car field, while David Green put the #95 Caterpillar Chevrolet on the pole for the event~ Martin Truex Sr., Bill Hoff, and Brian Donley failed to make the show and were sent home early~ Tom Peck qualified Dick Trickle's car since Trickle was also racing in the Cup race, and wasn't at the track for qualifying, so he was sent to the rear of the field for the start of the race~ Jeff Fuller was in the #17 for this race, (instead of his usual #47) due to the fact that he was lower in the BGN points standings than Kelly Moore was in the Busch North Series points standings, so Moore had the rights to the #47~ 

    This was a pretty wicked race, with five cars blowing up with two laps of each other, and a ton of wrecks~ Thanks to that, Olsen was able to finish in 21st place, one lap down~ The race was won by Randy LaJoie, followed by David Green, Jeff Green, Dick Trickle (nice run from the back of the pack), and Jason Keller finished out the top 5~ This was the only BGN race Olsen ran during the 1996 season, but he was back in 1997, driving the same car~ 

          With the amount of postcards made, Olsen should have been sponsored by "If It's Paper"~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Olsen's first race of the 1997 BGN season came in the "Hardee's Fried Chicken 250" @ Richmond, where he qualified 25th~ Randy LaJoie won the pole in the #74 Fina Chevrolet, and seven driver failed to make the field, including brothers Kevin and Wayne Grubb~ This race would mark the end of Doug Heveron's BGN career, and he qualified 17th in the #40 MHCO Ford, and finished in 24th place~ 

   The race was largely dominated by Jeff Burton, who was driving the #9 Track Gear Ford~ Burton led a total of 179 laps, but was booted out of contention on the final lap by Jason Keller~ Burton and Keller got into a screaming match after the race, but nothing really came of it~ Mark Martin passed them both, and went on to win the event in the #60 Winn-Dixie Ford~ 

   Martin was followed to the checkers by Jeff Green, Steve Park, Phil Parsons, and Jason Keller~ Ed Spencer III brought the #20 Spencer Motor Ventures Chevrolet home in 15th place, which was a career high in what turned out to be his final start in the series~ Ron Barfield picked up his career best BGN finish with a 9th place effort in the #94 New Holland Ford, owned by Bill Elliott~ Olsen had major issues with the car throughout the event, and came home in 35th place, nearly 70 laps off the pace of the race winner~ 

                                                                Yet another postcard~ 
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Olsen next ran in the "Galaxy Foods 300" @ Hickory, where he qualified 29th in the slimmed down 31 car field~ Todd Bodine was on the pole in the #36 Stanley Tools Pontiac, and nine driver failed to make the field for the show, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rodney Combs, The Krogh brothers Jeff & Mark, and the Grubb brothers Kevin & Wayne~ 

    Randy LaJoie led all but 45 laps of the wreck filled event, but he was no match for eventual race winner Dick Trickle, who picked up the first win of his BGN career, and in doing so he became the oldest driver ever to win in one of NASCAR's top three divisions, a record that has only been broken since by Dick himself, one year later - at the age of 56~ 

    The Trickler was followed to the stripe by LaJoie, Tim Fedewa, Jeff Green, and pole winner Todd Bodine~ Mike Olsen was the first car to exit the event, ending his day only 62 laps into the event due to overheating issues, which resulted in a last place finish~Although his day ended early, at least he had a car to bring back to the shop that wasn't damaged, other than the overheating problems~

                                                   He really liked making these postcards~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    The next event Olsen entered was at his home track of Loudon, for the "United States Cellular 200", where he rolled off from the 33rd starting position~ Randy LaJoie was again on the pole in the #74 Fina Chevrolet, as qualifying was rained out for the event~ The Grubb Brothers finally made their BGN debuts together driving the #82 and #83 Chevrolets~ 

    Todd Bodine and Jeff Fuller led the biggest portion of the race, but both drivers faded in the closing laps~ "Magic" Mike McLaughlin pushed Jeff Fuller out of the way to take the lead with three laps remaining, and barely beat out Steve Park for the victory, in what was a wild finish to say the least~ Todd Bodine, who led a majority of the race wound up finishing in 6th place~ 

    McLaughlin and Park were followed to the checkered flag by Jeff Fuller, Elton Sawyer, and Phil Parsons~ Pole winner Randy LaJoie wound up finishing in 7th place in a car that seemed like it just wasn't there from the get go~ Olsen blew the engine in the #61 Little Trees Pontiac with 20 laps remaining, which resulted in a 29th place finish, in what easily could have been a top 20 effort~

                                          Olsen battles with the #75 car of Doug Heveron~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Olsen and the team were back at the track the following week in Nazareth for the "Core States Advantage 200", where Olsen qualified 32nd in the small 35 car field~ Elliott Sadler was on the pole in the #29 Phillips 66 Chevrolet, and I must add that I hated that car~ Why is the Phillips 66 car #29?~ It would have been an awesome looking car if it were #66, but the #29 just throws everything off for me, and I don't enjoy it one little crumb~ 

    Steve Park was pretty dominant in the first half of the race, but started having engine trouble midway through the event~ His motor finally gave out with 30 laps remaining, which basically handed the win to Elliott Sadler, in what would be his first career BGN victory~ Todd Bodine tried his hardest to get by Sadler in the closing laps, but his best just wasn't good enough, and Sadler was able to make it to the line first~ 

    Sadler was followed by Bodine, Randy LaJoie, Jeff Green, and Dale Shaw, who picked up his first career top 5 in the event~ He would go on to capture two more top 5 finishes, all in the 1997 season~ Olsen finished the race in 25th place, 8 laps off the pace of the race winner~ His car didn't have any speed, and it seemed like it was like this every week~ He could keep the cars clean for the most part, but he just didn't have the speed to be competitive with the front runners of the series~ 

                                        Olsen steers clear of leader Todd Bodine (yellow car)~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    The final race Olsen made in the 1997 BGN season came in the "Autolite Platinum 250" @ Richmond, where he qualified in the 37th position~ Michael Waltrip won the pole in the #21 Band-Aid Ford, and fifteen drivers failed to make the field for the event, including the Grubb brothers, the Krogh brothers, Ron Barfield, Scott Lagasse, and Lyndon Amick amongst others~ 

   Fellow Virginian Jeff Burton had a very strong car all day, leading for a total of 89 laps, but Steve Park's team worked on his car throughout the day, making it better with each pit stop~ By the closing laps of the race, it was clear that Park wasn't going to go home without the win, which would sadly be the final win of his BGN career~ 

    In the first laps of the race, Joe Bessey was taken out by Dale Shaw - in retaliation, Bessey threw his helmet at Bessey's car, and the helmet actually ended up on Shaw's lap~ Shaw threw the helmet back onto the track during the caution~ When asked about the incident, Bessey said he thought Shaw might need a bigger helmet, so he was just trying to offer him his helmet~
    Park was followed to the stripe by Randy LaJoie, Jeff Burton, Dick Trickle, and Buckshot Jones~ Olsen finished the event four laps down, in the 29th position~ This would be his final start in the 1997 season, though he did have three DNQ's throughout the year as well~ ("Goodwrench Service 200" @ Rockingham, "Coca-Cola 300" @ Fort Worth, and the "AC-Delco 200" @ Rockingham")~

                           Olsen narrowly misses a crashing Toshio Suzuki in his BGN debut~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Olsen attempted to make three races during the 1998 BGN season, but was only successful in the "First Union 200" @ Nazareth, where he started from the 39th position, and came home four laps down in 25th~ The two events he DNQ'd in were the "Gumout Long Life Formula 200" @ Loudon, and the "Hardee's 250" @ Richmond~ 

    He attempted to make two races for the 1999 BGN season, making the field for the "Lysol 200" @ Watkins Glen, where he rolled off from the 43rd starting position, and surprisingly worked his way up to finish in 18th place in the #81 Little Trees Chevrolet~ (Tony Roper was using the #61 for this event)~

    His DNQ came in the "First Union 200" @ Nazareth, where he was one of seven other drivers who failed to make the field~ The 2000 BGN season would mark Olsen's final season in the BGN series~ By this point, the car had a yellow paint scheme, instead of the usual white one~ This would be the scheme Olsen would use for the remainder of his time with the Little Trees sponsorship~ 

                           Postcard celebrating 10 years with Little Trees~ Also shows the yellow car~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Olsen qualified dead last for the "Busch 200" @ Loudon, while Tim Fedewa won the pole~ This was the race where Adam Petty died from a practice crash~ Fedewa won the event, followed by Jeff Green, Jason Keller, Todd Bodine, and Hank Parker, Jr.~ Olsen finished in 26th place, three laps off the pace of Fedewa~ 

    Mike then qualified 42nd for the "Lysol 200" @ Watkins Glen, with Canadian Ron Fellows on the pole~ There were two Little Trees cars in this race, with Butch Leitzinger driving the #30 Little Trees car as well~ Leitzinger would go on to finish runner up to pole/race winner Fellows~ Leitzinger was followed by Kevin Harvick, Todd Bodine, and "Magic" Mike McLaughlin~ This was the race where Jimmie Johnson had his hard crash in the #92 Alltel car~ Olsen finished thirty laps down, in 42nd place~

    His final BGN start came in the "Econo Lodge 200" @ Nazareth, where he started 42nd in the #61N Little Trees Chevrolet~ The "N" was to signify that Olsen was a Busch North driver~ Jeff Green was on the pole in the #10 Nestle NesQuik Chevrolet, but when the race got underway, it was all Ron Hornaday - who took the #3 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet to victory lane after leading 104 of 200 laps~ 

    Hornaday was followed by Elton Sawyer, Jason Keller, Jeff Green, and Kyle Petty, who was driving Adam's car following his death at Loudon~ Olsen finished the final race of his BGN career in 27th place, two laps off the pace of race winner, Hornaday~ He would continue to race in lower tier series events, but this was the end of his top tier NASCAR career~ 

                                                 Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997
                                                               Click pics to enlarge~
Mike Olsen #61 Little Trees Pontiac Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog BGN Busch 1996 1997

    Although Olsen ran the Little Trees cars for over 10 years, this diecast was modeled after his first BGN start, as it was the only time he ran a Pontiac in the BGN series~ He did run a Little Trees Pontiac from 1996-1999 in the Busch North series, but that's not what this car was modeled after~ I loved when Racing Champions would make obscure one off cars like this~ It didn't happen a lot, but it happened more than you'd figure it would~ 

    The car itself is rather bland~ I could have came up with a better design than this one when I was 12~ I mean, it's not horrible.. but it's not really that good either~ It's just a run of the mill paint scheme, and that's a shame~ The Little Trees car could have looked way better than this, even back then when paint schemes weren't the best~ This car came in a clear plastic bag originally, with no stand or card~ I made the card on Photoshop, and put it in a standard Racing Champions package~ I used the older stand for it, because I'm not a fan of the solid black stands.. I prefer the chrome look~ 

    I'm going to give this one a C+ on the Racing Champions quality scale, due to it not coming with a card or stand, and the car is just kind of boring in my opinion~ It's a cool car to have for your collection, but it's just nothing special to look at really~ If you can pick this car up for under 10 dollars, I'd consider that a good deal~ It doesn't come up for sale much on Ebay, and when it does, someone usually snatches it up really fast - so your best bet is try and find it out in the wild somewhere at a flea market or thrift store~ And now it's time for the bonus car for this post~ 

                                           Kelly Denton #75 Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce Ford~ 
Kelly Denton #75 Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce Ford Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1999 BGN Busch Henderson Food Country

    I remember it as if it were a meal ago.. the Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce deal was huge for Henderson Motorsports, and everyone in town was congratulating the team for their newly acquired sponsorship~ The deal was supposed to be a full season sponsorship, in what was going to be Denton's rookie campaign, but rumors started swirling about Big Daddy's sometimes failing to meet their financial obligations~ The team was told that they would receive their first check at Daytona, so they headed to Daytona, with two Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce Ford's in their transporter~ 

    When the team arrived at Daytona, no one from Big Daddy's could be located~ Phone calls were not being returned, and the team was starting to realize that they'd been duped~ Denton is listed as a DNQ for this race, but I'm fairly certain the team just came back home when they realized they'd been shafted~ I honestly don't think they made a qualifying attempt, though my memory could be wrong~ I remember sitting in meetings with Charlie Henderson back then (my Dad was the supervisor of Food Country for 21 years, so I got the inside scoop) and he made it sound like he forced the team to come back home~ 

    Either way, the #75 Big Daddy's car never ran a single event, and the Henderson Motorsports team ran a very limited schedule, making four races, and failing to qualify for another five, not counting the Daytona race~ Denton was back with the team for the 2000 BGN season, running four races with a best finish of 15th in the "Cheez-It 250" @ Bristol~ He was fired at the end of the 2000 season, and ran two more partial BGN seasons before retiring from NASCAR competition at the age of 29~ 

    Thank you all for visiting the blog again!~ Please share this post on social media, and if this is your first time visiting the blog, please click the "follow" button at the top right hand side of this page~ Below are some random NASCAR clips, enjoy them - and until next time, Adios amigos~ 

                                                           Mike Olsen interview~

                                       Kelly Denton basically murders Ken Schrader~
                                                      1995 Winston 500~ Big one~    

                                                      Buffet Benny's - Bristol~                                                                   

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