New Hampshire Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 15, 2012 | 5:16 P.M. EST
Pistone: "NHMS generates two of the largest crowds of the racing year and also provides some of the best competition on the schedule." (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s interesting that in the aftermath of recent discussions about whether NASCAR should look at shortening some Sprint Cup races the series visited New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ever since NASCAR’s top series first competed in Loudon the race distance has been 300 (or in the case of Sunday’s race 301) laps and miles.
That means a fast-paced race with not time to “ride around – a sprint if you will from green to checkers. It also more often than not translates to about a three-hour event, the perfect window for any sporting event.
Granted Sunday’s race won’t make too many highlight reels, but I still like the distance in New Hampshire.
The annual pair of journeys is also a winning connection for the sport in terms of a rabid fan base as well as NASCAR history.
The sanctioning body has a long legacy of racing in the Northeast dating back to the days of the “Northern Tour,” when the Grand National Series competed at a variety of tracks during an annual summer trek.
Places like Trenton, Islip and Malta were regular stops for NASCAR’s top division on the yearly journey north of the Mason-Dixon line.
NASCAR’s successful Busch North Series, a companion to its largest southern cousin, was a big deal in its own right boasting superstar drivers from the region as well as stops at famous tracks like Oxford Plains, Thompson and Stafford.
So when New Hampshire Motor Speedway opened its gates there was no doubt it would be embraced by the racing-rich fans of the area. And since 1993, the track has hosted some of the most successful races in the Sprint Cup Series dating back to the inaugural Slick 50 300 won by Rusty Wallace.
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. acquired the facility a couple years ago and there was talk he would harvest one weekend and move it to Las Vegas. That talk has died down and rightfully so.
NHMS generates two of the largest crowds of the racing year and also provides some of the best competition on the schedule. Each NASCAR weekend is a New England mini-Speedweeks with in addition to the Cup Series headliner features a wide array of divisions running nearly non-stop on the one-mile oval.
Whether its the Nationwide Series, modifieds, K&N East Series or the regional late models of the American Canadian Tour, it’s rare to not have cars on the race track anytime during a New Hampshire weekend.
Not bad indeed for nearly 90,000 fans in what’s billed as the largest sporting event in New England. The racing wasn’t always great in Loudon. The early days featured single groove racing and follow the leader afternoons. But it’s gotten much better and in two decades I’d rank New Hampshire near the top of my list of favorites on the schedule.
Throw in the distance of Sunday’s main event and a NASCAR weekend in New England is just about ideal.
- Kasey Kahne was a pre-season pick by many to make the Chase and run for a championship in his first year at Hendrick Motorsports. Early on things didn’t go particularly well for Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis. But now the No. 5 team is performing to the expectations most had for 2012 and win number two of the season on Sunday should get Kahne into the playoffs.
- The day probably should have belonged to Denny Hamlin, who by far had the fastest car on the track. But a miscommunication between Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb that turned into a four tire stop that erased the No. 11 car’s huge advantage wiped out any chance at win number three of the season. Grubb took blame but you now have to question the chemistry between driver and crew chief, something Hamlin is all too familiar with going sour.
- The usually reserved Jimmie Johnson all but bit off his tongue when asked about the last caution of the day that flew for David Reutimann’s blown engine and reported fluid on the race track. Johnson felt the No. 10 car was way out of the racing groove but held back when asked about it on the TNT post race telecast. "I'm going to keep my mouth shut on that caution," said Johnson.
- Sam Hornish Jr. had a 22nd place finish in his second outing with the Penske Racing Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. Team owner Roger Penske said earlier Sunday if AJ Allmendinger’s “B” sample comes back negative in the next few days he would return to the car for the July 29th Brickyard 400. If not, expect Hornish to drive at Indianapolis.