Why New Hampshire Motor Speedway Is an Asset to NASCAR
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series started its playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., this weekend.
The race shook up the Chase standings and brought Mark Martin one step closer to winning his first Cup Series championship.
For many years there have been rumors circling about NHMS losing at least one race date, and some people in the NASCAR industry have voiced a desire to eliminate the track from the Chase races.
It is no secret that NHMS owner O. Bruton Smith wants to have a Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway. This has led many to believe that Smith would pull a date from NHMS and give it to Kentucky.
This past weekend's performance proves that not only is NHMS a great track that creates better racing, but it also deserves its spot as the first Chase race.
The first reason is that NHMS has sold out every Cup series race that it has had since the track opened with its former owner, Bob Bahre.
The race weekends at NHMS are packed with racing, and this weekend was no different. Spectators who came on Saturday were treated to cars on the track from 8 a.m. to just before 7 p.m.
The racing included the Whelen Modifieds, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), and local late model touring series the American Canadian Tour (ACT).
These very different racing series really show what NHMS is all about: the fans.
At the track you hear many long-time fans say their favorite race of the weekend is always the Whelen Modifieds with their bumper-to-bumper action and fierce rivalries.
The NCWTS always provides fans with a few big names like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and a glimpse at who is being groomed to enter the Cup Series.
Finally there is the ACT Tour; although the speeds were slower and the cars got strung out very early on, the fact that it was local racers really gave Northeastern non-NASCAR racing a truly national audience.
The support for a full day of racing was evident in the stands, with many people staying until the ACT Invitational was over, and Eddie MacDonald grabbed his second win of the weekend.
As one Cup team member posted on his Twitter page, “I think there are more people in the stands for the modified race at Loudon than there normally are for the Cup race at California.”
Loudon brings together people from all along the East Coast and into Canada. While at Speed TV's Trackside on Friday night, there was a large contingent of Canadian fans proudly waving their flags and finding out how near they live to one another.
As for keeping a spot as the first Chase track, there is one major reason that NHMS should maintain this position: The races are bound to shake up the standings.
There has not been a repeat winner at NHMS since 2005, and the site has seen the first Cup win for some drivers, such as Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano.
This weekend was no different, with Mark Martin winning his first race at the track and fifth race of the season.
Chase contenders Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Kasey Kahne had car issues. Stewart overcame his wobbling axle cap and finished 14th, but Edwards was not so lucky, struggling with his car most of the day and settling for a 17th place finish.
Kahne had the worst luck of all with a blown engine 67 laps into the race, dropping him from fifth to 12th in the standings and giving Richard Petty Motorsports its first DNF of the season.
Let's be entirely honest here; points racing is boring because the drivers are very cognizant and careful during the race.
Even drivers that are not in the Chase will pull over for the Chase drivers because they will be harassed for depriving that person of points if they don't. This did make the middle of the race quite boring, but the last 50 laps made up for all of it.
AJ Allmendinger made it even more interesting by spinning on the front stretch during the last lap and serving as an obstacle for Denny Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya, who were racing for second place.
Upon review, NASCAR decided that Hamlin actually had the spot as the two split Allmendinger, who had his car rolling again.
Overall, NHMS is a racer's track. It's flat and fast with tight turns. Passing is hard to do and requires a perfect setup to complete. It is just a true race fan's track.
There is no such thing as a bad seat at NHMS, and the new ownership allows fans to purchase pre-race passes to get fans in contact with their favorite NASCAR teams, drivers, and media.
Though the track may not be as luxurious as some of Smith's other tracks, it does really create a great experience for even the casual fan.
For this track to lose even one race would be a disservice to New England and Canadian race fans, as well as Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which would lose sold-out Cup races and highly attended race weekends.
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