With wondrous foliage and crisp, cool temperatures, it was a typical fall weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The action on the track, however, was anything but ordinary, as the top Legends car drivers in the world battled it out among four different race classes in the Legends Road Course World Finals presented by Sunoco Race Fuels.
Drivers from across the globe, including South Africa, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, competed over the three-day weekend of racing, beginning with practices on Friday, qualifying and heat races on Saturday and culminating with four 12-lap feature races on Sunday.
The classes are broken into age groups and skill levels as follows: Young Lions (12-16), Semi-Pro (16-40), Masters (40 and over) and Pro (open to any age; elite skill level).
Shaun Buffington, who has dominated both the road course and oval course series since the Legends starting racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, was hoping to add "world champion" to his list of Magic Mile accomplishments. But an impressive field of Pro class drivers, led by Emil Persson of Sweden, gave the native of Plainfield, Conn., all he could handle.
Persson won the Pro division event by more than eight seconds over second-place Johan Ahokas of Finland. Jess Kari (Finland), Nico Cedarberg (Finland) and Michael Christopher Jr. (Wolcott, Conn.) round out the top-five.
"This was great and good weekend of racing," said Persson. "We had a very good car and I'm very proud of what we were able to do here in New Hampshire. This is great competition, so we are happy to leave here with the victory."
Locals finishing strong were Taylor Martin (seventh), Matthew Bourgoine (ninth) and Mark Gallup (14th). Buffington was black-flagged because of a missing bumper and finished 13th.
Persson wasn't the only driver from across the pond to find his way into Sunoco Victory Lane. John Mickel of the United Kingdom won the Masters race in dominant fashion. His bright orange Legends car stood out from the back, both optically and physically, as he raced finished nearly four seconds ahead of second-place Patrick Dillon (Portland, Maine).
"This was a very unique event to come to and I'm very happy with the results of our trip here," Mickel said. "This is a beautiful area and I'm excited to return home after a successful visit."
Carl Cormier (Davidson, N.C.), Miikka Riihimaa (Finland) and Robert Gayton (Albequerque, N.M.) round out the top-five in a closely-contested four-car battle for second place with Dillon.
One of the best races of the day came just before the 12 p.m. lunchbreak in the Semi-Pro race. A trio of Granite State Legends drivers - Devin O'Connell (Madison, Conn.), Jordan O'Brien (Yarmouth, Maine) and Noah Korner (Bloomfield, Conn.) - were side-by-side throughout much of the 1.6-mile road course. In the end, it was O'Connell pumping his fist out of his window as he crossed the Granite Stripe 0.14 seconds ahead of O'Brien.
"That was an awesome race and a really exciting race. Wow, I still can't believe it," said O'Connell. "Me and Jordan just had a heck of a battle out there. It was so much fun to be a part of and one of my favorite races this season. I wish we could go out and do it again."
Tommi Nyrall of Finland was able to pass Korner (fourth) on the final lap, while Victor Vorobyev (Russia) finished fifth.
The day began with the Young Lions race, and it was a New Yorker and South African battling it out for the victory. Eddie Fatscher (East Newport, N.Y.) trailed Clinton Bezuidenhout (Fochville, South Africa) for the first five laps, but eventually caught him in the lower bowl and never looked back.
Lonika Maartens (Fochville, South Africa) and Jack Walker (Bow, N.H.) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the five-car race. Jake Johnson (Rehoboth, Mass.) had a mechanical failure on Lap 5 and went to the garage.
Casey Call, the two-time defending Sign Works Oval Series Bandolero champion, added the first road course win of his career as the native of Pembroke, N.H., beat a field of seven Bandolero pilots to the Granite Stripe for the victory.
Jake Matheson (Hillsboro, N.H.), Steven Chapman (Ellington, Conn.), Austin MacDonald (New Brunswick, Canada) and Jacob Perry (Pawcatuck, Conn.) round out the top-five.
For more details and ticket information on events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, including next weekend's Extreme Chunkin and 24 Hours of Lemons events, or to purchase tickets to the 2016 July and September NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends, please stop by our Ticket Office, visit the speedway website at www.nhms.com, or call our Ticket Hotline at (603) 783-4931.