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FANTASY: Brushing Up on Atlanta

Oral-B USA 500 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, August 28, 2014

Atlanta Motor Speedway is set to host its only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season.  While it will be the first visit in 2014 for the Sprint Cup Series, the 1.5-mile intermediate layout is one that the series should be quite familiar with at this point.

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FANTASY: Pure Need For Speed

Pure Michigan 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Michigan International Speedway is all about one thing: speed.  At two miles around, it measures out to be one of NASCAR's largest ovals not to use a restrictor plate for speed regulation.  That means it's a pedal-to-the-medal, fastest-car-wins kind of weekend.

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FANTASY: Bowling for a Winner

GoBowling.com 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, July 31, 2014

This is the time of year when the championship contenders truly take shape.  With a new package on the cars in 2014, it's possible that some teams just missed the setup in the first race at track.  Pocono is the first track of the season where a team really gets to test what it learned with a second race.

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FANTASY: Beating the Brickyard

Brickyard 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Both NASCAR and the staff at NHMS had the opportunity to recharge with an open weekend.  Both will now put their focus toward a strong Chase performance and end to the season.

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Whenever anyone at the track looked up at the leaderboard from Friday until Sunday, there was a high probability that Brad Keselowski was at the top. He dominated the weekend in both the Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series.

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FANTASY: Daytona Fireworks

Coke Zero 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It is the only night, restrictor plate race on the schedule.  Both of those elements makes for an exciting race, and together, they lead to a real firework-style, spark-flying, boom-and-bang experience.

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FANTASY: Kentucky's Other Big Race

Quaker State 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Expectations remain undefined as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for the weekend.  The track has only been on the schedule for four seasons, so there's not a lot of track history for the Sprint Cup Series.

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FANTASY: A Winding Road in Wine Country

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

No surprise: this week's top fantasy option is yet another offering from the Hendrick stable.

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FANTASY: Father's Day at Michigan

Quicken Loans 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the traditional Father's Day race.  Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!  Thanks for always being there to say "yes" after Mom said "no."

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Jimmie Johnson has back-to-back wins, but was it enough for the unranked driver in the Magic Mile Power Rankings three weeks ago to vault all the way to No. 1?

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FANTASY: Welcome to the Concrete Jungle

FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks Fantasy Preview
Friday, May 30, 2014

Length is the only thing that Dover has in common with New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  The track is highly banked and surfaced with concrete, making it more like a large Bristol than a replica of NHMS.

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Jeff Gordon has held the top spot in the Magic Mile Power Rankings for over a month now. A win at Kansas two weeks ago did nothing to change that. But there are some newcomers on the list, did your favorite driver make the cut?

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FANTASY: 600 Miles of NASCAR

Coca-Cola 600 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Coca-Cola 600 is a long race.  It's the longest of the season by a full 100 miles.  That's 100 more miles for things to go wrong: engines to overheat, tires to go flat, driver error (and fatigue) to take out a car or two ... or half-dozen.

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FANTASY: Lighting Up Kansas

5-Hour Energy 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kansas Speedway will host its first-ever night race this Saturday.  The track first opened in 2001 and held its inaugural Sprint Cup Series race on Sept. 30 of that year.  In 2011, it was awarded a second Cup date, and this year, one of those dates will be run at night.

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FANTASY: Thundering Into Talladega

Aaron's 499 Race Preview
Thursday, May 1, 2014

The thunder clouds are rolling on this year's NASCAR season, and it's going to keep getting more intense with the Sprint Cup Series headed to Talladega this weekend.

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FANTASY: Revitalized for Richmond

Toyota Owners 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Easter Break, NASCAR's first off-weekend of the season, is over.  The break should have given the opportunity for everyone to rest after a two-month, eight-week sprint to start the season.

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Easter Egg Hunting for a Win

Three of the standings top-five winless entering break
Friday, April 18, 2014

The first break of the year gives drivers the opportunity to assess their season after eight races and figure out where they stand in comparison to the field.  With the new Chase format, winning is the key to success.  A win more or less guarantees a driver a Chase spot this postseason.

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FANTASY: A Southern Tradition

Bojangles' Southern 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race at Darlington Raceway for the 111th time this Sunday.  The series first raced there in 1950, and most anyone that's anybody in racing history has won there.

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FANTASY: NASCAR Just Got Bigger

Duck Commander 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From the state that's brought us the Super Bowl/Final Four-hosting monstrosity of AT&T (Cowboys) Stadium and the Big Texan 72 oz. steak challenge (finish it in an hour and it's free), we now have the world's largest TV screen: The Big Hoss.

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FANTASY: Keep Turning Left

STP 500 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, March 27, 2014

This Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race 500 laps around the 0.526-mile oval of Martinsville Speedway.  The track is the shortest and one of the oldest in the series.

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FANTASY: It's Bristol, Baby!

Food City 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This weekend marks the first go-around of adult bumper cars for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as it heads to Bristol Motor Speedway.  Racing on one of the shortest tracks in NASCAR, drivers don't complete 500 laps with a car in pristine condition.  They simply don't.

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FANTASY: Only In Vegas

Kobalt 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, March 6, 2014

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will stay out West for the first cookie-cutter race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday.  This is Vegas's only race of the season, but it's not the drivers's only trip to Sin City.

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FANTASY: Rise Like a Phoenix

The Profit on CNBC 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The field will let out a collective sigh this weekend as it heads for a track with a little more self-control over one's destiny.  Let's take a look at who might raise our fantasy teams in the desert:

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Chasing the Unpredictable

A preseason look at the 2014 Chase contenders
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NASCAR's new championship format is designed to open the window of opportunity for more drivers to have a shot at making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  It's supposed to make things more unpredictable, and for prognosticators like myself, it's just that: harder to predict.

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Fully Digested: NASCAR's Championship Format

Why the new Chase Grid format matches the demand from the fans
Thursday, February 6, 2014

NASCAR President Mike Helton stated that as fans, teams and media members "digest" the information, they'll come to gain more of an understanding.  His connotation is correct.

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The Sprint Media Tour kicks off in Charlotte on Monday and The Granite Stripe will be in attendance to provide fans of New Hampshire Motor Speedway with on-site coverage of the event.

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14 Predictions for 2014

14 realistic possibilities for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We're in the silly season of NASCAR.  You know?  When there's really nothing going on, so we all just kind of throw some ideas at the wall and see what sticks?

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The Granite Stripe's 2013 Awards Ceremony

Non-traditional awards for the 2013 NSCS season
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Here at the Granite Stripe, we're not in Las Vegas.  We're in cold New Hampshire waiting for the snow to fall, so I'm going to give out our own awards.  There's no real rhyme or reason to them; these are just fun gag prizes.

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FANTASY: Two Chasers, Two Races

AdvoCare 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

While there might be several drivers still mathematically capable of winning the championship, only two are still logically in the running: Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.

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FANTASY: Deadlocked for Texas

AAA Texas 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

There's no longer a points leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  With three races to go, the lead is split between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

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The Consistency of Kenseth

Can the No. 20 beat Jimmie Johnson at this own game?
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NASCAR champions don't have bad days, especially not in the Chase.  The championship formula set forth by a certain five-time winner doesn't allow for that.

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FANTASY: Paperclipping a Championship Resume

Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The good news for the Chaser drivers is that the top five contenders, the only five that still had a legitimate shot at the title, emerged no worse for the wear at Talladega.

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FANTASY: The Real Chase Wild Card

Camping World RV Sales 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

As last fall's 25-car pileup on the final lap proved, it really doesn't matter how you do over the course of the first 187 laps of the 188-lap race.  You can lead every lap or you can bumble along in the back of the pack, there's no guarantee where you'll be when the checkered flag flies.

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FANTASY: Banking on America

Bank of America 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As Kevin Harvick can attest, it's now or never time in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.  If you're not positioning yourself for a championship run right now, then you're getting passed by the leaders and going a lap down.  And, no, there's no Lucky Dog in the points standings.

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FANTASY: Yellow Brick Road to the Cup

Hollywood Casino 400 Race Preview
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Chase for the Sprint Cup really heated up last weekend with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson winning the race.  It assured points leader Matt Kenseth that it would indeed be a battle to the season's final checkered.

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FANTASY: The Concrete Chase

AAA 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two Chase races, two Matt Kenseth wins.  The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup seems to be shaping up like the 2011 season, when Tony Stewart won the first two Chase races and five in the 10-race stretch to edge Carl Edwards for the championship.

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FANTASY: Chasing the Magic

SYLVANIA 300 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We're fortunate enough to host one of the 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and we approach that responsibility with honor.  For us, as well as the drivers, we expect to be in top form in September.

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FANTASY: Let the Chase Begin (?)

GEICO 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, September 12, 2013

I put a question mark in the title of the post because, as I write this on Thursday morning, it's still unclear if the Chase field is set or not.  The Chase opener is just a few days away, and the fantasy world needs to move forward regardless.

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FANTASY: Race for the Chase

Federated Auto Parts 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There are many other real scenarios for drivers like Kurt Busch (10th), Jeff Gordon (11th), Truex Jr. (13th), Newman (14th) or Brad Keselowski (15th).  Only three of those five will make the Chase and all could really use a win to seal the deal.  In fact, every driver but Keselowski stands a good chance at earning a Chase ticket simply by winning.

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FANTASY: Labor Day Comes Early

AdvoCare 500 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, August 29, 2013

While most of the country will be enjoying the long weekend, the drivers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will need to work straight through Sunday night in order to have an enjoyable Monday off.

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FANTASY: One Wild Night

Irwin Tools Night Race Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sure, the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Winning it is the Holy Grail of NASCAR, and fans put it on their bucket list.  However, you'd be hard pressed to find a fan that wouldn't at least consider attending the Bristol Night Race over Daytona.

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Floating the Chase Bubble

With three weeks left, final Chase spots remain wide open
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Joey Logano's win this past weekend did nothing to clear up the Race for the Chase picture.  In fact, that picture might as well be turned around and pointed at the wall.  With three races left before the Chase begins, the only thing we really know for sure is that we don't know anything at all.

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What's in a name?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Given the Magic Mile Power Rankings are bit behind, I thought I'd use this time to put something together involving the top 20 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series right now, entering this weekend's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

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FANTASY: The Pure Truth About Michigan

Pure Michigan 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Entering the June race, Ford had sent just two of the last 11 cars to Michigan's Victory Lane.  Then, Greg Biffle went out and won that race in a Ford, his second consecutive win at the track.  Does that prove that Ford is back in style at MIS?  Not necessarily.

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Tony Stewart's Injury Evaluation

Sprint car wreck causes disappointing end to title hopes
Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A week ago Monday, Tony Stewart's Sprint Cup Series season was, by all intents and purposes, over.  He was in a dogfight for the a spot in the Chase.  An injury ended those title hopes.

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FANTASY: Not Your Normal Week

Cheez-It 355 at The Glen Fantasy Preview
Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'll be perfectly honest: I'm on vacation this week.  However, I'd hate to leave everyone's fantasy team aimlessly turning left, and that's especially true with this weekend's race on the road course at Watkins Glen.

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FANTASY: Triangulating a Win

GoBowling.com 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When it comes to predicting a NASCAR winner, you can't triangulate anything with the stars.  Sorry, celestial fans.  But, when the Sprint Cup Series visits Pocono Raceway (the Tricky Triangle), it's time triangulate for success.

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FANTASY: One Brick at a Time

Crown Royal Presents The Samuel Deeds 400 at The Brickyard Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The foundation is set, the bricks are laid, now it's time to build toward a championship.  Some drivers are well on their way, some aren't, and most are in between.

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Race for the Chase Stock Report: Up, Down, All-Around

Three Chase contenders whose title hopes are changing
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In many cases, a win could have a huge impact on the Chase field.  Of course, it's not out of the question for any of the drivers ranked 11-20 to clinch via a top-10 standing.

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FANTASY: The Magic of Our Mile

Camping World RV Sales 301 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The ultimate goal for the weekend?  Visiting victory lane after the Camping World RV Sales 301, which will run Sunday at 1 p.m.  Here's a look at the best Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing options that might lead their team managers to victory this weekend.

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FANTASY: Daytona's Fireworks

Coke Zero 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, July 4, 2013

It's the time of year that drivers have positioned themselves in a position to make the Chase or are working their tails off to get in that position.  The notion of an increased level of unpredictability is not exactly what their championship hopes need, but that's racing.

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Is Kenseth the Kryptonite?

Johnson's points lead grows, but Kenseth wins again
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jimmie Johnson, the five-time champion, has looked nothing short of Superman as he's racked up a series-leading 11 top-10s.  But, he's not invincible and Matt Kenseth could be his kryptonite.

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FANTASY: Close to the Quaker State

Quaker State 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, June 27, 2013

By all accounts, last year's experience went much smoother with a year of experience, and the third time will likely be the charm in turning Kentucky into a Cup regular.  However, from a fantasy standpoint, it's still hard to pick a team based on just two races worth of statistics.

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Perseverance Pays Off

Truex Jr.'s patience gets rewarded with Sonoma win
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Martin Truex Jr. won is first Cup Series race in June 4, 2007 at Dover International Speedway.  At the age of 27, it was a breakthrough for a young driver in just his second full Cup season, and it was expected to be a step for his emergence as a star in the sport.

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Seven (Wild) Card Studs

Contenders or pretenders? Who is most likely to make the Chase?
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

As the weather has heated up, so too has the NASCAR Race for the Chase.  In the past three weeks, two 2012 Chasers have broken out of slumps to win races and declare their candidacy for the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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FANTASY: Catching Up with Ford

Quicken Loans 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If there's a week for Ford to turn around its slow start with the Generation-Six car that debuted in February, it will be this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

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Five Drivers That Could Beat Five-Time

Jimmie Johnson's dominant season continues at Pocono
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mother Nature might have placed him on the pole at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, after rain washed out qualifying, but by leading 128 of 160 laps, he proved that his position was deserved.  After all, Johnson earned that position because of his season long dominance.

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FANTASY: Get the Party Started

Party in the Poconos 400 Race Preview
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

f you can't finish in the top-10, you still might go chasing if you can find victory lane a few times in the final 13 races of NASCAR's season.That's significant this week at Pocono, as five of the last six races winners at the track currently sit outside the top-10.

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Brad Keselowski has struggled of late, finishing outside 30th in three of his last four starts. But with strong tracks next up on the docket, he could break out of his funk just yet.

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FANTASY: The Concrete Truth

FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks Preview
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This weekend's race at Dover International Speedway marks the halfway mark of NASCAR's Race for the Chase regular season.  It will be the 13th race of the 26 that determine the final list of Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders.

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New England's Got a Color Vibe

Rainy day 5K shows off the region's love for running
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It seemed the harder the rain fell on a day whose high temperature was 47 degrees, the more the cars backed up on Route 106 in anticipation for the event.  It was a staggering number of people that blew away expectations.

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The Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race of the season, provided high drama and a few unexpected surprises, including a second victory of the season for Kevin Harvick. But was it enough for him to climb into the MMPR?

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FANTASY: The 600-Mile Marathon

Coca-Cola 600 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When Bruton Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, he wanted to create one of the biggest spectacles in auto racing and run a Memorial Day weekend race that would rival the Indianapolis 500.  His solution: create the longest auto race in American motorsports.

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Rubbin's Racing, Right?

Kyle Busch's name offends fans more than his actions
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One area on which fans do agree is that Busch was himself on the move at Darlington. His supporters love him for his aggressive style. His detractors hate him for the same reason. Whether or not contact was made, that aggressive move was a signature one for Busch.

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Matt Kenseth picked up his second win in four weeks his third overall this season, which should be good enough to keep him atop the Magic Mile Power Rankings for a second straight week. ... Right?

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FANTASY: Oh My Darling

Bojangles' Southern 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

As the trip through the South continues and the Sprint Cup Series unloads in Darlington, S.C., is there any reason to think that a track nicknamed "Too Tough To Tame" will be the one that provides a rare dull race?  I doubt it.

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Low and behold, when the race ended, it was the No. 34 that crossed the line first and brought owner Bob Jenkins and his Front Row Motorsports outfit to victory lane for the first time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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FANTASY: The Torture of Talladega

Aaron's 499 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Restrictor plate races at Talladega Superspeedway are great to watch if you're a fan.  However, if you're a driver, a car owner, or even a fantasy owner, it's a whole different story.

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The Week That Got Weird

Five Observations of Oddity at Richmond
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This past weekend's race at Richmond International Raceway was a weird event.  Few of the favorites were anywhere to be found at the end of the race, and the cars that looked the strongest came out of nowhere.

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Magic Mile Power Rankings - Richmond

Race 9 - Toyota Owners 400
Monday, April 29, 2013

Kevin Harvick picked up his first win of the season, but was it enough for him to climb into the Magic Mile Power Rankings? And will Jimmie Johnson maintain the top spot for a second straight week?

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FANTASY: Start Up the Toyotas, Owners

Toyota Owners 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seven of the last eight races at Richmond International Speedway (RIR) have been won by a driver in a Toyota, which makes me wonder if it's more than just coincidence that this weekend's race is called the Toyota Owners 400.

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The power of expectations have shaped which of the drivers fighting for a Wild Card is considered to being doing well and which ones are considered to be struggling, even if they're all running in the same pack.

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Magic Mile Power Rankings - Kansas

STP 400 at Kansas Speedway
Monday, April 22, 2013

Matt Kenseth (20) won for the second time this season, but was it enough for him to move up into the top spot in the Magic Mile Power Rankings? And how far did last week's leader Kyle Busch fall?

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FANTASY: Cookie Cutter Continuance

STP 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The crew chief and the teams need to start stepping it up.  There is enough data out there on this track type that the responsibility falls on the teams to roll a fast Gen-6 car off the hauler.

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Magic Mile Power Rankings - Texas

NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Monday, April 15, 2013

Kyle Busch won the race on Saturday night in Texas for his second victory in three weeks. But was it good enough to climb into the top spot in the Magic Mile Power Rankings?

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FANTASY: The Night Time is the Right Time

NRA 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cut your cookies and serve 'em with milk.  The 1.5-milers are capable of producing unexpected winners now and again, but it's rare for the intermediate aces to put up a poor finish, barring unforeseen bad luck.

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In this past Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. went for a spin, and when the field came back around as he was re-firing, race leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson pulled by him.

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Magic Mile Power Rankings - Week 6

STP Gas Booster 500
Monday, April 8, 2013

With two weeks between races, cooler heads prevailed on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, but that didn't take away from what was essentially bumper cars at over 120 miles per hour. Bumpers were cracked, quarter panels were dented and hoods were bent – and in the case of Martin Truex Jr., removed completely.

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Obstructed View

Friday, April 5, 2013

To block or not to block. That is the question surrounding NASCAR following the race at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago.

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And for the first time this year, Bump Stops is back. Despite the fact that we're locked in the interminable winter here in New England – where winter is threatening to drag right through August this year – the local race scene has fired up and started to take shape.

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FANTASY: Keeping It Short

STP Gas Boosters 500
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In honor of this weekend's race at the shortest track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, wish me luck as I try to keep each thought short in this Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing preview to a single sentence.

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Remember me?

Friday, March 29, 2013

He led 125 laps. He had the best car all day. He was the leader on the last restart and used a huge run on the outside on the final turn of the final lap to end a 31-race winless drought. 

So, what was the first question posed to Kyle Busch in the post-race presser?

 

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Sliced Bread Prepares His Sandwich

Five drivers not named Jimmie with a chance to win in Fontana
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Joey Logano was born in 1990. Take a minute to let that sink in, as it makes most of us, myself included, feel older than we thought we were.

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Well, has the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gotten your attention? If not, then clearly you don't like high speeds, intense action and bitter rivalries. Sunday's race certainly had a little bit of everything, right down to a final-turn pass and a post-race scuffle.

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Friday Feature: Five to Watch

Five drivers not named Jimmie with a chance to win in Fontana
Friday, March 22, 2013

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Jimmie Johnson would be the safest bet to put your money on this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. With five wins and 10 straight top-10s (eight of those top-fives) and a 5.4 average lifetime finish in 18-career starts, Five-Time is most logical choice to find his way into Victory Lane in Sunday's Auto Club 400.

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FANTASY: Getting Into the Auto Club

Auto Club 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, March 21, 2013

After a short-track at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads back west for a race on the two-mile D-oval of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.  The race marks the fifth time in five races that the series will race on a different size oval, and it will be the only race of the season in Southern California.

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At the beginning of the year, I made a somewhat outside-the-box prediction that Kasey Kahne would win this year's Sprint Cup Championship.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that my prediction was for some car run by the boys at the local auto body shop, I didn't turn a lot of heads with the pick.  However, Kahne certainly wasn't considered as a clear front runner.

After two races with a 36th and a 19th-place finish, I was the one turning my head ... downward into my hands.  Two races later, I've become every bit as confident in my pick as I was when I made it.  Kahne finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after having the strongest car on the day and positioned himself to take a similarly quick car to Victory Lane at Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend.

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FANTASY: The Thunder Rolls

Food City 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First of all, "The Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks ... great song. How exactly does it relate to this weekend's race?  Well, where do I begin?

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We've only had three races in this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, however, the debate that's raging right now is which driver has been the best to start the season: Jimmie Johnson or Brad Keselowski. Fellow GraniteStripe.com blogger Gavin Faretra and I debated his Magic Mile Power Rankings from yesterday that put Keselowski over Johnson in the rankings.  I disagreed.

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Jimmie Johnson's reign atop the Magic Mile Power Rankings is over, for now, and there's a new pilot on the list who is hoping that his luck in Las Vegas was more than just a birthday present.

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Friday Feature: Five to Watch

Who's the next driver to break their winless streak?
Friday, March 8, 2013

You could see the relief on Carl Edwards's face as he fielded questions from the media following his victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday. After 70 races, Edwards found himself in position to do something he hadn't done in nearly two years: execute his trademark backflip in front of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fans.

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FANTASY: The Vegas Business Trip

Kobalt Tools 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hosts the annual awards banquet in Las Vegas in late November, it's all about fun and smiles.  But, not when it visits for its annual race each March.  This early in the season, it's all about business.

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Two years.  Seventy races.  It had been a long time since Carl Edwards last won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race before this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500.

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FANTASY: Phoenix's Resurrection

Subway Fresh Fit 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

If your fantasy team didn't have a great week at Daytona International Speedway, fear not, that's Daytona; it's time to recollect and move on.

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Hello Generation-Six No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet,

My name is Jimmie Johnson.  My friends call me "Five-Time," because I once won five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.  I'd recommend that you not get too used to referring to me by the number of championships I've won, as that number is continually increasing.  If it's okay, I'd like to call you "Gen-6."

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On the first episode of the Granite Stripe Podcast, I made my predictions for the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup's final standings.  Here's a written look at my picks and my reasoning.

Non-Chase Driver of Interest

Marcos Ambrose - It's unlikely he'll make the Chase, but he's a road course expert and he seems to be developing on the ovals.  If he can win both road course races at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen, it's possible he could sneak one of the Chase's wild card spots with those two wins, because he should finish the season in the top-20.

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FANTASY: Rolling the Daytona Dice

Daytona 500 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's that time of year again. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is just days away from kicking off its 2013 season, and with that comes the start of a new year with Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing.  For the second year, we are running the "Fans of NHMS" league and I encourage you to follow the link to sign up and play in our league.

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I like sports and the action that pertains to it.

I don't care about an athlete's personal life anymore than I do that of Kim Kardashian's (which makes sense when you consider that she basically only dates professional athletes).

I don't care where an athlete dines, parties, or in whose bed an athlete spends the night.  I personally don't think it's a good idea to bunk up with a competitor, but so long as it doesn't affect the sporting event I watch on Sundays, I really don't care what Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., or the collective two of them do in their time away from competition.

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The car's been covered in the garage all winter, the cover's been collecting dust, but it's time to prepare for spring.

It's time to put away any boxes of Christmas decorations that might have been lazily placed on the hood in early January.  It's time to pick up the jackets and gloves that were using the roof as a coat rack.  It's time to move the sled that the kids leaned against the back bumper ... It's time to prepare the car to get back out on the race track.

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Today's announcement that OSRAM SYLVANIA has renewed its sponsorship of the September Cup race at NHMS continues a partnership that has become synonymous with racing in New England.  The partner first signed on to sponsor the then-Winston Cup Series race in 2003.

Since that first race on Sept. 14, 2003, a lot has changed:

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We like it up here in New Hampshire, most of the time at least.  We have a phrase: "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."

We're an outlier when it comes to NASCAR tracks.  We have full seasonal changes.  In the summer, we see the heat that breeds hot laps.  But in the winter, when NASCAR is out of sight, albeit never out of mind, we get to enjoy our snowsports.

Snowmobiling.  Skiing and riding.  Sledding, for the kid that still lives inside of us.  We have White Christmases, snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes.

At least, we did.

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tested their brand new Generation-Six cars for the last two days and will continue to so on Saturday.

... At least, those with cars still in one piece will continue to test.

Here are a half dozen things that I noticed in the brief time I tuned in for the testing on SPEED via NASCAR.com.

1. New Cars, Same Pile-Ups

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With the 2012 season officially in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to 2013. Newly designed cars, faces in new places and a new champion set to defend his title are just some of the storylines to watch as we gear up for another exciting season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing in 2013.

Here’s a look at 10 things to watch for next year:

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By many race fans' standards, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season wasn't the most exciting.  It definitely had some memorable moments: the jet dryer fire in the Daytona 500 started the season; Tony Stewart's helmet throw at Matt Kenseth punctuated Bristol's on-track fireworks; and, the Jeff Gordon/Clint Bowyer melee marked the end of a frustrating season for a No. 24 team still struggling to succeed with the Chase format.

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FANTASY: Racing for Respect

Ford EcoBoost 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'd apologize that I wasn't able to write a preview last week, as I was on vacation in California.  However, I saw three of the four cars I started in Yahoo fantasy head behind the wall at one point or another and scored an embarrassingly-low 157 points.  I really don't feel like missing my advice was detrimental last week.

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It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

SOME OF THE drama of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale at Rockingham Speedway was stripped away with the announcement this week that Corey LaJoie had been slapped with a 25-point fine following his win at Greenville Pickens Speedway last weekend.

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FANTASY: The Texas Two

Thursday, November 1, 2012

AAA Texas 500 Fantasy Preview

And then there were two.

The championship Chase is down to just Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski with two races to go.  There are plenty of drivers that aren't mathematically eliminated, but let's be honest, it's down to two!

Johnson is cool and confident, and he should be.  He's won this ordeal five times and knows exactly how to go about business to rise to the top of the standings.  Last week, he finally overtook Keselowski after sitting like a snake in the grass behind him for several weeks.

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FANTASY: Chasing the Tail

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tums Fast Relief 500 Fantasy Preview

Round ... and around ... and around ... and around.  If you like cars going in circles, this weekend's Tums Fast Relief 500 is for you!

Martinsville Speedway is the shortest of short tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at just 0.526 miles.  While the race itself is listed as a "500," it's actually the shortest non-road course race of the season at 263 miles.  The number refers to the laps, not the miles.  As I said, if you like cars driving in lots and lots of circles, this is your race.

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It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test drive around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHILE FANS OF NASCAR at the sport's highest level have clamored for years that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on winning, there aren't any such complaints in these parts. To wit: the title runs of ACT Late Model Tour champion Wayne Helliwell and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champ Doug Coby.

Both Helliwell and Coby took remarkably similar paths to their respective championships in 2012.

Helliwell won four of 10 ACT points races this season (.400 winning percentage), while Coby won five of 14 races (.357) on the Modified Tour. Helliwell posted Top-5 finishes in seven races and was in the Top-10 in nine of the 10 events on the schedule. Coby, meanwhile, scored eight Top-5 finishes and 11 Top-10s.

It's all about consistency, but more than that, it's about consistently being in contention for a trip to Victory Lane.

Almost as remarkably, Helliwell won the third and fourth races of the season to help build a lead at the top of the ACT standings, while Coby was similarly dominant in the first half of the year with a pair of wins at Stafford Motor Speedway and a win at Waterford Speedbowl all before the month of June had ended.

Perhaps it has to do with the relatively short schedules the two tours utilize – when compared against a 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – where there is very little wiggle room for poor results. Brian Hoar nearly chased Helliwell down, literally, in the final race of the season before Helliwell won the Fall Foliage 200 at Airborne Speedway to lock up his first career ACT title. Hoar also won four races this season, and third-place finisher Austin Theriault won a race and never finished outside the Top-10 once.

When you've only got 10 races to accumulate points, you've got to make the most of every available weekend on the calen Continue...

Hollywood Casino 400 Fantasy Preview

Kansas Speedway looks like just another 1.5-mile tri-oval.  As a "cookie cutter," it's usually a place where you can predict the results based on the history of intermediate tracks of similar build.

However, the history books got wiped clean this summer when Kansas repaved the track and created variable banking.  Sure, it might still look the same from the outside, but on the actual track, drivers are saying that old notes might as well be used to spark campfires in the brisk Kansas evening.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – Doug Coby did all that he had to do on Sunday at Thompson International Speedway, turning in a smart – if unspectacular – performance to finish sixth in the Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series 150 to clinch the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.

Ahead of him, Bobby Santos III took the lead with 21 laps remaining and held off Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy to win his second consecutive race to close out the season in a victory that, coupled with Coby's championship, highlighted the efforts of two of the smaller teams on the Tour.

“I don't feel like I drive like a Modified driver.,” said Santos, the 2010 Whelen Modified Tour champion. “I feel I'm an open-wheel style driver, and I try to race really clean. The way this Modified racing is right now, you have to be really aggressive and you've got to use the nerf bars a little more. I hate doing it, but I did it a couple of times in today's race where I would normally never do that.

“But if you want to win in this series right now, the way it is, you have to race like that.”

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FANTASY: Banking on America

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bank of America 500 Fantasy Preview

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yahoo Fantasy lineups lock early this week due to Thursday qualifying.  It's recommended you pick your team before going to bed on Wednesday night.

The fifth race in the Chase will be a defining moment in this year's championship.  Now that the scraps are all picked up from what was a wild, and frankly unnecessarily dangerous, wreck at Talladega, it's time to get back to normalcy in terms of racing.

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Good Sam Road Side Assistance 500 Fantasy Preview

There's really only one goal for the Chase drivers this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway: don't wreck.  This restrictor plate race is notorious for multiple "Big Ones," and if this past May's race is any indication, fans complaining about follow-the-leader action will be mute this weekend.

In May's Aaron's 499, only 24 of the 43 entered cars finished the race, the 24th of which was Tony Stewart.  Stewart finished four laps down after being involved in multiple wrecks and he famously went on a sarcastic rant about how not enough of the field wrecked out and NASCAR should try to do a figure-8 race to make sure fans got more excited.

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AAA 400 Fantasy Preview

"You want answers?"

"I think I'm entitled."

"You want answers!?"

"I WANT THE TRUTH!"

NASCAR fans, "you can't handle the truth!"

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Each week we take a look back at the top performers from around the region for the weekend that was.

Simple enough task this time around, considering the New England stock car racing scene was focused on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's annual Sylvania 300 weekend. And considering that a four-race 'Short Track Saturday' was one of the highlights of the entire three days in Loudon, there were plenty of performances to choose from.

Without further ado, lets find out who made The Podium this week:

1. Doug Coby, Milford, Conn.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point leader earned his first career New Hampshire Motor Speedway victory when he won the F.W. Webb 100 and extended his series lead to 21 points with only two races remaining.

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LOUDON, N.H. – The last time I sat in the grandstands to watch a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was a rookie, the Red Sox still hadn't won a World Series since 1918 and the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.14.

And though I didn't sit out in my favorite spot down in Turns 3 and 4 for Sunday's Sylvania 300, I did decide to do something drastically different.

Walking up souvenir alley behind the main grandstands first thing in the morning, something was happening around me. Fans were lined up by the dozens at the merchandise trailers for drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski – standing in long lines ready to fork over hard-earned cash for hats, shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the names and numbers of their favorite drivers.

Presumably, they still find a way to identify with drivers – either through personalities, performances or manufacturers – enough so that they form an allegiance. Then they go sit in the sprawling grandstands to watch that car, listen in on a radio scanner and live with the ups and downs of everything that can happen in a 300-lap race on a mile track.

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“Short Track Saturday” is less than 24 hours away, and there's plenty of reason for fans of stock-car racing in New England to tune in.

And, by tune in, of course, I mean come to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to watch in person.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, ACT Late Model Tour and NELCAR Legends Tour will all hold events on Saturday at The Magic Mile – a day's fill for the race fan in all of us. If you're undecided about what it all means – or why it deserves your attention – I'll tell you why it's important for all four divisions.

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FANTASY: Chasing the Magic

Thursday, September 20, 2012

SYLVANIA 300 Fantasy Preview

It's race week here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway!  For the second time this year, the NASCAR circus will roll into the small town of Loudon at New England's only Sprint Cup Series track.

At NHMS, we focus on providing the best experience possible in just two weeks of the year, and it's our time to shine.  Riding the golf cart around the facility on Thursday, I could tell a difference even from morning to afternoon.  This place has sprung to life!

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He is still the shining star of New England stock car racing, even as he now says he's onto his “third life,” a life that has him no longer an active driver but an important presence on the television side of NASCAR.

And today, Ricky Craven still sees New Hampshire Motor Speedway as a necessary stop on the path to a Sprint Cup Series career for young, aspiring drivers.When the Newburgh, Maine, native won the Chevy Dealers of New England 250 at New Hampshire back in 1991, it tossed his career into a blazing spotlight.

“Without the Nationwide Series to compete against, it still would have been – so what? You can succeed on a regional level, but can you master these guys on a national level?” said Craven, who now is a regular on ESPN's NASCAR programming, including color commentary for select Nationwide Series races. “What I knew (in 1991) and still know today – Dave Dion, Dick McCabe, the Dragon brothers, Mike Rowe – those guys that I raced against were great drivers, salt of the earth people, and they were as good as guys I raced against all the way up through the Sprint Cup Series.

“But that doesn't matter. You know and I know how good those guys were, and you can tell people that until you're blue in the face, but they want to see you against the best there is. When I won that Chevy Dealers 250, I was able to go against guys like Harry Gant – who had won seven races in a row between Sprint Cup and Nationwide – and Chuck Bown, and I went on to win the race. Had there not been a New Hampshire Motor Speedway – had there not been a Nationwide race that particular weekend there – there would have been no opportunity for me to compete at a national level on a big track against people that I needed to impress to catch their attention.”

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Each week we take a look back at the top performers from the weekend that was across the region.

There's no shortage of “big” events as we head into the biggest racing weekend of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and some of the performances from the weekend will carry a number of teams into The Magic Mile with a strong dose of momentum.

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GEICO 400 Fantasy Preview

It's crunch time!  The Chase field is all set and the 10-race shootout for a championship kicks off this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

For a driver like Jimmie Johnson, he's known for the better part of the summer that a Chase berth was assured.  For his teammate (and car owner) Jeff Gordon, he was looking in the rearview mirror at the Richmond finish line to see how many cars back Kyle Busch was running ... just enough, to put it simply.

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It's Friday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I THINK IT'S time to throw this comparison out there: Brian Hoar is the Jimmie Johnson of the ACT Late Model Tour.

The championships are one thing. Hoar has eight ACT Late Model Tour championships, the most the most of any active driver and the most in Tour history. Johnson, obviously, has five NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. Hoar leads all drivers in history with 37 points wins, while Johnson has 58 career Cup wins – among the active leaders.

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Federated Auto Parts 400 Fantasy Preview

If Carl Edwards wins this weekend, Jeff Gordon finishes in 12th (without leading a lap) and Kyle Busch finishes 23rd (without leading a lap), Edwards makes the Chase (if my math is correct).  That's a lot of "if's," so let's keep it simple.

Edwards has not won a race in a year and half, and Kyle Busch has 13 top-10s in 15 Richmond starts.  The odds of those "if's" coming to fruition are similar odds to, let's say, Aric Almirola (zero top-fives this season) winning this weekend's race.  It's not impossible, but it's certainly improbable.

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And then there were five. With 11 of the Chase spots already locked up, Saturday night’s race at Richmond will serve as the final opportunity to clinch that coveted 12th position in the Sprint Cup playoff. And it’s going to take a win to do it. Kyle Busch currently holds the second wild-card spot, but if Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman or Joey Logano are able to find their way into victory lane then they will leapfrog Rowdy for the final spot. Here’s a look at the 10 hottest drivers heading to Richmond:

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Each week we take a look back at the top performers from around the region.

Labor Day may serve as the traditional end of summer, but things are only just heating up on the northeast's racing scene. From Late Models to Modifieds, the racing around New England (and beyond) over the past week was as intense as it's been all season.

Without further ado, let's see who made The Podium this week:

1. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.

The eight-time ACT Late Model Tour champion earned his second win at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in as many ACT races there this season, capturing his second career Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 on Sunday. Hoar used a great pit stop to gain track position over the rest of the leaders and then led the final 93 laps en route to the victory.

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BARRE, Vt. – They may have changed Thunder Road International Speedbowl this season, but they didn't do much to change the outcome of ACT Late Model Tour racing there.

Eight-time ACT champion Brian Hoar won his second career Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 on Sunday afternoon, closing to within single digits of the point lead with his second straight victory on the finicky quarter-mile. Hoar led the final 93 laps and beat Wayne Helliwell and former track champion Cris Michaud for the win.

ACT officials confirmed that heading into the season finale at Airborne Speedway on October 6, Hoar trails Helliwell by just eight points as he chases a record ninth career championship. Two weeks ago that deficit was 44 points, but Hoar has rattled off two straight wins – four in nine races overall this season – to axe away most of Helliwell's previous advantage.

“It's a lot of fun racing a guy like Wayne,” said Hoar in Victory Lane, where he also visited in the second race of the season after winning the Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road.

But his visit to the track then was much different that that one back in May.

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is most definitely putting the "wild" in Wild Card.

During last week's race at Bristol, the Performance Racing Network read through the long list of drivers that were more or less a win away from racing their way into the Chase.  Afterward, they mused whether NASCAR could have envisioned there would be so much drama when it created the sytem.

I would say, absolutely, yes!

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AdvoCare 500 Fantasy Preview

Most of NASCAR's fans might have a three-day weekend, but there's no rest for drivers on the track.  Bristol did very little to decide much of anything other than that Tony Stewart can throw a good fastball; so, it's on to Atlanta to try to determine who's going to be dancing and who's going to be watching when the NASCAR Chase starts in two weeks.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the best performances from the week that was from around the region.

The week got an early start with the Modified madness that was Bristol Motor Speedway, continued with the ACT Late Model Tour championship chase heating up in Quebec, and then continued on the weekly short tracks all across the northeast.

Without further ado, let's find out who made The Podium this week...

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FANTASY: The Night Race

Thursday, August 23, 2012

IRWIN Tools Night Race Fantasy Preview

When you ask people around NASCAR the race they'd most like to attend, most experienced fans pass on the Daytona 500 in favor of the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  That's nothing against the experience of the speedweeks and the "Great American Race" in Florida, it's just that the race under the lights of the 0.533-mile oval has a certain mythical aura to it.

Nothing speaks to the race's status in NASCAR more than its name.  Whereas most every other NASCAR race is tagged with a number, this race is simply the "Night Race."  Like a husband or wife that emerges from a long line of relationships, it's not the only one, but it is the one.  Other tracks hold races under the lights, but only Bristol holds the distinction of hosting NASCAR's "Night Race."

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It's Thursday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WE'VE NOW HAD a few installments of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Bristol Motor Speedway to look at, and we have to wonder if fans are getting what they hoped they would when it was first announced that the Tour would be heading to Bristol for an annual combination race with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

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Like virtually every short-track racer across New England, Eddie MacDonald started his racing career with one simple dream.

“I remember driving through the infield tunnel for the first time,” MacDonald said of his initial trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in the late 1980s, as the track was being constructed. “The tunnel then was just two flaps of corrugated metal blowing in the wind. Really, the place was just a mess at that time.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AS GOOD AS the ACT Late Model Tour championship battle has promised to be over the second half of the season with four drivers involved in the dogfight, one has to wonder if Wayne Helliwell Jr. has any interest in a slugfest.

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Pure Michigan 400 Fantasy Preview

Last week turned out to be a far tougher week than expected.  Usually road courses are rather predictable and I even went as far in last week's preview to say that only bad luck would create unexpected fantasy results.

Jinx!

The only reason I wasn't totally distraught was that I know many people suffered the same bad luck I did.  Why not start the pole-sitter in Montoya?  Or, the part-time, C-List ace in Vickers?  Or, five-time Watkins Glen winner Stewart?  As I said, bad luck happens.; that's racing.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Unfortunately, rain claimed a number of race programs around the northeast, but those who raced both ahead of and behind the weather that impacted a number of places turned in some impressive performances. From the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, there were plenty of standout performances.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium this week...

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Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen Fantasy Preview

I know our fans from upstate New YOrk can agree with me that when it comes to traveling from NHMS to that area, it's like accessing most parts of Maine: "ya' cayn't get the'ya from hey'a."

You end up on a windy road through Vermont, climbing the Green Mountains behind some truck that can't get it above 34 mph, watching the minutes roll by faster than the miles.  Yep...I did that trip as recently as late June when I went to a Brad Paisley concert in Saratoga Springs.  It...took...for-ever!

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from the week that was.

As the summer starts to take a turn into the stretch drive, it seems everybody is stepping up their collective game. From Connecticut to Iowa, the racing was outstanding, and a few drivers and their teams were in championship form.

Without further ado, let's find out who made The Podium this week:

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NEWTON, Iowa – The only thing that was going to beat Corey LaJoie Friday night were the voices inside his own head.

Under a red flag with just 16 laps remaining at Iowa Speedway, LaJoie sat as the leader on the track's frontstretch and imagined all sorts of things about to go wrong. A wheel vibration. A balky ignition switch. A flat tire. Something.

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Pennsylvania 400 Fantasy Preview

I took a vacation to Martha's Vineyard this past weekend.  Only, after falling off my bicycle and fracturing the radial head in my left arm, it turned out to be far from a relaxing vacation.

As I lay on a couch watching Olympic coverage of stuff like women's boxing and men's ping-pong, I gained a new respect for a driver like Brad Keselowski.  A year ago, he busted up his ankle in a test session at Road Atlanta and went out and won a race that weekend.

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It's Thursday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust her off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

PRIOR TO THE ACT Late Model Tour return to the points-racing portion of their schedule, eight-time champion Brian Hoar found himself in an unusual position.

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It's Thursday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THERE ARE TWO lasting images I'll carry from the TD Bank Oxford 250 last weekend.

The first is seeing winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and third-place finisher Austin Theriault – Polewarczyk's soon-to-be brother-in-law – standing on the podium, an iPhone in a gaudy pink case between them, talking to Brittany Theriault via speaker phone.

The two of them, giggling like small children, trying to keep a straight face as they talk Polewarczyk's fiancee who was in Chicago following the race over on Speed 51.

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FANTASY: Brick Building

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 Fantasy Preview

The final off week in NASCAR's 2012 schedule should have provided drivers with the opportunity to assess their stock and figure out how to save their seasons.  The beauty of the new Wild Card format is that a driver is only a few great weeks away from recovering a season and making a Chase run.

Denny Hamlin said last week of Kasey Kahne's win that he never counted out anyone from Hendrick Motorsports, and made special note that he wouldn't write off Jeff Gordon until it was no longer mathematically possible for him to win enough races to claim a Wild Card spot.  Gordon is probably two wins away from being a Chaser with seven races to go.

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OXFORD, Maine – Jeff Taylor stood on the podium, one arm around Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and the other around the 6-foot-tall trophy and looked the youngster straight in the eye.

“You don't know how hard it is to win one of these things,” Taylor said.

Polewarczyk smiled his usual wide grin: Truth is, he doesn't.

Polewarczyk, of Hudson, N.H., led more than 200 laps on Sunday evening at Oxford Plains Speedway, dominating a field of nearly 40 Late Models from across New England and Canada to win the 39th annual TD Bank Oxford 250. Polewarczyk earned a winning share of $45,500 – his first victory in his fifth start in the midsummer jewel.

“I can't believe this. This is unbelievable,” said Polewarczyk, who was just 19 when he finished third behind Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick in 2008. “It really hasn't sunk in yet. I've been coming to this race since I was seven years old, just watching from the stands. Now, I just can't believe I won it.”

Taylor finished a fading second, after running in the Top-5 throughout the race. A nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway track champion, a record for the historic short track in rural western Maine, the TD Bank 250 is the only thing missing from the veteran driver's impressive resume.

Austin Theriault, 18, of Fort Kent, Maine, finished third. It was the second-straight third-place finish for the Brad Keselowski development driver. ACT Late Model Tour point leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. was fourth, and Oxford Plains Late Model point leader Travis Stearns was fifth.

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LOUDON, N.H. – It's an interesting question when it comes to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, particularly at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

When a track is burdened with the notion that it is a place “where you can't pass,” is it because the track really is that difficult to race on with other cars around you – or does it simply become an excuse, a crutch that drivers and teams can use when then aren't able to hit on the right setup?

For much of Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire, it appeared the former was the case.

The first quarter of the event produced a green flag run featuring battles for position and several drivers moving up through the field. Brad Keselowski started 22nd in the field and rolled all the way into the Top-10, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. went from ninth on the grid to the Top-5.

But once the cars pitted for fuel, tires and a few adjustments, the battles for position ceased on the track. The next 150 laps looked, quite frankly, like a practice session.

It looked like the track notorious for being impossible to pass on.

Denny Hamlin, though, might have debunked that myth single-handedly.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Kasey Kahne got the one thing everybody wanted – track position – when it mattered most, and he cashed in by leading the final 66 laps to win the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

It was the second win of the season for Kahne, who is trying to lock himself into a wild card spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup later this season.

“We did it with pit strategy,” Kahne said. “We got track position, and we were able to lead those final laps there.”

Denny Hamlin finished second with the car that was most likely to win the race. He led half the race – a total of 150 laps – until confusion under the final caution flag of the day cost Hamlin his lead. He went from the lead to 13 in the running order after taking four tires on his pit stop when most everybody else took four tires only.

Hamlin charged all the way to second – within one second of the lead in lapped traffic over the final few laps of the event – but ran out of time when his car washed up toward the wall in Turn 4 as the cars came to the white flag.

“It was just a miscommunication,” Hamlin said. “I told (crew chief Darian Grubb) all I needed was tires, and that was it. He took it that I needed four tires. It was just a miscommunication, but we still had a shot at the win. I just didn't pass the all the cars quick enough.”

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LOUDON, N.H. – So many cliches to choose from, so little time.

Like a fine wine, Mike Stefanik gets better with age. Mike Stefanik is only as young as he feels. Mike Stefanik has found the magic touch at the Magic Mile. And on and on and on...

But really, whittling down Mike Stefanik's success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just isn't that easy. To wit: Before winning at the track last August, the winningest driver in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history had gone 21 races over a span of 13 years between Modified wins; he's since won two of the last three races contested here.

His eighth win in the division Saturday in the Town Fair Tire 100 was his eighth career Modified win at New Hampshire, the most by any driver in Tour history. Not only has Stefanik's career spanned decades, but so has his record of excellence.

Perhaps as much as ability, his on-track performance can be credited to a mindset. He hinted at his desire to win after the race.

“You hate to give (wins) away. They don't come enough,” said Stefanik, a seven-time Modified Tour champion. “I mean, some people might argue that point because we've been successful at a lot of tracks, but this feeling right here never gets old. I'm 54, but I still feel like I'm 21.”

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LOUDON, N.H. – When you've won as many NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races as Mike Stefanik has, you're always looking for new ways to keep things interesting.

Stefanik did that on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, emerging from one of the fiercest battles the Magic Mile has ever seen to win the Town Fair Tire 100 off the final corner for his series-leading 72 career victory. The official margin of victory over runner-up Ron Silk was .003 seconds – about the width of the front nerf bar – and was the second-closest finish in Tour history at New Hampshire.

In 2008, Chuck Hossfeld beat Ted Christopher by .001-seconds.

“I actually physically sat up in my seat as much as I could and kind of peered over the front of my car and rolled my eyes over to see which bumper was ahead,” Stefanik said. “It's kind of funny that you would actually think about doing that, but I just wanted to win after such a hard-fought battle with Ronnie Silk.

“You hate to give (wins) away. They don't come enough.”

The win was also Stefanik's eighth career win at New Hampshire – also a series record – and his second in the last three events here.

“This is huge, man,” Stefanik said. “This is New Hampshire. It doesn't get any better than this in our division.”

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LOUDON, N.H. – All a test session did a few weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway did for Ron Silk was let him know that he was on the right track.

Silk – one of the final few cars to hit the track for a time trial run – blitzed the competition and won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Town Fair Tire 100. For the second time in his career at New Hampshire, he'll start the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event from the pin.

“It was pretty good, obviously. The car drove real well,” Silk said. “We were pretty quick in practice, but not really happy with how the car was driving. We spent a lot of time after practice and changed just about everything we could.”

In addition to his two career poles, Silk has two career victories at NHMS. His most recent win came in the series' most recent race at the facility last September.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Donny Lia didn't show any signs of the distractions that typically come along with having a baby.

Lia, whose wife gave birth to the couple's second son on Thursday, posted the fastest lap in the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour practice session of the weekend today – more than a full mile per hour faster than second-fastest Ron Silk.

“This car has always run good here,” said Lia, a two-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and two-time New Hampshire winner. “We've been making headway the last few races. I'm a little surprised, only because we've been struggling a little bit lately, but if there's a place we're going to run well, it's going to be here.”

Lia, of Jericho, N.Y., posted a fast lap of 29.338 mph (129.825 mph). He was followed on the speed sheet by Silk (129.327 mph) and Ted Christopher (128.702). Bryon Chew and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman rounded out the Top-5.

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LENOX Industrial Tools 301 Fantasy Preview

Wow!  It's crazy here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week.  After months of writing fantasy NASCAR blogs about far off race tracks, I finally get to talk about us!

At this point, the infield is filled with campers, the display lot is packed with tents and the track for the SYLVANIA SilverStar zXe Global RallyCross is shaping up.  Despite not being able to set up shop until the Saturday before race week, some campers arrived a day early last Friday in hopes of finding the best possible spot.  In recent days, the camping lots have filled up and the haulers have started arriving in packs.  All we're really missing are the fans, but they'll be here soon enough.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AND AWAY WE go people. It's RACE WEEK!!

What does that mean? Well, mostly it means if you can't get your racing fix this week in New England, you're addiction to motorsports is more severe than Jose Canseco's addiction to attention. And that's saying something.

For those of us pounding the pavement each week on the regional scene, the highlight of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. And given their penchant for putting on some great racing – complete with bump-drafting, margins of victory measured in inches and not seconds, and a starting field representing several generations and racing backgrounds, it's not hard to see why.

The Whelen Modified Tour has gotten a bit of a bum rap lately at New Hampshire, and in the interest of full disclosure, I've been as tough on their recent performances as anybody. The events have been lauded for a couple of decades now as “the best race of the weekend” at the Magic Mile, a sentiment that remains largely true.

While it's not true that Sprint Cup Series crew chiefs and drivers are all standing atop their haulers in the garage area gripped by the on-track Modified racing, at least no more than they are for any other supporting races at any of the tracks they attend during their long 10-month grind across the country, it doesn't really much matter. The fact is, Modified racing is a unique, regionalized form of motorsports whose participants and fans are as passionate about what they love as, well... as Jose Canseco is about off-the-market “health” supplements.

One of the reasons that we've come to criticize Modifi Continue...

Each Monday we take a look back at the top performances from around the region during the week that was.

Not surprisingly given a long holiday week of racing, there were no shortages of candidates, and the local scene wasn't the only place to find the best of the best this week as one driver went across the pond in search of a win. It may have made it a little harder to sift through – and made it a bit harder to get yourself through to The Podium – but for fans and the diehard followers of the local scene, it made it a lot of fun to watch.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium:

1. Ben Kennedy, Daytona Beach, Fla.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., headed overseas during the Fourth of July week and ended up with a history making performance. Kennedy won the Michelin 100 in Tour, France, on Saturday for his first career NASCAR-sanctioned win.

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Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (and Repetition) Fantasy Preview

Hopefully everyone managed to get in a fireworks show last night.  There were severe thunderstorms rolling through the state of NH right around dusk, so the sky was filled with a different form of flashing light.

I was in Manchester for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game and the lightning provided quite the "ooh-aah" backdrop in centerfield.  However, it stayed dry, as the storm missed the downtown part of the Queen City.  The home team battled back with two outs twice: they tied it in the bottom of the ninth and hit a walk-off home run (while trailing) in the bottom of the 11th.

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It's Fourth of July week again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street while the bombs burst in air overhead...

HARD AS IT is to believe, the NASCAR Lenox Industrial Tools 301 weekend is just eight days away.

That means we're all in for a treat of a weekend, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the Whelen Modified Tour and the debut of Global RallyCross at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

I'll admit, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the announcement over the offseason that Global RallyCross was coming to the speedway during a weekend so intensely devoted to oval-track racing. But after what I saw at the X Games last weekend, it's gotten me pretty excited to see this.

If you're not willing to buy into the Travis Pastrana-moving-to-NASCAR hype, then you ought to do yourself the favor and see this guy perform in his own element. Oh yeah, and some guy named “Ken Block” will be there, too.

It's such a unique form of motorsports – is there anything out there remotely resembling it? – that NHMS fans are in for a fantastic experience.

Think about it. Think about the varying styles of racing – from the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series and all of their pomp and circumstance, to the incomparable RallyCross to the drafting and pack racing of the Whelen Modified Tour. Short of having a drag strip on the backstretch or a dirt bullring on the speedway property, you're not going to find a more diverse racing weekend at the Magic Mile.

Best part of it all is you'll see each one of those four divisions on the track on a single Saturday.

RYAN BLANEY HAS become known for his abilities behind the wheel of a Super Late Model all over the country, as well as the bloodlines he gets fro Continue...

Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

If you didn't already know, things are in full swing with the Fourth of July holiday week kicking into gear as a lead-up to Sprint Cup Series weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Oxford 250. And, predictably, drivers are kicking their game into high gear, too.

Without further ado, let's find out who made The Podium this week:

1. Wayne Helliwell Jr., Dover, N.H.

Helliwell won the first of two 30-lap Late Model features on Saturday night at Canaan Fair Speedway, giving him six straight wins in the division to open the season. In addition, Helliwell also has two ACT Late Model Tour victories.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

IF THERE WAS ever a stock car racing adage that was true, it was on display last Saturday night at Waterford Speedbowl when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned after a six-year absence.

As the old saying goes, you've got to lose a bunch of races before you can learn how to win them.

Example A: Ryan Preece.

Example B: Doug Coby.

On paper, Preece very well could be running away with the Whelen Modified Tour championship himself after five races this season. He's been among the fastest cars in virtually every practice session, and he won three consecutive pole awards to open the season.

But Preece has won just once – at Monadnock Speedway – a place where track position is as vital to a driver's success as it is anywhere on the circuit.

Preece, of course, isn't running away with anything. In fact, it's Coby who is threatening to beat his Tour competition into the ground before the season even reaches its halfway mark. Coby picked up his third win of the young season at Waterford and now holds a comfortable 20-point lead in the standings over reigning champion Ron Silk and a 23-point advantage over Preece in third.

Coby seems to have learned what Preece hasn't, at least not yet. Coby hasn't finished outside the Top-2 since finishing eighth – with a damaged race car, no less – in the season opener at Thompson International Speedway in April.

“I grew up racing. I started racing when I was six,” Coby said. “The feeling of winning – whether you're six (years old) in a quarter-midget, or you're in a Tour car or an SK Modified or a Pro Stock for the first time – it's the Continue...

Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region for the most impressive on-track performances.

It was a huge weekend of racing around the northeast, with touring shows and weekly events that provided some truly remarkable results – including several drivers that continued on impressive rolls over the first half of the season.

Without further ado, let's see who made The Podium this week:

1. Corey LaJoie, Concord, N.C.

LaJoie won his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race in the last three events, assuming command of the Visit Hampton VA 175 at Langley Speedway with 10 laps remaining Saturday night en route to victory. LaJoie previously picked up his first career series win three weeks earlier at Bowman Gray Stadium.

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WATERFORD, Conn. – Doug Coby used to wonder when he'd win a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl, wonder if he'd ever enjoy the kind of dominant run that the likes of some of the sport's best had enjoyed in their careers.

With his third win in the last four races on Saturday night, Coby doesn't have to wonder anymore.

The Milford, Conn., driver dominated the Tour's return to the Speedbowl, leading a race-high 119 laps en route to the victory in the Mr. Rooter 161 after holding off Ryan Preece on a green-white-checkered restart.

“I've been trying to win at this track for a long time in a Tour car,” Coby said. “My first career win should have come (here) back in 2004... and that was one that got away. We were terrible in practice, so anyone who thinks, 'You guys are always fast, you're up front and you qualify good – we were really struggling today. (The team) put their heads together, came up with a setup for time trials, got us up front and this car was just flawless.

“This win is a win for them.”

Coby heads to the next event on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule – at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14 – with the series points lead and three wins in the first five races of the season.

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Toyota/Save Mart 350 Fantasy Preview

For those of you that missed the announcement, Infineon Raceway is no more.  Oh, there's still a road course that winds through the vineyards of the Sonoma Valley, it just no longer goes by the same name.

On June 1, the raceway's 10-year partnership with the Infineon company ended, and it is still in the rebranding process as it tries to find a track sponsor.  For the 2012 NASCAR race, it will simply go by "Sonoma."

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHAT WOULD AN auto racing column be without mentioning Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday?

It was good for NASCAR on a lot of levels, none bigger than likely cementing the sport's far-and-away most popular driver as a legitimate Chase for the Sprint Cup contender. It was so good that I floated the idea that maybe it was, well, too good...

Let's preface all of this by saying that I'm not a guy who believes in conspiracy theories. I'm just not that guy. But if ever the stars all aligned just right for a sport in dire need of a kick in the pants, this was the time.

Consider the following:

  • NASCAR's most popular driver mired in a four-year, 143-race winless streak heading into last weekend...

  • A fan base still clinging to memories of Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died more than 11 years ago...

  • A win for Dale Jr. on Father's Day, almost exactly four years to the day of his previous win...

  • A race event that was sullied by discussion of speeds at the newly repaved Michigan being “too fast”...

  • Severe left-side tire problems that prompted NASCAR and Goodyear to ship in an emergency batch of left-sides for all its Sprint Cup teams, necessitating an extra 75-minute practice session on Saturday evening...

  • Half-empty grandstands virtually all season long, continued criticism of television's coverage of races, and a dearth of caution flags (and subsequent restarts to generate excitement late in races)...

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Non-touring “open” shows were the theme of last weekend, with some performers really shining through in the extra-distance competitions around northern New England. Modifieds, Late Models and even Sportsman-type cars were all on the docket.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium:

1. Matt Hirschman, Northampton, Pa.

Hirschman won the SBM 125 at Star Speedway on Saturday night, an open show for Tour-type Modifieds. Though Hirschman is no longer a regular fixture on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, he has been one tough customer to beat on the open circuit.

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Racing is a family sport.  From dads and moms to sisters and brothers to aunts, uncles and cousins, racing families run deep.

Any given weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway proves this.  One example is the Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour where dads serve as crew chiefs for their son or daughter, and mothers, sisters and girlfriends take the reins for team publicity.  Whether it's videotaping the action, watching from the spotters stand or tweeting a picture of the car in the starting grid, the race is a family event.

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Quicken Loans 400 Fantasy Preview

We at New Hampshire Motor Speedway can appreciate this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway.  Sure, the distance around the track is double that of our "Magic Mile," but isn't everything built twice as large in the Midwest?

Our main appreciation comes from the cold winters that go months without a wheel on the track.  While most of the warm weather places can go heat the track whenever they want, when we need the heat in winter, it comes in the form of a fireplace and some hot chocolate.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHEN YOU'VE BEEN in the racing industry for nearly 20 years, you see a lot of races – I mean, a LOT of races – on short tracks from Maine to Florida, from North Carolina to California.

No, I haven't been to every race track in the country. Not even every NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track in the United States, but I've seen short track races in weekly divisions for everything from Modifieds to Mini Stocks.

But last Saturday night's Pro Series 100 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for the track's Super Late Model division goes down as one of the best weekly division races I can ever remember seeing. There were multiple lead changes over the final 30 laps, cat-and-mouse games on late-race restarts, and the assorted beating and banging that makes Saturday night racing so popular.

David Oliver's win in the Pro Series 100 was a well-earned one at that.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

The weather finally broke after days of hard rains and intermittent showers in the northeast, and the change in weather produced some of the best racing of the season to date. From the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the were plenty of podium-worthy efforts.

Without further ado, let's look at who made this week's Podium:

1. Kyle Larson, Elk Grove, Calif.

The decorated USAC open-wheel racer earned the biggest stock car victory of his career on Saturday night at Gresham Motorsports Park, winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Slack Auto Parts 150 for his first career win.

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Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR Fantasy Preview

This weekend's race at Pocono marks a sign of the times.  NASCAR, or should I say #NASCAR, has made a push to be the social media leader among professional sports.  The Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR will be the first of its kind as it officially brands the sport via Twitter by promoting the hashtag.

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Bowman Gray Stadium is full of history. On Saturday night, Corey LaJoie made a little of his own.

LaJoie made racing look easy on the plucky Bowman Gray Stadium track, leading 118 laps and holding off Darrell Wallace Jr. on a green-white-checkered restart to post his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.

At a track boasting victories from some of the sport's greatest like Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Glen Wood, LaJoie became the 122nd feature winner in Bowman Gray history. And the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and Connecticut native Randy LaJoie did it by learning from a painful lesson one year earlier.

In the inaugural K&N Pro Series visit to Bowman Gray in 2011, LaJoie posted the first of his three career runner-up finishes in the series. It came after a chance in the outside lane on a GWC restart – a chance he couldn't capitalize on when Matt DiBenedetto held him off for the win.

He wasn't about to let the same thing happen again this time around.

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I had dinner with a friend last week, and to put it simply he knows nothing about NASCAR.  When referencing auto racing, he did the ignorant air quotes symbol in referring to it as a "sport."

Having been someone that's made the conversion to an auto racing fan, I'm well aware why people are skeptical it is a sport and I'm positive that their skepticism is bread from ignorance.  Watch the Olympics this summer and justify how some of those activities are more sport than auto racing.  (Seriously, didn't archery go out of style with the Renaissance?)

Despite my firm stance that NASCAR is indeed a sport, every once in awhile, I come across something that truly makes me respect the athletic ability that goes into it.  I had one of those moments yesterday when I ate lunch with Chad Walter, who serves as a Penske Racing crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr. in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Walter graduated from Cornell University and played defensive line for the Big Red's football team.  He put his Ivy League education to use as a part of the front wave of car engineers for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Hendrick Motorsports.  He also maintained his athletic prowess by serving several roles in a pit crew, including the big, burly jackman, before ascending to the top of the pit box.

We discussed the difficulty of pit stops and, while I felt ignorant asking the question, I brought up whether or not the team practiced pit stops, like the Cornell football team might practice a set play.

"Five to six times a week," he responded without hesitation.  He went on to explain how the team not only practiced the stops, but they wore helmet cameras and reviewed race tape to figure out how they could be more effective.

I'm willing to bet that your average football jock that doesn't respect NASCAR didn't know that the teams hold film studies with their "coaches," just like in football.  As I suggested, most of the la Continue...

It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHAT BOBBY SANTOS did at Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend was truly nothing short of amazing.

In just his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race of the season, Santos – the 2010 Tour champion – won the pole for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125, led a race-high 117 laps and then finished second after Doug Coby passed him for the win on fresher tires.

Santos only other start this season with the part-time team came in the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson International Speedway in April, an otherwise unimpressive outing that ended prematurely in a multi-car accident in Turn 1.

For a team that doesn't even know race-to-race which events it will even enter as it relies on part-time help at the shop, crew members with varied work schedules and a lack of experience that the championship contenders all boast over decades on the Whelen Modified Tour, just qualifying in the Top-10 could be seen as a victory of sorts. Santos, whose driving talent has never, ever been called into question, has elevated Tinio Racing in a big way.

And he's done it in a hurry.

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FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks Fantasy Preview

While few readers will notice, I'm swapping the order of my two posts this week.  I'll start with the Fantasy NASCAR preview and complete the more feature-based column once we have the opportunity to spend Thursday with Sam Hornish Jr., as he tours a few local schools.

The "Monster Mile" of Dover International Speedway is similar in name to "The Magic Mile" here at NHMS.  Naturally, it races the same mile distance and, while the Dover oval is more circular with shorter straightaways and wider turns, it's general paperclip shape is the same as that seen here in Loudon.  The tracks are also situated in the northeast part of NASCAR's map.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Of course, the holiday weekend presents plenty of opportunity for racers to shine, and many did just that. From touring series veterans to weekly short-track stalwarts, lots of drivers will celebrate just a little bit harder this Memorial Day.

Without further ado, here's who made The Podium this week:

1. Doug Coby, Milford, Conn.

Coby stormed through the field after pitting for a flat tire early in the race, taking the lead with eight laps remaining to win the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 on Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. It was Coby's second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season at Stafford.

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Doug Coby knows how to put on a show.

Coby made an impressive charge up through the field following an early flat tire, rallying late to pass Bobby Santos III to win the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 on Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. It was Coby's second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season – and it came in the car he affectionately refers to as his “show car.”

“I was nervous,” Coby said of the closing laps. “I didn't think we'd get (Santos). I thought the fastest car was going to finish third or fourth. But, I had to drive the hell out of it and I'm really happy to be here.”

Santos held on for second in just his second start of the season, while Ron Silk finished third. Todd Szegedy and Rowan Pennink rounded out the Top-5.

In just four races, Coby has already doubled his career win total on the Tour. His previous victory came in the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler at Stafford earlier this month in a completely different chassis with a completely different engine.

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Coca-Cola 600 Fantasy Preview

I'd like to apologize for not getting out a Fantasy Auto Racing preview earlier.  (I know there's probably at least four or five people that were planning on reading it thoroughly.)  I always release this on Thursdays, but Yahoo cuts off the time to change your roster in the wee hours of qualifying morning, and that's today, so the "Fans of NHMS" players will only be able to swap their Starters and Bench.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust her off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHEN DO YOU see the forgotten man walking around all day with an ear-to-ear grin? What that supposedly “forgotten man” is Joey Polewarczyk Jr., that's when.

Polewarczyk has been practically giddy of late, even before he finished second on Sunday in the ACT Late Model Tour's Armed Forces Day 150 at Oxford Plains Speedway. Polewarczyk had been keeping tabs on the racing coverage in the northeast over the last month, the same coverage that boasted headlines and mountains of accompanying copy praising the new rivalry atop the ACT standings.

Those same headlines and thousands of sentences produced an unending stream of the names “Helliwell” and “Hoar.” Barely anybody's even taken notice that Polewarczyk is right in the thick of this dogfight – up to second in the standings after bad days for both Wayne Helliwell Jr. and Brian Hoar at Oxford. Barely anybody, that is, except for Polewarczyk himself.

“That's exactly what I said before (last weekend),” Polewarczyk said. “They were battling at Lee and Thunder Road and even at Canaan last week. Everyone's had their articles about a new rivalry in ACT or whatever, and I'm sitting there third in points just smiling.

“I know I'm right there.”

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In most sports, the All-Star Event is marked as the unofficial halfway point in the season.  It's a time to take stock of how your team is performing and what changes might be necessary to get where it needs to be at season's end.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season still seems young.  It's just 11 races into a 36-race slate.  However, with the Chase accounting for the final 10 races of the season, it very much is the middle of what can loosely be referred to as a regular season.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

First-time winners turned in some impressive performances, and some first-time starters were equally impressive. Fields in both the weekly series and touring series ranks are proving both deep and capable, meaning the competition is as good as it's been in years.

Without further ado, here's who made The Podium this week:

1. Ben Ashline, Pittston, Maine

Ashline bested both the full-time ACT Late Model Tour teams and a stout field of weekly Oxford Plains Speedway Late Model drivers to win the Armed Forces Day 150 on Sunday afternoon. The victory was the first on the ACT Late Model Tour for Ashline, the 2011 ACT Rookie of the Year.

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OXFORD, Maine – ACT Late Model Tour regulars fear the locals from Oxford Plains Speedway, and the weekly Late Model drivers at Oxford likewise eye their touring counterparts with some trepidation when they roll into the track a few times each season.

Ben Ashline might just have the best of both worlds.

Ashline, a former weekly competitor at Oxford and current full-time ACT competitor, put a solid and convincing whipping on the field Sunday to win the Armed Forces Day 150. Ashline, of Pittston, Maine, led the final 104 laps for his first career ACT Late Model Tour victory.

“It still really hasn't even sunk in yet,” said Ashline, the 2011 ACT Rookie of the Year. “The car was really good. It stayed so consistent, I feel like I could have run another 100 laps and the car wouldn't have changed. The car was that consistent.”

Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson, N.H., finished a distant second. Jeff White, last year's Oxford Plains track champion and defending winner of this event, was third. Brent Dragon and Austin Theriault rounded out the Top-5.

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NEWTON, Iowa – Closer and closer to that first victory each time out this season, Chase Elliott was able to take home the checkered flag Saturday night at Iowa Speedway in the Graham Tire 150 for his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series triumph.

Elliott, the second generation driver of the No. 9 Aaron's/HendrickCars.com Chevrolet from Dawsonville, Ga., inherited the lead on Lap 145 from a dominant Brett Moffitt and held on through a green-white-checkered finish for the first victory in 16 career K&N Pro Series East starts.

Elliott's performance led a number of career-best performances. Ryan Blaney was second to equal his career-best K&N Pro Series finish, while Cale Conley and Travis Pastrana finished third and fourth, respectively. Both Conley and Pastrana recorded their best career K&N results.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THERE ARE REALLY only two tracks on the ACT Late Model Tour schedule that get the full-time teams on the Tour even remotely nervous – Thunder Road International Speedbowl, the hub of ACT, and Oxford Plains Speedway.

Unfortunately for the ACT teams, they're headed to Oxford Plains this weekend for the Armed Forces Day 150.

The ACT model, in case you're not familiar or new to crate-engine Late Model racing in the northeast, is to have a core of 12-15 full-time touring teams competing at tracks where there are another 15-20 weekly Late Model teams competing under ACT rules. In most cases, whether it's Lee USA Speedway or White Mountain Motorsports Park, that's the case. And in most of those cases, the full-time ACT teams almost always have the advantage.

But Oxford, like Thunder Road, presents an entirely different animal. History has proven that both tracks are hard to figure out – let alone master – even for the teams that compete there every week, season after season. Throw those curveballs at a Tour team that only stops in a few times each season, and the chaos is multiplied exponentially.

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A 24-Hour Headache

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The old adage of a superstar is that it's better to burnout than fade away.  However, few of us envisioned that a year after putting up a formidable run at the Cup, we'd be watching Jeff Gordon's season burn to the ground by Memorial Day.

Things have gotten so bad for Gordon and the No. 24 team in the season's first 11 races that he trails an actual fader in former teammate Mark Martin.  Martin was replaced at Hendrick Motorsports this year by Kasey Kahne.  With only eight starts, the 53-year-old is fulfilling the role of a part-time driver, albeit quite well.  It was his career that was supposed to be on the downslide, not Gordon's!

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Each Monday we take a look back at the weekend that was from around the region.

A lot of old familiar faces dotted Victory Lane across the northeast as touring series and short tracks are in full swing with the arrival (finally) of bonafide spring weather.

Without further ado, here's a look at who made The Podium this week:

1. Ryan Preece, Berlin, Conn.

Preece finally broke through to solidify his hot start to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, leading every lap and winning the Whitcomb 200 at Monadnock Speedway on Saturday after setting a track record in qualifying.

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WINCHESTER, N.H. -- Ryan Preece converted his third Coors Light Pole Award into his first win of the season Saturday night with a victory in the Whitcomb 200 presented by Mobix & Town Fair Tire at Monadnock Speedway.

Preece led every lap and took the checkered flag 1.423 seconds in front of runner-up Doug Coby. Todd Szegedy, the 2011 race winner, finished third. Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Silk, the points leader, maintained a one-point advantage in the standings over Coby. Preece is four points behind Silk.

Preece, who set a track record in qualifying, is four points behind Silk. It was Preece's second consecutive track record and his third straight pole to start the season. He has won four straight poles dating back to last season.

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Bojangles' Southern 500 Fantasy Preview

The only thing sweet about "The Lady in Black" is the "darling" in its official name.  I'm not bashing the track, it's own Twitter handle boasts its other nickname: @TooToughToTame.

The egg shaped 1.366-mile oval originally opened in 1950 and has been challenging drivers to beat it ever since.  The track was originally slated to be a standard oval, just like NHMS, but it was interestingly a minnow pond that changed that fate.  The landowner asked that the track not disturb the pond located near turns 3 and 4, so the configuration was reconsidered to account for it.

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Ugh!  For the first time in recent memory, drivers from the Sprint Cup Series are in Loudon for a test session.  In general, NASCAR doesn't allow testing at tracks where the series races, but the test is for Goodyear to work on its tires, so it needs to run on actual tracks for accurate results.  New Hampshire Motor Speedway was selected as one of the lucky four tracks to host this event!

Of course, after three beautiful sunny days, it's pouring buckets of rain today, as the tire test is set to get underway.  As the rain continues to fall steadily and the radar shows no signs of clearing up soon, we're just forced to sit and wait for the cars to get on track.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

We had first-time winners, multi-time winners winning again and some fantastic efforts in the northeast all weekend long. If the first few weeks of the season have been any indication, we're in for a heck of a summer.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium this week:

1. Wayne Helliwell Jr., Dover, N.H.

After two straight weeks of finishing as the bridesmaid, Helliwell finally did what we all figured he would before too long: He won an ACT Late Model Tour race. Helliwell took over the ACT points lead after winning his first career race in the Spring Green 112 at Devil's Bowl Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

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Aaron's 499 Fantasy Preview

The Talladega Superspeedway will do anything but separate the cars on the track, but it will be a crucial separation of contenders from the pretenders in the Sprint Cup Series.  As the 10th race of the season, the Aaron's 499 is far enough into the season that most teams should be able to take stock of what they need to contend for the title.

Some teams are sitting pretty.  Some are clinging loosely to a Chase spot.  Some need to find a way to make up ground before the Race to the Chase goes into the critical stretch and leaves them behind.

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It's Wednesday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

DOUG COBY HAS really come of age on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

It's not just that he won his second Tech-Net Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend, or even that he's sits second in the Tour standings after two events, or even, really that he's managed to finish in the Top-10 in both races thus far in 2012, despite spinning on three different occasions in the season opener at Thompson International Speedway last month.

What's most impressive, really, is that Coby is now – finally, promisingly, fittingly – in a full-time ride on the Tour. Coby for the last few seasons has defined the term “journeyman” when it came to the stock car racing scene in New England.

Don't think so? The Milford, Conn., driver was like the Matt Stairs of the Whelen Modified Tour. Every month it seemed he was in the seat for a different team. By his own estimation, two years ago he drove for a total of five different teams on the Modified Tour, in weekly SK Modified competition on Connecticut's short tracks, or making a spot start in another series somewhere.

In 2012, Coby's owner Wayne Darling has committed to fielding the No. 52 for every race on the schedule.

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They're baaaaaack!  Did you miss them?

The sons of Tom and Gaye Busch are two of the most polarizing drivers in NASCAR.  You either cheer loudly for them or you cheer adamantly against them, but everyone has an opinion on Kurt and Kyle Busch.

After years of watching the Buschs parade to victory lanes around the country, those sickened to their stomachs by the sight finally got a full bottle of Pepto Bismol at the start of 2012.  But, the bottle ran empty quickly this weekend and the Busch brothers reminded that, love 'em or hate 'em, one thing they always did well was win races.

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BARRE, Vt. – If you think last year was Wayne Helliwell Jr.'s breakout season on the ACT Late Model Tour, try telling that to him.

To hear Helliwell tell it, last year's second-place finish in the final ACT points standings was just dumb luck.

“Last year finishing second in points, I believe it was a fluke,” said a straight-faced Helliwell, of Dover, N.H. “Some other guys had some problems and we kind of lucked into that. But if we can come out of this season with a Top-5, I'll be really proud of that.”

A fluke? Really? After back-to-back second-place finishes to open the 2012 season, Helliwell's going to have a tough time selling that to the rest of the competition. He had the dominant car in the season opener at Lee USA Speedway two weeks ago, and in Sunday's Merchants Bank 150 at Thunder Road, he led on three different occasions before finishing second to eight-time series champion Brian Hoar.

Through two races, he's just six points behind Hoar for the ACT championship lead.

RELATED CONTENT: Video From Merchants Bank 150

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Race season is officially in full swing in the northeast, and there were a number of marquee touring events and weekly racing series events on the docket. Some familiar faces certainly visited Victory Lane, too.

Without further ado, here's a look at who made The Podium:

1. Doug Coby, Milford, Conn.

Coby scored his third career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory on Sunday, doing so in one of the crown jewels of the Modified Tour. He dominated the second half of the event following pit stops to win the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

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BARRE, Vt. – Deja vu, anyone?

In a near carbon copy of their spirited battle in the ACT Late Model Tour season opener two weeks ago, Brian Hoar and Wayne Helliwell Jr. were at it again on Sunday at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. And, just as was the case in the opener, Hoar held off Helliwell – who tried every which way but loose (and even a little of that, too) – to win the Merchants Bank 150.

The victory was the second straight to open the season for Hoar, the eight-time series champion, and his first in the Merchants Bank 150.

“I've been chasing this one a long time,” Hoar said. “It's the first time for us (in the Merchants Bank 150), and it's a big deal. Anytime you can win at Thunder Road, it's awesome.”

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This time, Ryan Preece really did get a track record for himself.

Preece joined three other competitors at Stafford Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon in breaking the previous track record, earning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler 200.

The pole award was the second straight for Preece, of Berlin, Conn., to open the 2012 season. He also won the pole for the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson International Speedway two weeks ago.

The Spring Sizzler 200 is scheduled for approximately 3:15 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s awesome,” Preece told The Hartford Courant. “I don’t even know how to describe the feeling right now... Hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow. I know we have a really good race car.”

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Brett Moffitt left just enough for the end on Thursday night.

Moffitt emerged from a spirited three-car battle for the lead over a green-white-checkered restart, holding off the hard charges of Chase Elliott and Corey LaJoie to win the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway. The victory was the eighth of Moffitt's NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career and the first for the fledgling Hattori Racing Enterprises this season.

“I'm happy to get the first pole and the first win for HRE today,” Moffitt said in Victory Lane. “It was just a great weekend.”

Moffitt, who earlier in the day won the Coors Light Pole Award, cinched the win when Elliott brushed the outside wall off the race's final turn. LaJoie held on for third.

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Capital City 400 presented by Virginia is for Lovers Fantasy Preview

Did you know that we don't plow the snow off our track at NHMS?  We just let it snow and hope it melts in time for  the track's opening day in April.

Did you also know that the don't plow the snow in Richmond either?  No, I'm not talking about the track, I'm just talking about the roads in general.  They just let it snow and immobilize the whole state until the non-existant plows can clear the snow that's frozen to itself.  It's a pretty inefficient process.

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The majority of NHMS fans won't visit "The Magic Mile" until NASCAR does in mid-July, but they're missing a lot of good racing action before that major weekend.  The track heats up in April and doesn't cool down until the end of October and there's plenty of on-track action throughout the seven-month season.

The race season can officially be considered underway at NHMS, as the Loudon Road Race Series kicks off 2012 with the first of seven race weekends on Saturday.  After a full slate of 11 races on Saturday that closes with the headlining "Dash for the Cash" Middleweight Grand Prix, the Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour will hit the road course for its first of nearly a dozen NHMS races this year.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

While rains threatened to hamper the schedule in New England over the weekend, virtually all scheduled events were able to be completed. Some drivers continued their hot starts to the year, others continued to streaks in extra-distance events and still others returned to Victory Lane after long absences.

Without further ado, let's see who made The Podium:

1. Jon McKennedy, Chelmsford, Mass.

McKennedy opened the Valenti Modified Racing Series 2-for-2 on the young season, claiming the 100-lap event at Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night.

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STP 400 Fantasy Preview

I usually use the intro to tell some story about a part of the country I once visited or at least give a cute little anecdote, but I don't have anything this week.  I once drove clear across the country and then back on a completely different route, but I've never been in Kansas.

When I went west on I-80, I probably wasn't more than a few miles at some points from the state line while in Nebraska.  I kept looking to the south and imagining that Kansas was out there somewhere, like a Holy Grail of the Flatlands (or maybe I was just looking for a way to get out of Nebraska as quickly as possible).

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It's Wednesday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THERE'S BEEN A lot of talk recently about the fact that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is sorely lacking in the rivalry department.

After last weekend's season-opening Icebreaker 150 at Thompson International Speedway, I'm starting to think that might not be the case. It hasn't heated up to the level of a Ted Christopher vs. Bo Gunning or a Jimmy Blewett vs. The World, but this Ron Silk-Rowan Pennink stuff has the chance to really get entertaining.

In a lot of ways, it already has. Sunday's verbal sparring following Silk's controversial win was simply a nice topper to the whole thing – one of those racing incidents that makes you want to get to the next track for the next race on the schedule as soon as possible.

Silk says that Pennink “drove him into the weeds” on a late-race restart. Pennink says that Silk “spun his tires” on the final restart. Silk says he didn't, adding “that's what I would say, too.” Silk says Pennink “got what he deserved” when NASCAR penalized him for jumping the final restart, Pennink says Silk left him no choice.

On the surface, it's two drivers quibbling over an emotional ending – one that left Pennink without a win and left Silk booed loudly in Victory Lane. But it's not quite that simple.

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If the Sprint Cup Series garage were an ice cream shop, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be chocolate chip cookie dough; the flavor an overwhelming amount of people like, but the rest feel like there's no excuse to not have baked the dough into a real cookie.  Jimmie Johnson might be peanut butter cup, liked by many, but disliked strongly by those with a nut allergy.  Jeff Gordon could be mint chocolate chip, a good old-fashioned winner.

Then, there's Greg Biffle.  He'd be vanilla.

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SAMSUNG Mobile 500 Fantasy Preview

It's getting to be that time of year when the weather starts getting warm enough at night and too hot during the day, so NASCAR begins sprinkling primetime into the schedule.  Traditionally, this would be the Sprint Cup Series' first night race of the season, but the rescheduled Daytona 500 stole the thunder on that one.

Remember that event at all?  Rhetorical question, I hope!  In that race, we had Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet dryer and Brad Keselowski nearly crashing Twitter by tweeting a photo of the fire on the track.

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Through six races in the 2012 season, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards have won three of the Sprint Cup Series poles, and they've combined to lead a total of zero laps.  Not zero laps at the start of the race, mind you, zero laps, period!  That's right: neither has led a single lap this season.

That's pretty difficult to do when you assume that they theoretically had the fastest car at the track and started in the front row in half of the 2012 races.  Not only could they not manage to hold off the rest of the field to lead the first lap, but they never once got back up to the front at any point later in the day.

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For six weeks, the New England racing community has sat around on their couch and watched NASCAR, INDYCAR and Formula 1 race in other parts of the country (world, in F1's case).  Not this weekend!

As all three of those series are off and NASCAR takes its first break of the season, it's our New Hampshire Motor Speedway that will provide thrills for fans.  The third-annual FANtasy Drive Open House on April 7 allows fans to hit the track for some laps in their own cars, as well as get VIP access to the infield, suite levels and hospitality areas of NHMS.

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Before we get into the article, please take 30 seconds to review our most recent commercial from NHMS.

No, but seriously, are we qualifying or racing, here!?

There's been a lot of debate this week, as Tommy Baldwin's No. 10 has fallen out of the top-35 in owner points and is no longer guaranteed a starting spot in Sprint Cup Series races.  While the debate swirls around Danica Patrick, whose name tends to stir up controversy anyway, most people seem to be ignoring my simple question.

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There's a certain art to short-track racing that brings most drivers back to their roots.  Similar to Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, Martinsville Speedway in Virginia is more about good, old-fashioned bumping and shoving your way to a win.

At a Cup level that so often rewards the state-of-the-art machines with the best funding, short tracks still put an emphasis on overall driver ability.  I mean, it's certainly not a coincidence that those with the best overall driving ability often end up in the most pristine cars, but this is the kind of track that reminds us what got these drivers to the levels they're at now.

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NASCAR Names

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Awesome!  I'm excited that "NASCAR" and "names" both begin with the letter "n."  The reoccurance of alliteration (two words that start with the same letter for those that don't remember their middle school grammar classes) is going to be the main focus of this article.

We get a lot of questions from supporters about how to get their kids into auto racing.  My first recommendation: make sure you give them an appropriate name.

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Do you remember your first race?  Nevermind...stupid question.

Statistics show that NASCAR fans are 76.8% more likely to recall who won the first race they attended than they are to remember their mother's first name.  If you took my word on that stat, then let me also tell you that research shows 28.7% of people make up percentages on the spot.  (...Wait...is he joking?)

Look, the point is this: nobody forgets their first NASCAR race, and for me that was at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

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In recent years, there have been four large garages in North Carolina and a bunch of one or two-car teams trying to catch up to those organizations.  In 2011, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing all fielded the maximum of four Sprint Cup Series cars, while Joe Gibbs Racing fielded a comparable three.  They accounted for eight Chase spots; in 2010, they accounted for 10.

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Ford City 500 Fantasy Preview

Bristol is a great place to watch a race.  It's small 0.533-mile oval with banking of up to 36 degrees makes it a unique experience that puts a true emphasis on continuously holding that steering wheel to the left, while maneuvering between accelerator and brake.

The venue itself projects itself more like the bowl of a football stadium than the open grandstands of a speedway.  There's nowhere for the roar of the engines to go, so it's appropriately earned the nickname "Thunder Valley."

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It's race week at Bristol Motor Speedway, a brand new venue and brand new start for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

As usual with this incredibly competitive development series on the NASCAR ladder, there are a lot of offseason story lines and changes within the garage to wrap your head around. Most significantly, perhaps, is the season getting started at a brand new track for the division.

Bristol is something of an anomaly on the Sprint Cup Series side, one of only two half-mile tracks on the schedule each season and one of only three tracks that are less than a mile in length. But while it's not the norm for the Cup circuit, Bristol's half-mile is something K&N Pro Series teams know well.

There's Bowman Gray Stadium, Gresham Motorsports Park and Greenville Pickens Speedway all on the schedule this season. All are Saturday-night short tracks; all are the kind of rough-and-tumble venues where the series and its drivers were first initiated.

Surely, Bristol is a different animal – but a lack of experience on that track shouldn't add up to a bad race on Saturday night under the lights in the Widow Wax 125.

Here's what we're watching:

NEW MAN AT THE TOP: 2011 series champion Max Gresham has graduated to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, leaving both the season title and his seat at Joe Gibbs Racing vacant.

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The Champ is Here!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix was a nice story: a discarded championship crew chief in Darian Grubb helping a disappointed Denny Hamlin find his way back to Victory Lane.  It was an uplifting story of two disregarded Virginians teaming up to move forward from a bitter tasting 2011 season.

For the greater NASCAR community, it symbolized the new year.  The whole offseason, the talk was about Tony Stewart's historic run to the championship, and that dumped right into the Daytona 500 and the media frenzy that surrounded it...which focused heavily on one of Stewart's drivers, Danica Patrick.

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Kobalt Tools 400 Fantasy Preview

Social media really put an end to the age-old phrase that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  Nowadays, what happens in Vegas will be posted to Facebook and uploaded to YouTube long before anyone begins to piece together a night of debauchery.

Not that it really has anything to do with predicting who will win the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, but I'm sure I can find a way to make my peeve of the week relevant.

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Getting Grubb-y

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The first thing that crossed my mind when Denny Hamlin ran away from the field and left Kevin Harvick's car choking for gas on Sunday was: wow, another win for Darian Grubb!

Grubb has now crew chiefed victories in six of the last 12 Sprint Cup Series races.  That includes five wins during last year's Chase as Tony Stewart's head man and the win at Phoenix this past weekend, as he called the shots for Hamlin.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500 Fantasy Preview

Ouch!  Unless you went with the Fords of Kenseth and Biffle, the fantasy team probably didn't fair too well at Daytona.  The race was every bit as unpredictable as expected, right down to Juan Pablo Montoya's night ending after he totaled his car into a jet dryer while under caution.

While some of the 550+ owners in the "Fans of NHMS" group fielded a comparable fantasy team, only 22 of them put up more than 300 points, an approximate cutoff for what would be considered a really good week.  That's not a very high percentage!

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The Big Bang Theory

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Before I start drawing comparisons to explosions or igniting anything, let's take a minute to appreciate that everyone is safe.  Dan Wheldon's death last October was a tough reminder of just how dangerous the sport of auto racing can be.

Sure, we can look back now and make jokes about the odds of Juan Pablo Montoya having his car fail in the exact spot necessary to spin into a jet dryer.  "It takes just Juan driver to take out a jet dryer," or "the probability of that was Juan in a million."  Yep, the jokes are making their rounds today.

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Daytona 500 Fantasy Preview

There's nothing quite like the Daytona 500.  It's unique in that it's the season's first race, while also being the season's highest profile race.  That's not to suggest that the quality of the race falls off or that the stakes will be lower by the time NHMS gets a few pieces of the pie in the summer.  It's just unusual for the "Super Bowl" of the sport to be the first event of the season.

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2012 Green Flag Preview

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's time to get ready for the 2012 NASCAR season, so let's open up the closet and dust off the flags, as we get ready to wave them.

Who can we expect to have a big season and who might look like they're racing under yellow?  Here's a preview of some of the names to keep track of as the pack races to start/finish to open up the season.

Checkered Flag Drivers
Drivers that should lead the pack this season.

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There's nothing better than the start of the season!  Everyone's in first-place, every fan base is full of optimism and the year is a blank canvas just waiting to have paint thrown on it.

As someone that grew up on "stick and ball" sports, I've always loved that time.  Whether it was the freshly-mowed green grass of MLB's Opening Day, the cool autumn breeze for the kickoff of the NFL or the crispness of the rink air for the NHL's first puck drop, the start of the season is always fun.

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In 2011, we launched The Granite Stripe blog.  While fellow blogger Travis Barrett focused on regional racing, I spent my time mainly discussing the Sprint Cup Series, since that's what I knew best in the motorsports world.  Each week throughout the season, I'd provide a comprehensive look at my Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing team for the week in hopes that I could introduce the game to NHMS and its fans.

It's 2012 now and it's a big time for me as we have officially launched a Fans of NHMS group on Yahoo.  In today's world of social media, fans have a closer interaction with NASCAR and, in our case, a speedway than ever before. 

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Modifying the Hall of Fame

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Richie Evans was the greatest NASCAR driver never to get behind the wheel for a Cup Series car.  Plain and simple.

On Friday, he becomes the first of 15 inductees into NASCAR's Hall of Fame that doesn't have a direct connection to NASCAR's top level.  And, while he might never have competed in that series, it'd be unfair to assume that Evans wasn't on that level.  That would be a falsehood.

The Rome, N.Y., native won nearly 500 modified races in his life and would drive around Cup level drivers that thought it cute to get behind the wheel of a modified.

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Romney? Huntsman? Newt? Ron Paul? Santorum? Good with Obama?

Don't answer those questions. The beauty of the sports world is that I can generally stay removed from the political debates that no one ever wins.  In politics, the "winner" is usually the person that simply continues talking for longer than everyone else in the room.  It's kind of like if NASCAR just had an endurance race and the last car running won.

I don't care who you vote for.  But, I do care that you vote.

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A Holiday Fireside Chat

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's a tough time in the auto racing world right now.  Unlike other sports where there's over analyzed drafts and extensive free agency, NASCAR tends to have a quieter offseason.  Sure, there are some crew chiefs switching pit boxes and drivers swapping rides, but, like the days of December, the NASCAR landscape gets pretty dark this time of year.

At this point, we're left to scour the internet for news on David Ragan's future and hope that The Orange Cone posts another holiday greeting on YouTube.

So, let's share stories about our year.

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Roger Penske's Message

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roger Penske's message was clear and decisive.  It brought down the hammer on a long-time driver and set a moral standard that is far too often neglected in sports.

Kurt Busch had driven for Penske since 2006, and the former Sprint Cup champion made three Chases behind the wheel for Penske's team.  However, after Busch melted down late in the season and was fined by NASCAR for his antics, Penske made a move that made the most sense for his organization.

He parted ways with Kurt Busch.

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The Best Runner-Up

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The tiebreaker for the 2011 Sprint Cup champion was the number of race wins.  Naturally, for Carl Edwards and his seven second-place results, he finished the tiebreaker in second.

While champion Tony Stewart amounted five wins in the Chase, he also only came away with nine top-fives and 19 top-10s (just over half, for those of you non-math majors) in 36 races.

Edwards, meanwhile, amassed 19 top-fives (again, over half of the races) and 26 top-10s.  Those numbers haven't been matched by anyone since Edwards went 19 and 27 in 2008.  Care to guess where he finished that year?

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NASCAR announced today that the points system all NASCAR national series began using this year will be instituted in the regional touring level for 2012.

The points system was simplified to make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand.

Beginning in 2012, the system will be integrated into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and NASCAR Mexico Series.

The new structure awards points in one-point increments. As an example, race winners earn 43 points, plus three bonus points for the win. Drivers also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the race-winning total to a possible maximum of 48 points.

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It's the weekend again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I'LL ADMIT IT, I didn't see this coming.

Tony Stewart, 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

It's not as though we didn't think Stewart was talented enough to be a series champion. Heck, he'd won two of them previously while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. And it wasn't that it seemed impossible for an "owner-driver" to win the Cup, especially when you stop to consider that Hendrick Motorsports does most of the heavy lifting for Stewart-Haas Racing these days.

And it wasn't even the fact that Stewart went out and won four of the first eight Chase races this season but still trailed Carl Edwards by three points heading into the season finale.

No, it was more the fact that Tony Stewart and the No. 14 team had been virtual also-rans for the first 26 races of the season, the driver himself saying that the team was nowhere near being a Chase contender as recently as late August.

For my money, there are really two ways to look at Stewart's improbable run to the Cup this season.

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There comes a time in any championship run in any sport where skill becomes irrelevant.

The talent you've worked your life to perfect takes care of itself.  Your mental state turns into an sub-concious where you react with the decisions you've been engrained to make.  Your surroundings fall away into a peculiar, white static, like something in a virtual reality, that you simply tune out.

You're totally focused on the task at hand: winning.  You only see a trophy in front of you and you're locked in, determined to claim it.

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It's the weekend again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

SO, HERE WE are on the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and one has to think that this is exactly what the powers-that-be had in mind when the dreamt up the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Three points. Two drivers. One race.

As remarkable as Jimmie Johnson's run of five consecutive championships was – and it truly was something to behold, both for performance behind the wheel and inside the heads of the rest of the competitors – there's not been a Chase as dramatic as this.

On Friday, the pundits mused that Tony Stewart seemed completely relaxed, while leader Carl Edwards was slightly more uptight. I thought the quips and barbs of the championship press conference this week felt a little too staged and contrived, but there's little doubt that the emotions of the two title contenders were on display.

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Homestretch at Homestead

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is it!  The final week of the season.

The final time I'll dig through NASCAR's statistical advance, scrounge through NASCAR.com and check out Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR stats in hopes of calculating a winning formula.

This weekend's all about Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, but that doesn't mean there won't be 41 other cars on the track for the Ford 400.

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NASCAR's Game 7

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In most sports, Game 7 is the pinnacle of competition.  The winner-take-all, loser-goes-home-empty-handed crux that defines the thin line between glory and gut-wrenching disappointment.

Auto racing doesn't really have that.  It doesn't have a sudden death goal, a buzzer beating shot or a game-winning field goal.  At least, it doesn't usually have something like that.  That's changed this year.

This weekend's race at Homestead will be Game 7 for the Sprint Cup Series.  Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart will go head-to-head in an elimination round.

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A Mile Full of Questions

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

By now you've probably heard that Phoenix International Raceway underwent a huge face lift this summer.

Only in Arizona is the weather warm enough that you can space races so far apart to undertake these changes during the season!  The raceway changed some of the banking, reshaped the backstretch to more of a dog leg and laid down new pavement on the aging track.

All of these will make this race the Chase's biggest wild card outside of Talladega.

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Living Up to the Hype

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could we ask anything more from the Chase for the Sprint Cup!?

Well, Junior fans would probably say a race win, but aside from that, we're getting our money's worth this autumn!

Texas Motor Speedway spent all last week building up the Carl Edwards vs. Tony Stewart duel and the two competitors delivered the promise on Sunday.  Stewart dominated the race, but Edwards crossed the finish line right behind him for second.

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It's the weekend again, time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THIS WON'T BE a popular entry among the NASCAR sect – particularly among the card-carrying, "racing was a lot better when Ned Jarrett won races by seven laps" fans in the group – but the news that Mark Martin was moving to Michael Waltrip Racing next seasons sparked plenty of social media debate.

Well, by "debate" I mean national media types fawning all over Martin.

I, on the other hand, sparked a lot of, ummm, "debate" over on a colleague's Facebook page when I openly criticized Martin, Waltrip and some of the decision-makers on NASCAR's well-established teams.

At the crux of my argument is the fact that Martin's time really has come and gone. Like, gone a while ago. Martin has just nine Top-5 finishes in his last 69 races heading into Texas this weekend – two fewer than the much-maligned Joey Logano over the same stretch. While Martin is replacing a driver in David Reutimann that hasn't exactly set the world on fire (just one Top-5 and two Top-10 finishes this season), Reutimann is often lauded by his competitors as one of the most underrated drivers in the NASCAR garage.

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Stakes Raised in Texas

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday, Texas Motor Speedway sent out an email likening the matchup between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart to a heavyweight boxing fight.

Myself?  I prefer to stick to the stereotypical poker reference to Texas Hold 'Em, as we prepare for the AAA Texas 500.

At this point, it's down to a small Final Table.  Kevin Harvick might have a few chips left, maybe even Brad Keselowski, but the system should blind them out of it soon and leave a heads-up match between Edwards and Stewart.

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What a nice day today!  It's warm, the snow's melting, you can see some green poking through the ground; it's spring, right!?  When's FANtasy Drive?

Ugh.

Nope.  Unfortunately, that opinion falls somewhere between delusional and denial.  We just got an early, pre-Halloween snowstorm before the late autumn warmth restored order to the season today.

Still, the first snow is always a sad day at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  It's the end of the season and it fittingly came just in time to close out the year.

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First of all, congratulations to Dave Blaney.  He finished third at Talladega last week, his best career Cup finish.

But, that leads to the question, what the heck!?

There are 12 drivers allegedly competing for a championship and Blaney's just excited he has enough points to qualify automatically each week.  How did all 12 finish behind him Sunday!?

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No Knocks on Wood

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In 2011, the Loudon Road Race Series featured as many twists as the 12-turn road course it races on at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The year started in the cold flurries of April, raced through the intense humidity of a New England summer and came to a close in the fading light of fall foliage.

For seven months, the series invaded NHMS for a full weekend of racing. Its marquee race, known as the "Dash for the Cash," ran on Saturday afternoons as the Middleweight Grand Prix class.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Racing season in New England has slowed to a crawl - and is virtually finished following last weekend's Oktoberfest at Lee USA Speedway – but some drivers and crews found a way to go out with a bang.

Without further ado, here's a look at who made the podium:

1. Wayne Helliwell, Dover, N.H.

Helliwell had a great weekend at his home track of Lee USA Speedway, collecting a pair of victories as part of the season-ending Oktoberfest at the speedway. Helliwell won the curfew-shortened Six Pack Pro Stock Challenge Series event Saturday night, and he followed that by winning the Late Model event on Sunday afternoon.

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It's the weekend again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust her off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THE LOSS OF Dan Wheldon shook racing to its core this week, not just in open-wheel circles but across the racing landscape. The reasons are obvious: Wheldon was a popular personality, and IndyCar champion and a two-time winner of the most prestigious single auto race in the United States.

The one thing I've taken away from all of it is the need for change in IndyCar, specifically to the cars themselves. I don't necessarily agree with Jimmie Johnson's assessment that the series should get away from oval racing entirely; I don't have a problem with the speeds, and I'm only concerned about the tracks there on when it comes to those individual tracks making sure their facilities are safe for all types of racing.

What I do believe, however, is that the days of the open cockpit race car have come and gone.

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Drafting Through the Chase

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The last time NASCAR visited Talladega, it made for one of the most exciting races of the season.  The Aaron's 499 featured a record 88 lead changes, and eight cars raced in four tandem groups with Jimmie Johnson edging Clint Bowyer by 0.002 seconds for the win.

However, despite the finish, the two-car draft has a got a lot of press and stirred up a lot of controversy among the media and fans.  It's been such a discussion that NASCAR has changed the restrictor plate sizes for Sunday's Sam Good Club 500.

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Merely Mortal

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sunday, we were all reminded that the sport we know and love has a dark side.

As race fans, we understand that the thing that makes our sport so exciting and so fun to watch is the same thing that makes it so dangerous.  The shear speed and thrill of nose-to-tail racing at such high rates gives the sport its excitement.

It also gives it its dangers, and, in Sunday's IndyCar race, the excitement gave way to the danger.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performances from the past weekend.

As championships get decided and the last few events of the season wind down, the efforts get all the more impressive, and this past week was no exception.

Without further ado, here are the top performances from the week that was:

1. Ron Silk, Norwalk, Conn.

On the surface, Silk's 16th-place finish in the season-ending Sunoco World Series 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wasn't all that impressive. But when you consider that Silk was as many as nine laps down a third of the way through the race after being caught up in oil left on the track at Thompson International Speedway and rallied back from as far back as 31st in the running order, it was the mettle of championship teams.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – A wild, wild day at Thompson International Speedway ended with a first-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner in Victory Lane and a first-time champion celebrating in a spray of champagne.

Glen Reen made his last-minute decision to enter the event pay off, surviving a number of late-race restarts – including three green-white-checkered attempts – two win the Sunoco World Series 150. Ron Silk, meanwhile, fought back from an early accident to finish 16th and win the first Tour championship for both he and car owner Ed Partridge.

"If you told me this morning that I was going to start 24 and win this race, I would have told you you were out of your mind," said Reen, who called his mother from Victory Lane to tell her about the win, only to have her tell him that it wasn't funny to joke around like that.

"We decided on Monday, 'Oh, screw it. Let's go have some fun. This is definitely fun, I can tell you that."

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It's the final weekend of the year. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

DID A GREAT radio spot with the folks on "In The Pits" over in Maine on Friday and I was posed a question about what some of my impressions of the 2011 season had been. An innocuous enough question, of course, but it did spark an interesting debate.

I believe that 10 years from now, we're going to look back on what Brian Hoar has done this year and say that we've witnessed one of the most impressive seasons in New England racing history. Hoar won his third straight ACT Late Model Tour championship this season – his record eighth overall – and did it in about as dominant a fashion as you could imagine.

Hoar had just one finish of worse than sixth in 12 ACT points races this season, winning five times and posting nine Top-5s over that stretch. In addition, he won non-points races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Thunder Road International Speedbowl and at Autodrome Chaudiere. In a division where parity isn't just the philosophy, it's the life mission of Tour president Tom Curley, Hoar and his RPM Motorsports team has made the Tour their playground.

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Banking for 500

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is it the Bank of America 500 or the Bank of America $5.00?

I've been a Bank of America customer for a few years because it's easy to find a BoA ATM most anywhere life takes me, but in the event I don't find one, I can bank on seeing the charges roll on my statement.

This weekend, it will be the drivers of the Sprint Cup Series that will roll onto the banking of Charlotte Motor Speedway in a quest to cash in on the ultimate prize and win the Bank of America 500.

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All In For Vegas

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

With so much energy going toward NASCAR's Chase, it's time to temporarily divert our focus toward the final race of the IZOD IndyCar Series and what poses to be a great race for the championship.

In recent years, the IndyCar championship has been in Homestead much like NASCAR, and, much like NASCAR, the same driver has dominated the series of late.  That's Dario Franchitti.

This year, however, the final race will be hosted by Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and only time will tell if a change in venue will mark a changing of the guard.

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BARRE, Vt. – Brian Hoar put family first on Sunday at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, and by doing so family put him first.

Hoar won the first and third segments, holding off track champion and part-time RPM Motorsports teammate Nick Sweet to win the 49 annual People's United Bank Milk Bowl. The victory was Hoar's third career Milk Bowl victory and capped a season in which he won a record eighth career ACT Late Model championship.

"This is unbelievable," Hoar said in Victory Lane. "Man, that was awesome. I thought I lost it. It was wicked. I mean, unbelievable. It had been so many years since I won a race here, and I've always said the Milk Bowls that I won back in the '90s were just awesome."

But Hoar's victory Sunday carried added significance when it came to his family.

In the week leading up to the race, Hoar noted that his daughters – ages 10 and 9 – had never seen him win Vermont's most prestigious short-track event. His previous wins came in 1998 and 1999, before his girls were born, and he joked that his 33 career ACT wins meant little to his little ones.

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BARRE, Vt. – As it always does, a much clearer overall picture emerged in the second segment of the 49th annual People's United Bank Milk Bowl on Sunday afternoon.

Scott Payea charged from 21st starting position in the 75-lap middle segment to finish sixth and take a two-point lead over Nick Sweet with one final segment remaining at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. Sweet finished 10th in the second stanza, while Brian Hoar – the pole winner and winner of the first segment – finsihed 12th to stay within three points of the lead.

Mike "Beetle" Bailey won the second segment ahead of Craig Bushey and Chip Grenier.

But the segment clearly belonged to Payea, who was busy moving toward the front while the others in the battle for the overall lead were busy wrestling with one another.

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BARRE, Vt. – The leaders held serve in the opening segment of the 49th annual People's United Bank Milk Bowl.

The three fastest drivers during time trials and the three heat race winners – Brian Hoar, Nick Sweet and Dave Pembroke – finished 1-2-3 in the first 50-lap Milk Bowl segment on Sunday at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. Hoar, who earlier in the day won his fifth career Milk Bowl pole, led every lap.

Hoar is a two-time Milk Bowl champion and was last year's runner-up.

Scott Payea and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. rounded out the Top-5 finishers. Polewarczyk, who won last year's Milk Bowl with a total score of 12, started 11th before getting up to the Top-5.

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BARRE, Vt. – We're on schedule at Thunder Road International Speedbowl.

A field of 50 Late Models from the northeast and Canada breezed through time trials and three caution-free 25-lap heat races to set the first 24 starting position for Sunday's 49th annual People's United Bank Milk Bowl. The race was rained out last weekend, forcing track officials to cram a two-day show into one full day of racing.

Brian Hoar, the eight-time ACT Late Model Tour champion, led a list of usual suspects at the front of the field during a unique time-trial format that saw 10 five-car groups run 90-second sessions to record their fastest laps. Hoar's lap of 13.049-seconds around the quarter-mile handed him his fifth career Milk Bowl pole.

Dave Pembroke, the 2011 Thunder Road track champion, and Nick Sweet – last year's track champion and winner of the ACT Labor Day Classic 200 here in September – also locked in their starting spots via time trials.

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BARRE, Vt. -- It's Milk Bowl day at Thunder Road International Speedbowl. CLICK HERE to view the complete photo gallery.

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Rising in the Flatlands

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I've never been to Kansas.  I've driven through every surrounding state: Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri - when I was within a straightaway of Kansas.  I can attest to one thing: it's as flat as you imagine it to be.

However, despite the landscape of both the state and the current Chase field (nine drivers are on a relatively-level surface), this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400 should feature some mountain highs and valley lows for the drivers depending on their respective outcomes.

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 It's Thursday again... Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock and pull it out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHO DOESN'T ENJOY seeing a grown man kiss a cow?

Well, actually, I don't. In fact, I'm pretty well horrified by the fact. The more I think about it, the more nauseous I get, come to think of it. Nevertheless, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 grown men trying to do just that this weekend at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre.

It's time for the annual running of the Milk Bowl, quite possibly the most unique tradition in motorsports.

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We Know We Don't Know

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

After three weeks into the Chase, we know one thing for sure and that's that we know anything for certain.

...(I'll pause while you read that over again.)

Usually, at three weeks into the Chase, the contenders have started to weed themselves out from the also rans.  Whether it's the change in the scoring system or just an even field of drivers, that hasn't happened this year.

Nine of 12 drivers sit within a competitive 19 points of first.  Who will win is up for debate!

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At the beginning of each week, we take a look back at the top performers from the week that was across the regional racing landscape.

Rain, rain, rain. Seemed like a dominant theme for any track north of Connecticult last weekend, but both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour held important on-track battles in their overall championship picture.

Without further ado, here's a look back at who was at their best in crunch time:

1. Max Gresham, Griffin, Ga.

Gresham finished third on Friday in the Dover 150 at Dover International Speedway to win his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.

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Monster Mashing

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This weekend marks the start of October on the calendar and for all you loonies out there that decorate more for Halloween than for the Holidays, the month of Halloween has started.

For the rest of us, we'll just be subjected to feverishly flipping through radio stations trying to find one that isn't playing yet another rendition of "Monster Mash."

At least we can agree on one thing, however, this weekend's at "The Monster Mile" will feature a lot of championships getting mashed.

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Number One Fans

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As my inaugural season as an employee in auto racing comes to a close, it's time to look back and reflect.  When I first arrived at NHMS, I had a strong understanding of the basics of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  I knew the drivers, I knew how the points worked and I knew that restrictor plates regulated car speeds.

However, in my year of experience, I've learned a lot more about the sport.  The most significant thing I've learned: NASCAR fans are the best in sports.

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Each Monday, we take a look back at the top performances from the week that was.

A jam-packed weekend of racing in New England – with most of it dodging the raindrops and taking place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during Sylvania 300 weekend. Not surprisingly, with only a few weeks left in most seasons regionally, the points battles heated up this weekend.

Without further ado, here's the best from the weekend:

1. Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass.

MacDonald became the first repeat winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the ACT Late Model Tour ranks, holding off Nick Sweet to win the 3rd annual ACT Invitational on Saturday. MacDonald, who also won the event in 2009, now has five career wins at New Hampshire – including three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victories.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Twelve drivers entered New Hampshire Motor Speedway's infield tunnel this weekend with hopes of winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Some – most notably Tony Stewart – took a big step in that direction on Sunday afternoon in the Sylvania 300. Others, like Denny Hamlin, may have had the first nail or two pegged into the proverbial coffin.

Here's the way the 12 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers emerged from The Magic Mile and what we think the Sylvania 300 told us about each:

1. TONY STEWART, Winner of the Sylvania 300

While Stewart's second straight win to open the Chase was notable, what the driver of the No. 14 Mobile 1 Chevrolet said in Victory Lane – on national television, no less – may have created more waves.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Tony Stewart is back.

Stewart has opened the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a vicious one-two punch, winning the fuel mileage game and the Sylvania 300 Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his second straight Chase win in as many races.

In a reverse of last season's Chase opener at New Hampshire, Stewart inherited the lead from Clint Bowyer when Bowyer ran out of fuel while leading with less than three laps remaining. Stewart keyed his radio and told his team, "Take a deep breath, I've got this," as he rolled off into the final corner of the race.

"(Crew chief Darian Grubb) told me we were two to three laps to the good (on fuel), so I got to run hard all the way to the end," Stewart said. "That was the biggest thing.

"It was definitely an awesome ending to the day. It was tough getting there for the first two-thirds of the race. We kind of hung around 10th through 12th there – not by choice or design. It was just all we could get... but the closer we got to the front, the better our car drove."

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LOUDON, N.H. – Two years ago, Tom Curley was filled with an equal mix of anxiousness and hopefulness, eagerness and dread.

One can't be certain, but it's a good bet that the Hall of Fame promoter probably woke up to cold sweats in the summer of 2009, wondering if the teams on his short-track based ACT Late Model Tour could handle the challenge of racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the Tour's first-ever race at the facility neared.

On Saturday afternoon, following far and away the most entertaining and competitive ACT race ever held on the one-mile speedway, these short-trackers proved that they are a very quick study.

The 3rd annual ACT Invitational featured a half-dozen lead changes among four drivers, most notably the final four-lap side-by-side battle for the lead between Eddie MacDonald and Nick Sweet – one that MacDonald won off the final corner of the final lap in a drag race to the checkered flag.

Behind them, throughout the 50-lap feature event, drivers swapped positions, traded paint and routinely fanned out three- and four-wide across the sprawling surface of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Even Curley himself admitted following MacDonald's second win in the event that in his wildest dreams – in those quiet moments of reflection leading into ACT's first trip to New Hampshire in 2009 – he'd never imagined his teams could put on the kind of race they did Saturday.

In fact, he didn't even think they were yet capable of such a race as recently as Saturday morning.

"No," was Curley's quick reply. "This was like magic."

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LOUDON, N.H. – Eddie MacDonald got a second chance and wasn't about to let it slip away.

MacDonald emerged from a five-lap, side-by-side battle to the finish with Nick Sweet – erasing the memory of a lost opportunity here in August – to win the 3rd annual ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. MacDonald's victory was his fifth career victory at the track, including three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East wins.

MacDonald won the first-ever ACT Late Model Tour event held at New Hampshire back in 2009.

Shawn Martin finished third in his best career New Hampshire finish, while Quinny Welch and Brian Hoar – who won at the track in August – rounded out the Top-5.

"I can't praise Nick Sweet enough," MacDonald said. "He ran me hard. I had to run as hard as I could just to try to keep up with him – and I just got lucky at the end. I got a real good run off the corner on that last turn.

"I'm just so excited to get... into Victory Lane."

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LOUDON, N.H. – A two-car battle at New Hampshire Motor Speedway turned into a one-car runaway.

Ron Silk pulled away from the field on a green-white-checkered restart, leaving Rowan Pennink and the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour field behind as he want on to win the New Hampshire 100 on Saturday afternoon. The win was Silk's second career Tour win at New Hampshire and unofficially handed him the series points lead with two races remaining.

Silk and Rowan Pennink had set up a two-car battle for the win. But that dogfight disappeared when Ryan Preece spun off Turn 2 to bring out a late caution flag and set up a two-lap run to the finish.

Silk lined up outside of Pennink, but Pennink never got up to speed on the restart.

"(Pennink) was really good all day. I think he and I probably had the best two cars,," Silk said. "I'm not sure what happened on the restart. Luckily, we were able to edge him out."

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LOUDON, N.H. – Further proof, as if we needed it, that weathermen are wrong more often than not.

What was supposed to be a washout weekend here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is smack dab in the middle of a busy Saturday schedule – with no sign of a break anytime today. Right now, final Sprint Cup Series practice is circling the track.

In just over an hour, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will head out for its New Hampshire 100. It should be interesting, too, with Ted Christopher and Bobby Santos among the fastest three cars in this morning's final practice.

Both Christopher and Santos will start at the rear of the field, both having missed practice and qualifying here on Thursday. Santos is the defending Tour champion, while Christopher has five career Whelen Modified Tour wins at New Hampshire.

After that event, the Camping World Truck Series 175 rolls off.

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LOUDON, N.H. – There was no raining on Brett Moffitt's parade at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In fact, the rain literally couldn't have come at a better time.

Moffitt led all but the first 15 laps of the New Hampshire 125 on Friday, dominating en route to his first career win at The Magic Mile and slicing a huge chunk out of his deficit in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings. Called after only 78 laps by rain, a lengthy cleanup on the backstretch and impending darkness, Moffitt celebrated the win in a muted Victory Lane ceremony in an empty garage stall in the speedway's infield.

But on the inside, down only 21 points to Max Gresham heading into the series finale at Dover International Speedway next weekend, Moffitt was jumping for joy.

"I've finished second so many times here, it was just great to be able to win one and get that off my back," said Moffitt, who won at Dover last season. "I thought for a while, it just wasn't meant to be for me with this place.

"It was great. The car was great, and a win really pushes us into Dover. We're really confident with our car we're taking to Dover. We're really full steam ahead and hoping for the best."

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LOUDON, N.H. – This qualifying session certainly wasn't lacking in the drama department.

Ryan Newman overcame a pair of rain delays and controversy along pit road to win the pole Friday for this weekend's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Newman, who set the track record back in July, picked up his sixth career New Hampshire pole and was the last car to go out in the qualifying session for the second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

"I'm just really proud of the guys," Newman said. "This is the same car we had here in July... I don't think I've seen that much drama in qualifying in my 10 or 11 years here."

Red Bull Racing, which has already announced plans to close down at the end of the season, took the second and third spots. Kasey Kahne went out right before Newman and grabbed the second spot, while Brian Vickers was third. Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch will start fourth and fifth, respectively.

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 LOUDON, N.H. – Though we're smack in the middle of the "new" era of NASCAR, with round two of the Chase for the Sprint Cup taking place here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there's a bit of history being celebrated.

Tommy Baldwin Racing has a pair of tribute cars at the track this weekend – a Richie Evans tribute car driven by Dave Blaney and an "Ol' Blue" ride for former Whelen Modified Tour regular Steve Park.

Baldwin, whose father Tom Baldwin Sr. was killed in a crash during a Modified Tour event at Thompson International Speedway in 2004. But Tommy Baldwin Jr., Sprint Cup Series crew chief and owner, has remained a big supporter of the division over the years.

"It's good that it brings awareness to the Modifieds," Baldwin said of the tributes at NHMS this weekend. "They certainly need that shot in the arm."

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LOUDON, N.H. – Don't count Ron Silk out of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship picture just yet.

Silk capped off a strong, if weather-abbreviated afternoon, by winning the pole for Saturday's New Hampshire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Thursday. Silk, whose lead atop the series standings was surrendered to Todd Szegedy last week at Lime Rock Park, won this race in 2009.

"We're just going to keep doing what we're doing," Silk said.

Szegedy qualified eighth. He leads Silk by 12 points with three races remaining.

Eric Beers qualified second, with Justin Bonsignore qualifying third. Ryan Newman – who was stripped of his victory here in July after an apparent third straight Modified win at the track – qualified fourth.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Early Thursday afternoon, Darrell Wallace Jr. joked that New Hampshire Motor Speedway wasn't at the top of his list of favorite race tracks. The reasoning, Wallace said, was that he'd never won at The Magic Mile.

After Wallace's pole-winning lap at New Hampshire later in the day handed him a new NASCAR K&N Pro Series East track record, Wallace had changed his tune.

"I love it now," Wallace said with a big smile.

Three-time New Hampshire winner Eddie MacDonald qualified second for the New Hampshire 125, which gets the green flag at 5 p.m. Friday.

Wallace's time of 29.849 seconds (127.602 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval eclipsed the previous track record of 29.863 seconds held by Brett Moffitt, who who qualified third.

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LOUDON, N.H. – No real surprises in qualifying Thursday, unless you count the appearance of some blue sky and sunshine.

Darrell Wallace Jr. paced the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East field in New Hampshire 125 practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while Eric Beers continued his strong showing on the big track in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ranks.

Wallace posted a fast lap of 30.037 seconds (126.804 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval, less than two-tenths of a second slower than the track record Brett Moffitt set here in this race last season. Wallace sits third in the series standings with two races remaining.

While attending a Boston Red Sox game on Wednesday night, Wallace was informed that the No. 6 U.S. Army Toyota he brought to New Hampshire this weekend is the same one his Revolution Racing team plans on taking to the season-finale in Dover, Del., next week.

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 It's Thursday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WE'RE BACK IN the saddle again here in the infield at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, just about 100 yards from the namesake of this blog – the Granite Stripe start/finish line.

This, to me, remains the biggest weekend of the season at The Magic Mile. It's got everything, and it comes a perfect time of year, too. The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup makes its annual stop in New England, the Camping World Truck Series always provides one of the best on-track events of the year here, two of the northeast's racing bedrocks are on the card – the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Whelen Modified Tour – and the ACT Late Model Tour showcase Invitational returns.

Five great racing events. Perfect early autumn temperatures. The intensity of late-season points battles.

Now, if we could just get Mother Nature to cooperate.

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Shining the SYLVANIA Light

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No, sorry fans, this isn't an announcement that NHMS will be investing in lights for a race.

I hear the requests of fans.  I understand the appeal to a night race.  And, I realize that with a company that specializes in light bulbs, like SYLVANIA, sponsoring our race that the marketing is already there.

But, it's not that easy.

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By the time the green flag drops on a race this weekend at NHMS, the weatherman will claim that autumn has started (officially on Sept. 23).

Yet, in New England, we've come to assume the weatherman isn't always right and we won't be listening to him this weekend.  NASCAR's in town and our summer isn't over yet!

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Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was in racing.

This weekend, there were lots of lefthand turns being made – and even some right-handed ones, too. Though most weekly programs have wrapped up around the northeast, the touring series in the region are running through a slew of special events. Without further ado, here are the top performances from the week that was:

1. Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn.

Szegedy played a patient, lurking strategy to perfection in winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 66/99 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut on Saturday. Szegedy picked up his third win of the season and moved into the series points lead in the process.

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Chicagoland Entertainment

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is it just me or does Chicagoland sound like some sort of absurdly oversized amusement park in the midwest?  It strikes me as the kind of place that would have about two dozen roller coasters and a water park about the size of Rhode Island.

In truth, it doesn't have that, but it will be a giant amusement park through eyes of any NASCAR fans this Sunday.  And, it will certainly have plenty of metaphorical roller coasters with the Chase kicking off this weekend in the GECIO 400.

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Powering Up for the Chase

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I've been writing this blog every week.  I've come up with various stories about NASCAR, INDYCAR, motorcycle racing, an old piece of junk car I owned in high school and whatever other idea seemed relevant.

This week's blog is one of the easiest and, considering we're busy ramping up for the race week here at NHMS, that's a needed relief.

It's the power rankings and the Granite Stripe's predictions for NASCAR's coveted 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup trophy.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performances from the week that was in the racing world.

Drivers turned in some huge efforts this weekend, both on the local and regional scene, setting the stage for what promises to be a fantastic final few weeks of racing in the northeast. Without further ado...

1. Doug Coby, Milford, Conn.

Coby, who had won just one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in the last five years, had his most lucrative day behind the wheel at Thompson International Speedway on Sunday.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – After being asked if he'd ever won so much money in a single race, Doug Coby looked right back at his interrogator with steely eyes and a clear message.

"Have you?"

Doug Coby led all but five laps of the inaugural UNOH Showdown at Thompson International Speedway on Sunday, collecting more than $20,000 in purse and bonus money for winning the 50-lap, no-holds-barred shootout between the best of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Coby, who won the Whelen Modified Tour's Northern Thompson 125 earlier in the day, started on the pole and was dominant over a series of late-race restarts en route to the checkered flag.

"That's awesome. Our team deserves it," Coby said. "I want to say I deserve it – I don't want to sound cocky – but I've been through a lot with this Tour. A lot of people believed in me to get the job done, and it feels good to pay them back with good runs."

The victories at Thompson were the first two of any kind, in any division, for Coby at the track.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – Two races, two first-time winners at Thompson International Speedway.

A pair of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour 125-lap points events set the stage for the UNOH Showdown later this afternoon, with Doug Coby running away with the Northern Thompson 125 not long after George Brunnhoelzl III won a controversial Southern Thompson 125 on Sunday afternoon.

Coby, who had never won a feature event in any division at Thompson, led all but the first nine laps to capture the Northern Thompson 125.

"It's always been a dream of mine to make that right-hand turn into Victory Lane here," said Coby, a two-time Whelen Modified Tour race winner. "This thing is stout at this race track.... What an awesome car for this race track."

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THOMPSON, Conn. – Despite the pure melting pot of teams from all over the Eastern seaboard at the UNOH Showdown, a couple of familiar faces took pole awards at Thompson International Speedway on Saturday.

Ryan Preece set the fast time for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's Northern Thompson 125, while New Englander Andy Seuss followed by wining the pole for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Southern Thompson 125.

Preece's fast lap of 18.769 seconds (119.879 mph) was only one-tenth of a second faster than Seuss' own pole-winning speed.

"I came around the first lap and looked at the scoreboard," said Preece, who has competed in roughly half the Tour's events this season in a family-owned car after leaving a full-time ride in 2010. "I didn't know if it said 40 – it could have been anybody – but I came back around and somebody said, 'You're on the board.'

"I came back around and saw it, and I thought, 'Boy, I hope it stays that way.'"

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THOMPSON, Conn. – There are nearly 50 NASCAR Modifieds on the grounds at Thompson International Speedway, all of them here for tomorrow's inaugural UNOH Showdown.

As you probably already know, the day includes a pair of 125-lap points events for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour followed by a 50-lap Showdown pitting the top finishers from each of those races in a dash for cash.

Practice and qualifying for both NASCAR divisions in scheduled for today.

There are a total of 25 cars entered in the Whelen Modified Tour portion of the event, notably Ted Christopher returning to the seat of the No. 36 Ed Whelan-owned ride after a brief breakup. A couple of drivers not entered this weekend include Richie Pallai and Ron Yuhas.

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It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test drive around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

HINDSIGHT MAY WELL be 20-20, but John Donahue still had things clearly in focus after finishing fourth in the Labor Day Classic 200 at Thunder Road on Sunday.

Donahue dominated the first three-quarters of the ACT Late Model Tour event, leading the first 168 laps from the pole before fading at the end. What bit Donahue was one of the elements that makes the Labor Day Classic such a unique event at Thunder Road.

Pit strategy.

Donahue was the only driver on the track that chose not to pit for fresh right side tires at any point during the race, a strategy he similarly employed in winning the 2007 Labor Day Classic. Even has he saw drivers like Nick Sweet, Jean-Paul Cyr, Scott Payea and Austin Theriault start their charges toward the front following their pit stops, he said he and the No. 26 team never wavered from their pre-race decision.

"Nope. We talked about it here (in the pit area), and I said, 'We've won it before and the car's really good. Let's put our best tires on it now,'" Donahue said. "We started with our best tires on it, and we almost won it. That's the way we went into this thing and the way we played it."

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Choosing the Chase

Thursday, September 8, 2011

There's a constant debate among NASCAR fans on whether they like the Chase or not.  That debate has been compounded this year with the addition of the wild card.

Interestingly enough, if the Chase started today, the wild card would have no bearing as the two qualifiers currently sit in 11th and 12th and would have rounded out the 12-car field anyway.

That doesn't stop the argument on NASCAR's choice of having a "playoff" Chase format.

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Heartbreak Holiday

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The writing should have been on the wall when NASCAR postponed Sunday night's race through the Monday holiday by scheduling an unusual Tuesday morning start.

For the majority of fans in Atlanta that meant they'd have to head back to work or school or other commitments and wouldn't be able to watch the race.  For those around the country, it meant the same thing.

For Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and David Ragan, they might have preferred fewer people watched.

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BARRE, Vt. – Nick Sweet may have gone an entire season without a win in weekly competition at Thunder Road International Speedbowl, but the 2010 track champion has been lights-out in ACT Late Model Tour racing at the quarter-mile.

Sweet played the pit strategy game to perfection, taking the lead with 13 laps to go en route to winning the Bond Auto Labor Day Classic 200 on Sunday afternoon. Sweet, who had the freshest tires on the race track over the final quarter of the race, drove around Joey Polewarczyk Jr. shortly after the race's final restart.

"The guys, they called it perfect. They said, 'It's time to come and pit,'" Sweet said. "Man, it was awesome. It was so much fun."

The victory came in just the second start of the season for Sweet with RPM Motorsports. His win in the ACT Merchants Bank 150 back in May came while driving for his own team.

"I thought we'd do it the first time," Sweet joked in Victory Lane, when he was asked about winning so soon in the No. 57 RPM Racing Engines Ford.

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It's Friday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I HAD A really great conversation with NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points leader Max Gresham this week, some of which you can read by heading over to NASCAR Home Tracks and reading the feature story I wrote for those guys.

One of the highlights of the story is Gresham openly speaking about where he's made the most improvements this season. My favorite quote of all was what he said when I asked him if he was at all surprised to be dominating the series' standings with three races left this season.

"I would like to say no, but honestly, I'm a little surprised," Gresham said.

Gresham, who won the pole for the New England 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in July and went on to win an eventful race there, has done the one thing this year that separates drivers with a future along the NASCAR ladder and those who won't have any longevity. He has completely grasped the concept this year that being fast and being with a great team aren't enough on their own to let you go out and go for broke every weekend.

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Laboring Into Atlanta

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As one of our sister tracks (or is it brother?  I'm never quite sure how that works), there are probably plenty of good things to say about Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There are storylines about how they sadly got one of their race weekend's taken away, but a Labor Day night race might be one of the most appealing of any to host.

And, that brings us to this week's topic: Labor Day.

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Smoke's Got That Fire

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

They say where there's smoke, there's fire.

After racing against Tony "Smoke" Stewart in go-karts last week at F1 Boston, I can confirm that Stewart still has the racing fire in the belly.

Admittedly, it was hard to determine if it was "Smoke" I was seeing or just the cloud of dust he left behind.  Either way, save a few hearty souls, not many of the attendees had what it took to keep up with the former Sprint Cup Champion.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from the week that was.

It was championship weekend around northern New England, and this week's Podium reflects that as tracks and tours begin the late summer stretch of crowning champions. Some great testaments to short-track racing and perseverance this week, too.

So, without further ado...

1. Jeff White, Winthrop, Maine

After years of competing part-time at Oxford Plains Speedway with the hopes of one good run a summer – preferably in the TD Bank Oxford 250 – White won one for the "Everyman" in all of us by securing his first career Oxford Plains Late Model track championship on Saturday night. White finished sixth in the 40-lap Oxford Championship Series feature event to take the title over Donnie Wentworth.

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It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test run with a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I REALIZE FULL well that I might be alone in this sentiment, but that's hardly stopped me in the past.

A race track does not make a race.

The third trip by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to Bristol Motor Speedway this week proved that adage once again. The first half of the UNOH 150 was a collage of wrecked race cars and misfortune, often involving some of the most accomplished teams and drivers on the circuit.

The second half of the race was – once again – the Ryan Newman show, with Newman's No. 77 (note: NOT the No. 7, wink-wink) pulling away from the rest of the field when it was time to go earn the money.

The race, from start to finish, looked just like a race in any other division at any other track in the United States. That is to say, there was some good racing, some back luck and some untimely carnage.

That, friends, is stock car racing.

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Bracing for Bristol

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Other than NHMS, where would you most like to watch a race?

Daytona?  Talladega?

When I posed the same question on the website's poll in April, Bristol was the runaway winner with 41% of the votes.

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Five-Time Favorite

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As we get into the later parts of the summer and the kids start heading back to school, there are a few inevitabilities to accept as we approach the New England fall:

-The weather will get colder.

-The leaves will change colors.

-Jimmie Johnson will be the favorite to win the Sprint Cup when the SYLVANIA 300 races at NHMS.

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Purely Michigan

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I've started to cut down some of the intros to the Fantasy NASCAR Preview.  In large part because it takes a while to dig through the stats and it's usually a busy day. But, I'm hesitant to eliminate it all together.

I figure that you as a reader want some sort of basis and background on the race, not just the bare bones of the fantasy options.

This week's discussion is obvious.  It's purely about Michigan!

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The result of Sunday's MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 was literally a no-win situation for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

In the waning moments of the race, a caution flew for moisture on the track and, as the Indy cars counted down the laps behind the pace car, INDYCAR faced a tough decision: let down the fans with a caution under finish (no green-white-checkered in this series, or throw the green flag and hope the tires held their ground on the slick track.

The ultimate decision and ensuing mayhem has stirred up plenty of controversy.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performances from the week that was from around the region.

What a busy week it was, too, with four divisions at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, special Modified events on a couple of nights in Connecticut and short-track racing across the northeast heading into championship mode.

Without futher ado, we present The Podium:

1. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.

A former track record holder in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Hoar collected his first career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a win in the ACT All-Star Challenge on Saturday. The victory was the record 32nd of Hoar's ACT career as he continued to keep a stranglehold on the top spot in the Tour standings this season.

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LOUDON, N.H. -- With the last 10 scheduled laps of the MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 lost to wet weather Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it only seemed fair that you – the devoted Granite Stripe readers – get back a little of what you lost.

That being said, here are 10 impressions from the IZOD IndyCar Series much-anticipated return to New England.

Just for you, they're numbered in order:

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LOUDON, N.H. – The driver who once came to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to watch an open-wheel race as a young boy earned his first career IZOD IndyCar Series victory on an oval at the track.

Ryan Hunter-Reay emerged from a wild finish on an eventful day in the series' return to New England to win the MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 on Sunday afternoon, getting away from a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch behind him.

"We had such a great car today. I love these short ovals," said Hunter-Reay, who earlier in the week talked about having visited the track as a child and instantly developing an affinity for both the facility and the series. "They are so much fun. It was a strange day, but sometimes racing is strange."

Hunter-Reay's storybook win – the fifth of his career in CART/IndyCar played second fiddle to the biggest storyline of the day.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Brian Hoar finally has the one thing he wanted. A win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Hoar blistered his way through the field in the second segment on Saturday evening, charging from 35th to first and taking the victory in the inaugural ACT All-Star Challenge. Hoar finished second in the morning's 25-lap segment and won the second 50-lap segment for a low total score of three points in claiming his record 32nd career ACT Late Model Tour win.

"Finally, I got one at New Hampshire," said Hoar, of Williston, Vt. "This is unbelievable. I've been after this thing for 10 years or so, first with (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) cars and now with these ACT cars. This is just awesome."

Hoar benefitted most when Eddie MacDonald, who won the first segment, stopped on the apron of Turn 1 while leading under caution with 14 laps remaining in the second segment. MacDonald's ignition system gave out – putting him in the garage for the remainder of the afternoon.

"We were fast, too," MacDonald said. "It just went. I went to warm up the tires and the car shut off, and my first thought was, 'There's no way we're out of fuel.'"

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LOUDON, N.H. – For Mike Stefanik, it was worth the wait.

Stefanik held off the furious challenges of Todd Szegedy and Woody Pitkat over two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish to win the Granite State Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon. The Coventry, R.I., driver added his 71st-career Tour victory to the resume – the Tour's all-time mark – and posted his seventh career New Hampshire win.

"The whole team, they've all been waiting for this," Stefanik said. "This is our big Daytona of the Modified (Tour). Who says you're old at 53 years old on the Whelen Modified Tour? I felt 18 out there again."

Pitkat finished second, with Szegedy in third. Justin Bonsignore and Eric Beers rounded out the Top-5.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Dario Franchitti picked up Saturday where he left off on Thursday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Franchitti was the only driver in IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying to top 170 mph around the flat 1.058-mile oval, clocking a two-lap average of 170.843 mph to win the pole for Sunday's MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver was also the first to cross the 170-mph barrier during open testing at New Hampshire on Thursday.

"That was as good a job as I could have done there," said Franchitti, who held his car wide open around the circuit. "It takes a certain amount of faith going into Turn 1 there like that."

Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Oriol Servia qualified on the outside pole. Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the Top-5 qualifiers in the 26-car field.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Eddie MacDonald had little trouble showing the ACT Late Model Tour field how you get the job done at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

A four-time winner at the track, MacDonald dominated the first 25-lap segment of the ACT All-Star Challenge Saturday morning en route to winning. He'll now start 36th in this afternoon's 50-lap segment.

"This is only half the job today," MacDonald said. "The crew did an awesome job."

Seven-time ACT champion Brian Hoar finished second, while Tom Carey, Joey Laquerre and Austin Theriault rounded out the Top-5.

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LOUDON, N.H. – And now the weekend kicks into high gear at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Thankfully, the team made some adjustments overnight, and we had no issues whatsoever with the pit stop this morning. Despite having nearly missed the commit cone yesterday morning, we had a smooth in and out on the pit lane this time around.

Got the iced coffee, and now we're ready for this fuel run.

Thank goodness, too. It's a busy day here.

The IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Series both have practice and qualifying sessions. There are two segments of the ACT All-Star Challenge for the ACT Late Model Tour and the 95-lap Granite State Classic for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Seems to me that if you can't find some type of race car to get excited about at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today, you're probably not a race fan.

– TB

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For all of the things Bobby Santos had accomplished in his brief NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career, a pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was missing.

Not anymore.

Santos covered the Magic Mile in 29.858 seconds (127.564 mph) on Friday afternoon to earn the pole for Saturday's Granite State Classic. It was the sixth Whelen Modified Tour pole of his career.

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If qualifying was any indication, some of the ACT Late Model Tour's best are dispelling the myth that you can't pass on this race track.

Four-time New Hampshire Motor Speedway race winner Eddie MacDonald was the most impressive of all qualifiers on Friday afternoon, going from 14th to first to win the second of three 20-lap heat races for the ACT All-Star Challenge.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Another B-E-A-utiful sunny day greets us here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. About the only wrench thrown into the plans this morning was a late-call for a pit stop for iced coffee on Route 106.

Almost missed the commitment cone on that one, but we got in and got out with the lead. Good work driver.

A busy day of practice and qualifying here at the track today.

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LOUDON, N.H. – It only took a matter of minutes before eyebrows were raised during IZOD IndyCar Series testing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Thursday.

Right out of the box, the cars were running in excess of 160 mph. By the time the day was over, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was one of three drivers to break the 170 mph barrier, topping the speed charts with a fast lap of 21.566 seconds (171.099 mph) around the flat, 1.058-mile oval.

Franchitti said New Hampshire is the kind of track where you definitely sense how fast you're actually going.

"You sense it, no doubt," said Franchitti, the IndyCar Series points leader and winner of three of the last four series championships. "I was almost flat (footed) through (Turns) 3 and 4, and it got my attention."

Scott Dixon, Franchitti's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, was second-fastest after the six and a half hours of testing at 170.672 mph. Graham Rahal cracked 170 mph at 170.326 mph.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Having the IZOD IndyCar Series back in New England means having one of auto racing's iconic stars on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway grounds.

Danica Patrick took a few minutes to meet with the assembled media in the infield at New Hampshire early this afternoon. She touched on everything from IndyCar's return to the region for the first time in more than a decade, to her future in NASCAR, to the impact of women racing in the open-wheel circuit.

Here are some of the highlights:

On testing at New Hampshire today: "I'm surprised how fast it is. We're up in the second lane, where there's a little more banking. There will be that lane (open) down low, but the challenge will be to make it stick."

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It's Thursday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test drive around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THE SEASON MIGHT only be at the official midway point, but the drivers leading the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings gave notice last weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway that the championship chase will be a spirited one.

Once Ted Christopher checked out on the field following a late restart, there was little drama unfolding at the front of the Town Fair Tire 150. A little further back, however, was a different story – with Ron Silk and Rowan Pennink racing for every square inch of real estate on the track.

Pennink held on for sixth, with Silk in seventh – and one point ahead of Pennink now for the series lead.

"Oh yeah, he was hammering on me really good. He almost got me spun a couple of times," Pennink said. "Luckily, I saved it and got sixth."

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LOUDON, N.H. – It may have been raining steadily when I left the cozy confines of the Maine Cave this morning, but it's a gorgeous sunny day here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The IZOD IndyCar Series is here at the track for the first time since 1998 – and already I've been impressed.

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last visited the track back in July, Ryan Newman set a new "track record" with a lap of 28.1-seconds. Unofficially, I've already clocked several of the IndyCar cars in the low 23-second bracket.

That, folks, is fast. In fact, it's an average lap speed well in excess of 160 mph.

According to one track official, the top recorded speed from this morning's testing was in the 164 mph bracket.

With testing ongoing until 4 p.m., it will be interesting to see how speeds pick up as teams get a better handle on the flat mile oval.

– TB

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from around the region in the week that was.

Kind of light this weekend on touring series racing, but some of the names familiar to fans in this region found reason to spread their wings a bit. Of course, so much of it was about getting ready for this coming week, with major weekend No. 2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on the docket.

Without further ado, here's this week's podium finish:

1. Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn.

He's got a grandstand named after him and 113 career victories at Stafford Motor Speedway, so it was no surprise to see Christopher in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Victory Lane last Friday night at the track.

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Ted Christopher took all the drama out of a late dash to the checkered flag at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Christopher chased down Mike Stefanik following a restart with fewer than 25 laps remaining, running off to win the Town Fair Tire 150 for his 11th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at the track where he has won more races than anybody else.

Experience seemed to pay off, especially as Christopher's car came to life late.

"At the end there, you've just got to go with this thing," said Christopher, who moved to third in the overall series standings and now has 41 career Tour wins. "It's weird, because it started getting tight again, so I had to run a little different line to hold Michael off.

"But it was a lot of fun."

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Despite sliding off of the final turn, reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion made another trip to Victory Lane at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Rocco collected his seventh SK Modified victory of the season, emerging from a late-race restart Friday night with what would appear to be an easy ride to the win.

"We had all the best behind us," said Rocco, who owns sole possession of third-place on Stafford's all-time Modified win list with 30 career victories. "That's the best way to win races here. (There's) so much competition here, it's the greatest place to race."

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It's Thursday again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock and roll her out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

HAD A REALLY interesting conversation with a colleague of mine this week about the challenges facing young race teams as seasons swing into the second half.

Every year, on virtually every touring series in the country, there are first-year race teams that make some headlines during the first few months of the season. They have their stuff together right out of the box, they stick to their game plan and they manage to post some impressive finishes and garner a little attention for themselves.

But what separates the proverbial men from the boys is that August-September stretch littered with extra-distance events, bigger purses and larger car counts.

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Insurance in Name Only

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

As I pointed out yesterday, the NASCAR's new wild-card set up promises to offer one of the most exciting midseasons in NASCAR history.

This weekend's race at Pocono Raceway is titled the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.  Ironic, when you consider the amount of questions out there surrounding the last several spots in the Chase.

This year, there is very little insurance for most of the drivers!

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Each week, we take a look back at the top performers from the week that was.

While yours truly may have been on vacation, racers in the northeast didn't afford themselves the same luxury. With that being said, touring racing kicked back into gear after most of July was dedicated to bigger events and open shows.

Without further ado, off we go:

1. JEFF TAYLOR, Farmington, Maine

The noted car builder at Distance Racing in Fairfield won his first career ACT Late Model Tour race Saturday at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Talor held off repeated strong challenges from Wayne Helliwell Jr. to collect the win in the Casco Bay Ford 150.

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With just six races left before the Sprint Cup Chase begins, the list of contenders seem to be shuffling weekly.

The addition of two wild-cards has added a new element and allowed for many more drivers to have a shot at chasing the championship.  While most experts predicted added drama, we're only now beginning to see how crazy the final weeks of the Race to the Chase are going to get.

And to that, I say: boys, have at it!

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Kissin' the Bricks

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Indianapolis 500 is the most historic race in America, with this past May's race marking the 100th running of the event.

NASCAR's history at the track doesn't date back nearly as long.  It was only in 1994 that it began racing the Brickyard 400.  However, the prestige is still there.

INDYCAR or NASCAR.  The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Kyle Busch has won 100 major NASCAR races.  Period.

He hasn't won 100 Cup races, he's only won 22 and sits sixth among active drivers, in that regard.  He's nowhere near Richard Petty's record 200 Cup wins or David Pearson's 105, but he's won 100 races.

People are quick to discredit Busch's feat because it hasn't all come at the Cup level.  Yet, what everyone seems to be missing is that Busch, himself, has never asked you to view his accomplishment in the same arena.

He just asks you respect his passion and ability as a race car driver.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the weekend that was from around the region.

Not surprisingly, the TD Bank Oxford 250 weekend took center stage in most circles – with three different touring divisions all competing at Oxford Plains Speedway on the same weekend and the invasion of Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch.

So, without further ado:

1. Kyle Busch, Las Vegas, Nev.

Busch swept a pair of races at Oxford Plains Speedway over the weekend, winning the 38th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 less than 24 hours after winning a PASS-sanctioned Super Late Model race from the pole. Busch won in his third start in the marquee midsummer event.

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OXFORD, Maine – Kyle Busch knocked another race off his bucket list.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver held off serious challenges from some of the guys who know Oxford Plains Speedway best, winning the 38th TD Bank Oxford 250 on Sunday night. It was Busch's third try in the event and the first time that everything went completely right.

"I have had my fair share of problems here in the past," said Busch, who led laps in both the 2005 and 2006 events before flat tires or engine issues cut his bids short. "But it's been fun to race around here. It's a neat little race track. It's certainly got its little quirks and bumps and things, but it's just about trying to get into a rhythm.

"It helped me to try and find that."

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OXFORD, Maine – Looks like I'm not the only one here at Oxford Plains Speedway today. Word from track officials is that there are 82 Late Models entered in the 38th running of the TD Bank Oxford 250.

Roughly half that many will actually make tonight's main event, and then the winner will hoist a check for $25,000, plus lap leader bonuses.

It's a pretty impressive entry list once again, as it is every year, and it's bigger than last year's entry list that didn't hit 80. Topping that entry list, of course, is NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, who is making his third Oxford 250 appearance.

Some of the other notables in this field include Eddie MacDonald, who has won the last two Oxford 250s, a pair of 7-time ACT Late Model Tour champions in Jean Paul Cyr and Brian Hoar, reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Keith Rocco, 9-time Oxford Plains Speedway track champion Jeff Taylor, Thunder Road champion Nick Sweet, White Mountain Motorsports Park champion Quinny Welch and on and on and on....

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It's Friday again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THE HOT-BUTTON issue of the week has obviously been Ryan Newman's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last Saturday, and the subsequent engine issues in post-race tech that ended up costing Newman the victory.

At the center of the controversy is Kevin "Bono" Manion – Sprint Cup Series crew chief for Jamie McMurray and the owner of the No. 7 Modified. The engine was drastically altered in an effort to circumvent restrictor-plate rules when the Tour runs at New Hampshire.

Manion released a vague statement on Wednesday, as significant for what wasn't said in it as what was.

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This past weekend was my first time in the hot pass areas of the garage and pits of a NASCAR race.

There was a lot in the infield.  Haulers, stock cars, tires, drivers, pit crew members and whole lot more, but one thing I didn't see much of: fat guys.

NASCAR is a sport that requires significant athletic ability; there's just no place for the overweight in a garage.

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 Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from the weekend that was.

It was a busy weekend around New England this weekend, with efforts focused intensely on the State of New Hampshire. NASCAR was the big draw at the big track, but there were other marquee performances in the state too.

Without further ado, here we go:

1. Ryan Newman, South Bend, Ind.

Newman became the first driver in history two win two races from the pole in the same weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He won his third straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in the F.W. Webb 100 on Saturday, then followed up by winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 for the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Think "Fuel Mileage" and tracks such as Michigan International Speedway or Auto Club Speedway come immediately to mind. They're big, sweeping ovals where horsepower is critical to success and car-to-car combat is minimized.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway, once known as a drivers' choice for retaliatory performances, has joined that list. For the second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track, fuel mileage and pit strategy determined the difference between winning and losing.

Ryan Newman led the final 72 laps Sunday to post his first victory of the season and lead a 1-2 finish for Stewart Haas Racing as drivers throughout the field wrestled with fuel strategy in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

Some – like Newman – were trying to stretch their fuel more than 80 laps. Some snuck in under the race's final caution to top off their tanks, hoping those trying to go the distance would run out. Still others seemed resigned to simply taking what had been given them, regardless of what others were up to.

Last September at New Hampshire, Tony Stewart ran out of gas while leading at the end, handing victory to Clint Bowyer. There was the strong likelihood that the same thing would happen Sunday to Newman – who ran out of gas heading to Victory Lane – this time around, too.

But isn't this New Hampshire? Isn't this about short-track racing on one of the tightest tracks on the circuit?

Not so fast.

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 LOUDON, N.H. – When it matters most, Stewart Haas Racing is hitting its stride.

Ryan Newman won the fuel mileage game Sunday afternoon, collecting his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and anchoring the organization's 1-2 finish in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday afternoon. Team owner Tony Stewart finished second, as the team posted its first 1-2 finish in its three-year existence.

"We backed up what everybody said we couldn't. Just proud to repeat the performance we had on Friday (in qualifying)," Newman said. "We put it on them today. We don't put it on them every weekend, so we need to relish what we did this weekend."

"It was a perfect day for the organization, for sure," Stewart said. "This was a perfect way to go into an off-weekend. This was big for everybody at Stewart Haas Racing."

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 LOUDON, N.H. – It turned out to be a Milestone Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch, who once left the speedway with a sour taste after getting off to a horrendous start to the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup, led the final 33 laps of the New England 200 to post his 100th career NASCAR national series victory and tie Mark Martin's all-time mark of 49 Nationwide Series wins.

"It certainly feels good and means a lot," Busch said. "To tie (Martin's) record at 49 wins, that's something pretty awesome, as well, and it's a great opportunity to race in this series and win that many."

Busch carried an oversized flag with the the number "100" on it during his victory lap, and Martin met him in Victory Lane to help celebrate the accomplishment.

Busch also has 22 career Sprint Cup wins and 29 Camping World Truck Series wins.

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LOUDON, N.H. – We haven't seen a race like this before, not at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's F.W. Webb 100 went green over the final 88 laps of the event, stretching the field out and giving the event a feel more akin to full-bodied stock cars and not the popular open-wheel Modifieds.

The lead trio of Ryan Newman, Todd Szegedy and Ron Silk finished nearly half a lap ahead of fourth-place Matt Hirschman. Only 10 of the 32 starters finished on the lead lap. There was virtually no bump-drafting in the field, and there was a noticeable absence of side-by-side racing.

And nobody seemed to know what to attribute it to, least of all Sprint Cup Series crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion – who prepared Newman's winning Modified and got his start at the track in the early 1990s.

"Every race is different. On the Cup side now, these races it seems like it's the closing part of races that's extremely difficult over there in terms of calling the race," Manion said. "I really can't attribute why there were no cautions.

"It was hot out and it was slick, so you thought there would be some cautions. But I'm not sure why there wasn't."

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LOUDON, N.H. – Though the prognosticators may have put Ryan Newman in Victory Lane, nobody saw this coming.

Newman survived an 88-lap green flag run to the end on Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, winning the F.W. Webb 100 for his third straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at the track. Newman led three times for a total of 61 laps, including the final 17 circuits.

"I didn't really know what to expect with the race or how it was going to unfold," said Newman, who has won his last four starts, including a win at Bristol Motor Speedway last year. "It seemed like the track wasn't much like it was in practice, and we struggled a little bit with that part of it. We were way loose, but we were the tightest of the loose cars."

There were only two caution flags in the event, and the race restarted for the final time on Lap 14. From there, Newman, Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy checked out.

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LOUDON, N.H. – It is easily the most overlooked event of every New Hampshire Motor Speedway race weekend.

It doesn't have the glitz of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the star power of the Nationwide Series or the cache of the Whelen Modified Tour. But the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East served notice yet again on Friday evening here at New Hampshire that the division is as entertaining as any competing during the two NASCAR weekends every year.

Max Gresham's victory in the New England 125 had a little bit of everything.

It had three-wide racing inside the Top-10. It had pit strategy, involving both fuel and tires. It had teams playing the track position gamble. It had rookies in their series debut, and it had powerhouse teams like Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing. It boasted some of the most promising young talent in the sport and veterans of New England's short-track ranks.

In short, it was everything the race fan in us wants to see.

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LOUDON, N.H. – On Thursday afternoon after winning the pole for the New England 125, Max Gresham was more focused on the bad things that had plagued him in recent years than he was on the possibility of what lie ahead.

By Friday evening, though, the Griffin, Ga., driver was celebrating.

Recovering from an early pit stop miscue, Gresham led the final 13 laps to win his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Gresham's second win of the season extended his series points lead with just four races remaining.

"To come here and not have finished better than ninth (before) and finally win here on my fourth try is awesome," said Gresham, who led the most laps and also snapped a three-race New Hampshire win streak for Michael Waltrip Racing. "And to end the (MWR No. 00's) win streak here is also another cool thing.

"Hopefully, when we come back here in the fall, the car will be just as good and we can win another race."

It wasn't quite as easy as the numbers made it appear.

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LOUDON, N.H. – For the fifth time in 19 races here, Ryan Newman will lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to the green flag.

Newman put down a lap of 28.165 seconds (135.232 mph) around the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, setting a new track record in winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Coors Light Pole Award. Newman, who also won the pole here for Saturday's Whelen Modified Tour race, bested the previous track record set by Brad Keselowski last September (133.572 mph).

Newman hadn't won a Cup Series pole since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May of 2010.

"It's been a really long drought for me," Newman said. "(New Hampshire's) been a track that's been really good for me for firsts, and I'm looking for that first first again."

Newman is still searching for his first victory since moving to Stewart Haas Racing in 2009. He earned his first career Cup victory at NHMS as a rookie in 2002.

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LOUDON, N.H. – NASCAR honored the all-time Top-10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Drivers on Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The announcement comes as part of the 25th year of the series, which began as the NASCAR Busch North Series back in 1987. Andy Santerre, Kelly Moore, Brad Leighton, Jamie Aube, Ricky Craven, Mike Stefanik, Joey Logano, Ryan Truex, Dale Shaw and Dick McCabe were the 10 drivers named.

"There's no doubt I could beat any of these guys," said Leighton, who won back-to-back series titles in 1999 and 2000.

Craven, who went on to a race-winning Sprint Cup Series career after a dominant 10-win championship season in 1992, said that though only four of the drivers on the list are still racing full-time, the competitive juices still flow.

"If you put us on a track together, it would end ugly. I can assure you of that," Craven said.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Not that we're looking ahead with three full days of racing still ahead of us here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but the TD Bank Oxford 250 is right around the corner.

As in, a week from Sunday around the corner.

Kyle Busch is entered in two races during the weekend at Oxford Plains Speedway. He's entered in the main event on Sunday, as well as the PASS-sanctioned Super Late Model race on Saturday night. The '250' is on Busch's bucket list.

"There's a few big races around the country I'd like to get to, but it's just scheduling that doesn't allow me to," said Busch, who won the prestigious Slinger Nationals in Wisconsin last Sunday, less than 24 hours after winning the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. "The Oxford 250 is another one.

"I'll be coming back for that here next weekend."

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LOUDON, N.H. – This looks all too familiar.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman won his third straight Whelen Modified Tour pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, turning a lap a quarter of a second faster than anyone else Thursday to take the top starting spot for Saturday's F.W. Webb 100.

Newman's lap of 29.586 seconds (128.737 mph) gave him his fourth series pole at the track. He swept the two series races from the pole in 2010.

"It's kind of the same deal. I just went a little bit faster than those guys," Newman said. "It felt good on the straightaways, good in the corners... We have a blast racing with them."

Ron Silk qualified second with a time of 29.837 seconds.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Max Gresham is hoping this isn't a repeat performance for his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Gresham, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points leader, won the pole for the New England 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Thursday afternoon. His fast lap of 29.960 seconds (127.130 mph) put him right ahead of Revolution Racing teammates Darrell Wallace Jr. and Sergio Pena for Friday afternoon's race.

Gresham was the only driver of the 39 to take time to break both the 30-second and 127 mph plateaus.

"We had a real good run," Gresham said. "To go out kind of middle of the pack really helped us out... I drove it as hard as I could."

Gresham now has three poles on the season. He also won won at Richmond International Raceway in April – qualifying right ahead of Wallace. Wallace went on to win that race.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Ryan Newman may have topped the speed charts yet again, but Justin Bonsignore made the most news during Thursday's practice.

Bonsignore posted the second-fastest lap during the 90-minute practice for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but he wasn't sure he'd be around for Saturday's F.W. Webb 100. An engine issue cut his practice short, despite his blistering lap.

"We were just getting ready to go back out for another run, and I noticed the oil pressure was gone in the oil pressure gauge," said Bonsignore, of Holtsville, N.Y. "Turns out we had a cam bearing slide forward. It's unfortunate. It's a brand new piece, a brand new car."

Bonsignore, the 2010 Tour Rookie of the Year, is just 15th in points after five races. He's been plagued by bad luck, the worst of it coming in the season-opener when his 3rd-place effort was nullified by an illegality in post-race tech.

He surmised that Thursday's practice troubles were just part and parcel of his season to date.

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LOUDON, N.H. – Matt DiBenedetto has taken to New Hampshire Motor Speedway quite nicely.

DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, Calif., posted the fastest time in today's 90-minute NASCAR K&N Pro Series East practice at the Magic Mile. His fast lap of 30.182 seconds (126.194 mph) was better than those posted by series points leader Max Gresham and rookie Daniel Suarez.

"I don't know if it was dead-on perfect, but it was pretty close," DiBendetto said. "We made a qualifying run and it felt pretty neutral.

"We started off just decent. I wouldn't call (the car) real great. We were fighting a little tight in the center and pretty loose off – so it was just one of those things that's a little tough to fix sometimes."

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LOUDON, N.H. – The four-day marathon that is Lenox 301 race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is rolling along.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Whelen Modified Tour practice and qualifying is on the docket for today. It's a full slate, too – with 40 cars entered in the K&N Pro Series New England 125 on Friday and 33 Modifieds entered in the F.W. Webb 100 on Saturday.

Practice for the K&N Pro Series cars begins at 11:30 a.m. and runs until 1 p.m., while a full 90-minute session for the Whelen Modified Tour starts at 1:15 p.m.

The K&N teams qualify at 3:15 p.m.; the Mod Squad hits the track for time trials at 4:45 p.m.

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Heads turned. Necks gaped. Jaws dropped. People flocked.

A race-rabid audience thought there were still a few hours remaining before they'd see cars on the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September. Sunday morning on a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race day is usually a lot of hype and a lot of anticipation, paying off when engines are fired and NASCAR's biggest stars finally hit the track for more than 300 miles of action.

But there they were last year, waiting for the start of driver introductions when something down at the end of the long frontstretch caught their attention – race cars rolling off a starting grid in Turn 1.

The Amsoil NELCAR Legends Tour finally arrived.

"Everyone wanted to be there for that," said 33-year-old Connecticut Legends driver Shaun Buffington. "When we got up there and they brought us in, it was pretty wild. There were people there that got to see us race that wouldn't have seen us anywhere else.

"There was a lot of added pressure. "Everything at New Hampshire is different for us – until you put your helmet on and strap into the race car. Then you're a race car driver and you just do what you've got to do."

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LOUDON, N.H. -- Twenty-five years. The 10 best drivers.

NASCAR named the Top-10 Drivers of the First 25 Years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on Wednesday. From its beginnings as a northeast-based stock car touring series in 1987, the K&N Pro Series East has featured a number of outstanding competitors through the years as it has evolved into NASCAR's top development series.

Heading the distinguished list of participants through the first 25 seasons of the K&N Pro Series East is Andy Santerre, whose four championships are more than any competitor in series history. Santerre finished in the top five in the standings in four of his first five full-time seasons, then polished off his career behind the wheel with a remarkable four consecutive titles.

Kelly Moore, the K&N Pro Series East's all-time wins leader, was second and two-time champion Brad Leighton ranked third. Three-time champion Jamie Aube and Ricky Craven, who recorded one of the most dominant seasons in NASCAR touring series history, rounded out the top five.

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The first impressions are always the most important.

Longtime fixtures in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East have likened racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to competing on worldwide stages in the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl, or to more regionalized landmarks like Fenway Park. And this summer, even as the series itself turns 25 years old, that buzz hasn't worn off.

"We went through the tunnel, and I'm telling you the place was just unbelievable," said Andy Santerre, the four-time K&N Pro Series East champion who now works with Revolution Racing. "I'd never even seen it on TV before I went there. I thought to myself, 'This is like the Daytona 500.'"

Jamie Aube, who won three championships in the early years of the series, was one of the first drivers to tour the Magic Mile after it was completed. Participating in a media event, he drove a pace car around the old Bryar Motorsports Park road course and looked out over the newly-minted oval before its first event in 1990.

To this day more than two decades later, the Bow, N.H., native remembers how he felt.

"I looked out at that oval, and thought, 'I absolutely cannot wait to get out there on that,'" Aube recalled.

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performances from the previous week.

Summer sure heated up this weekend, with races all over New England. Some break-out performances meshed nicely with some seasoned Victory Lane veterans. Without further ado:

1. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.

The winningest driver in ACT Late Model Tour history was at it again on Saturday night, winning the ACT Jim's Captown 100 at Twin State Speedway for his 31st career victory. It came at one of the few tracks where Hoar had never won during his decorated career, too.

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CLAREMONT, N.H. – Brian Hoar checked another track off his ACT Late Model Tour bucket list.

Hoar took the lead in the late stages of the Jim's Captown 100 and went on to the victory for the 31st victory of his ACT career – and his first at the tricky Twin State Speedway.

"It feels great," said Hoar, of Williston, Vt.. "Anytime you can add another track to the win column, it's pretty awesome. The guys did an awesome job. We unloaded (for practice) and had a ton of confidence."

Brent Dragon finished a season-best second, while Randy Potter was third for his second-straight podium finish.

Hoar, the ACT points leader in search of a record eighth series title this season, now has three wins in six races in 2011. He also won the non-points ACT Goodyear Speedweeks Cup 100 back in February.

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It's Thursday again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street.

I REALLY THOUGHT, like a lot of people did, that this was going to be Brett Moffitt's year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

One car owner went so far as to say the same thing to me after the season opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway, noting that everybody was just racing for second place so long as the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota didn't beat itself. Even then, it was still going to be hard to lose that championship.

Bright young talent in Moffitt. Two-time championship team with Ryan Truex. Multi-time championship crew chief in Mike Greci.

But that, as they say, is why you race the races.

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This is Sparta!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sparta!

Not so much the one in all the ancient epics, like 300 or Troy, to name a few overly majestic and under-acted films that probably missed the point.

In this case, Sparta, Kentucky, which will host its first ever Sprint Cup Series race this coming weekend.

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Some of you out there could probably give me a lesson on all the places to go and do's and do not's for NASCAR weekends here in Loudon.  If you're one of those people, please feel free to leave a comment below with your gold nugget of advice.

However, others of you might be green to the NASCAR experience.  This might be your first time heading to the race or your first time at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Or, perhaps, you're just looking for ways to better experience the weekend.

Here's a quick checklist and guide for "dummies" as you prepare for the trip to N.H.

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Each week we take a look at the weekend that was from around the region.

The holiday was here and the proverbial "fireworks" were all over race tracks in the northeast. Tour races, weekly races, extra-distance shows – we had all of it.

Without further ado, here we go...

1. Keith Rocco, Wallingford, Conn.

Rocco made history this weekend, winning SK Modified features at three different Connecticut short tracks on three consecutive nights. Rocco, who recently separated his shoulder in a crash at Stafford Motor Speedway, was at his best as the summer started to heat up.

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It's the end of the week again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I THINK EVERYBODY just kind of assumed something was going to happen that never actually happened at Thunder Road International Speedbowl last weekend.

Here's what we know: With fewer than 20 laps to go in the Carquest VT Governor's Cup 100 at the track last weekend, and Nick Sweet leading John Donahue by roughly a half-straightaway, three cars spun to the infield. The Thunder Road flagman reached for the yellow flag but never displayed it, no matter how awkwardly he held it.

Sweet's spotter told him the caution was coming out – Sweet slowed, Donahue passed him, the race stayed green and Donahue drove off to the victory over everybody's Hometown Hero.

It was called by some a "controversial" finish. It was called by others "confusing." Chaotic, wild and strange were also words that were used by people I talked to this week.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – And the old is new again. Or the new is old again. It's one of those, and it doesn't matter which.

Ted Christopher found what worked on a brand new race car Thursday night at Thompson Speedway, gaining 13 spots over the final 26 laps to win the Budweiser 150. The hair-raising charge to the front marked Christopher's fourth straight Tour win at the track, and his seventh victory in the last nine races held here.

And this time, that old familiar feeling of seeing the Plainville, Conn., driver back in Victory Lane left jaws agape across the grandstands.

"That's some carving in 25 laps, huh?" Christopher said with a sly grin. "Turn 3's the best here, isn't it? I love Turns 3 and 4 here. Sometimes, I wish I could watch some of this (stuff)."

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THOMPSON, Conn. – File this one under "shocking."

Ted Christopher turned a lap of 18.693-seconds (120.366 mph) to win the pole for the Budweiser 150 at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday. It marked Christopher's seventh career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pole at Thompson, and his second straight in this event.

Point leader Rowan Pennink of Huntington Valley, Pa., qualified second. Bobby Santos, Doug Coby and Todd Szegedy rounded out the Top-5 qualifiers.

Christopher, who was the only driver to top the 120-mph mark in qualifying, has 23 career poles on the Tour. This is his first of the season.

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THOMPSON, Conn. – Been a short turnaround for the guys on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, who come to Thompson International Speedway for tonight's Budweiser 150 just four days after running at Monadnock Speedway in western New Hampshire.

When last we left these guys, Todd Szegedy led all 175 laps to win the Monadnock 200. Rowan Pennink also held onto his points lead, despite some bad luck at the Mad Dog, and Matt Hirschman posted his first Top-5 of the season.

So, now we head to Ted Christopher International Speedway for tonight's mid-week 150-lap event on the long high banks at Thompson.

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It's the best time of the year again!  The weather is hot, the pools are cold, the grills are lit...and so are the fireworks!

This (long) weekend, most of us will celebrate our Independence Day.

That is, unless, you're a Sprint Cup Series driver.  They'll be celebrating anything but independence.

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It's time, Dale.  The winless-streak has lasted over three years and spanned 109 races.

It's time you won a race, Junior.  You've come close several times.

At this point, whether you're a loyal member of Junior Nation or just a loyal member of this great nation, it's time to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. make a trip to Victory Lane.

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from the weekend that was.

Rain (where have we heard that before?...) once again put a damper on the festivities across New England, closing down a number of weekly shows and the ACT Late Model Tour, while also delaying the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event and some other notable races.

Still, some guys had no problem getting the job done a few days later than expected. Without further ado...

1. Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn.

Szegedy won the pole and led every lap of the rain-delayed NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Monadnock 200 at Monadnock Speedway on Sunday, one day later than originally planned. It was Szegedy's 15th career Tour victory.

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WINCHESTER, N.H. – Rowan Pennink's championship lead took a hit on Sunday at Monadnock Speedway, but things could have been worse for the Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver.

Much worse.

Pennink thought his day was going to end on Lap 99, when he nearly barreled head-on into the outside wall in Turn 2.

"Someone got into the back of me pretty hard. I thought we were going right into the fence," Pennink said. "I was able to save it and keep it going. Then we ended up coming back from the back and salvaging a Top-10 out of it."

Pennink finished second in each of the first three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races this season before heading to the Monadnock 200 – where he brought a 51-point lead into the race. By the time he left, though, he scraped to finish 10th in the 26-car field and leave with his point lead over Ron Silk cut by more than half to just 25 points.

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WINCHESTER, N.H. – Todd Szegedy's 15th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory was one of his most dominant.

Szegedy started on the pole and led every lap to capture the Monadnock 200 at Monadnock Speedway on Sunday. He expertly motored away from any and all challengers over several restarts, including second-place finisher Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk earlier in the event.

For Szegedy, the 2002 Tour champion, a little practice made perfect. The Ridgefield, Conn., driver ran a pair of 25-lap Modified features at Monadnock last weekend.

"Coming here certainly helped," said Szegedy, who is tied for 12th on the all-time Whelen Modified Tour win list. "It's a unique track, and there's a little bit of knick-knacks on the track that you've got to learn to figure it out. We figured it out.

"I knew what the car needed. We struggled a little bit in practice, threw a big change at it and put it on the pole. We got this Mike Smeriglio Ford in Victory Lane."

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WINCHESTER, N.H. – Todd Szegedy's recent foray into NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing at Monadnock Speedway paid early dividends.

Szegedy's 12.447-second lap (72.307 mph) around the quarter-milewas the fastest of the Monadnock qualifying session Sunday afternoon, giving the Ridgefield, Conn., driver his eighth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pole. It was Szegedy's first pole since Lime Rock Park in July of 2010.

Szegedy competed at Monadnock last weekend to compete in a pair of 25-lap features for the track's Tour-Type Modified division.

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WINCHESTER, N.H. – Made it to The Mad Dog, the affectionate nickname planted on the quarter-mile Monadnock Speedway, for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Monadnock 200.

The "200" is actually something of a misnomer – with a 25-lap heat race for all qualifiers outside the Top-16 after time trials, followed by the 175-lap main event. There is late word that the 25-lap heat race will be scrapped due to the compacted schedule brought on by the postponement of the event from last night.

Truth be told, there are 28 cars entered for the 28 starting spots in today's race – so lack of a qualifying race isn't really all that big an issue.

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It's the end of the week again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock in the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

ONE THING THAT has become apparent on the ACT Late Model Tour in recent seasons is that the best racing doesn't always take place over the final 20 laps of an event. In fact, as John Donahue proved again last Saturday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park, sometimes the race for the win happens even before the halfway mark.

Donahue locked himself into a fierce battle with the likes of Quinny Welch, Brian Hoar and Wayne Helliwell Jr. early on at White Mountain – surviving a rash of restarts and side-by-side racing on the high banks – to pull away to the victory over the second half of the event. Donahue himself admitted that he was a little worried about having used his stuff up too soon before making it clear that his car's handling never dropped off the way he feared.

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Sometime in the 100-mile, three-hour drive to Sonoma last year, it occurred to me that there was an event going on at Infineon Raceway.

The drive from the South Bay where I lived in Campbell to Sonoma was a straight shot on the highway and I had envisioned something similar to a leisurely Saturday afternoon drive up I-89.

I was wrong.

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After this weekend's Loudon Classic, we might be short a checkered flag or two here at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That's ok.  They shouldn't be hard to find.  I'm pretty sure I know where they ended up.

We'll start by checking the garage of Shane Narbonne and hauler of Shaun Buffington.

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Every Christmas Day, no matter how cold or how much snow was on the ground, Richie Evans would drive his race car over to The Rusty Nail, the Rome, N.Y., bar that also sponsored his famous orange and black No. 61, to celebrate the holiday. For Evans was never far from his roots.

This week, short-track fans up and down the East Coast were celebrating the announcement that Evans would be one of five people inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Evans made his name with eye-popping statistics from his career in a Modified.

But Evans cemented his legend a long time ago with the stories that surrounded his career.

"He was just about huge entertainment and great racing. People don't forget that," said Mike Stefanik, himself a seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion. "They remember guys like Richie. They remember him bouncing off the wall at Martinsville with his foot still in the gas.

"Those are memorable moments that never people never forget. I certainly haven't forgotten them."

Evans won a total of nine NASCAR Modified national championships, and he was named No. 1 on NASCAR's All-Time Top-10 Modified Drivers in 2003. He won an amazing eight consecutive Modified titles, including one in 1979 when he won 37 of 60 starts that season.

In a career that spanned more than 1,400 races, Evans won more than 475 feature events – everywhere from Thompson, Conn., to Daytona International Speedway.

In the intense culture of Modified racing, any career will always be measured against Evans.

CLICK HERE to read the complete story at NASCARHomeTracks.com

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Each Monday we take a look back at the top performers from the weekend that was.

ACT teams had one shot to take a victory at White Mountain Motorsports Park, a flurry of activity took place surrounding the 88th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and racing has hit high gear around the northeast.

Here we go:

1. Richie Evans, Rome, N.Y.

The announcement that Evans would be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with this class was a victory for Modified and short-track racers everywhere. Evans' legend was as big as his talent, and his lifestyle was the embodiment of the short-track culture.

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NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. – John Donahue didn't bother waiting around for the final 10 laps to make his move.

Donahue took the lead well before halfway on Saturday night at White Mountain Motorsports Park, buzzing by hometown favorite Quinny Welch en route to winning the ACT Late Model Tour White Mountain 150. The victory was the first of the season for Donahue, who is trying to cut away at the ACT points lead held by Brian Hoar.

"When we got behind Quinny, we were just trying to knock off laps – but then I said, 'I've got to get in front of him,'" Donahue said. "I kept getting stuck on the outside, and I thought those guys were going to start coming. It was going to pin me on the outside.

"But when I got by Quinny, and I realized I had a good car."

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CLICK HERE to see the full gallery from race day at White Mountain Motorsports Park.

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NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. – Made the trip over the mountain today and got here to White Mountain Motorsports Park in plenty of time for the start of ACT Late Model Tour practice.

The main event is the ACT 150 later tonight, the only stop of the season for the ACT teams at the scenic quarter-mile. Should be a good one, too. This is one of those facilities that's made for this Late Model package – not unlike Thunder Road and Lee USA Speedway.

It's a great little banked race track, and there are 45 teams entered tonight – including point leader and defending race champion Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt.

Some early notes for those of you basking in the rays before before heading to the track (which we know you will!...):

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It's then end of the week again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

RICHIE EVANS IS in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is not only a victory for anybody that knew Evans or saw him race during a remarkable career. It's a victory for short-track racing on the whole.

Despite the repeated and over-the-top "shock" professed by national auto racing writers at Evans' inclusion in the field of five who comprise the third class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Evans deserves to be there. The Hall is, after all, a NASCAR Hall of Fame – not a "Sprint Cup Series" Hall of Fame.

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Michigan Represented

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The big story: Boston won the Stanley Cup last night against Vancouver.

My job: to write a fantasy NASCAR column about a race in Michigan.

Connect the two?  Easy!

The only American-born player dressed for Boston was goaltender and Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) winner Tim Thomas.  Thomas hails from Michigan.

Boom!  There you go!

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Paul Revere's New Ride

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thanks to Sarah Palin, the story of Paul Revere has become a hot topic in the news.

Palin completely botched the history of the famous "British are coming" ride by claiming he warned the British that the colonials were ready to bear arms.

On Monday, we at NHMS continued to spin the story as we used a Brit to announce his own arrival.

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Each Monday we look back at the top performers from the weekend that was.

Rain played a big part in the festivities – where have we heard that before this season? – canceling races across northern New England. But they did race a few times across the region, as well as north of the border, and more than a few teams were up to the challenge.

Here we go:

1. Max Gresham, Griffin, Ga.

Don't look now, but the 18-year-old driver's win at Gresham Motorsports Park (Coincidence? Nah.) on Saturday night put him right in the thick of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship picture. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his first win of the season in the rain-delayed Slack Auto Parts 150 and sits just five points behind Darrell Wallace Jr. through six races.

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Well, it's not exactly Thursday again (hey, we had to spend an extra day in the shop making repairs this week), but it is once again time to take the old Mini Stock out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

A MAD, MAD, mad world it was at Bowman Gray Stadium last week.

In some ways, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race was almost exactly what had been predicted. There were 15 caution periods totaling 87 laps under the yellow flag – more than half the race distance. Lapped cars did pose a problem for leaders in very tight quarters. Not a single car emerged without at least a good bent-up piece of sheet metal on it somewhere.

But the racing was also better than many had expected. Of course, at The Madhouse, the racing is entirely secondary.

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So...I usually try to write something insightful and/or funny about the upcoming race, but I'm struggling, because it's been a long day.

This weekend's race is the 5-Hour Energy 500 in Pocono, PA.  Since i can't come up with anything, here's a brief Bump Stops-esque kind of breakdown.

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Remember when you were a kid just trying to have fun?

You'd be out at recess and your teacher yelled at you for going down the slide two at a time or bumping some slow kid off the monkey bars.

Well, say goodbye to those silly teachers, because we're adults now and we don't have any supervision during recess!  Nor do we have mothers chastising us for getting dirty and traipsing mud all over the place.

As adults, recess is unsupervised!

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Every Monday we take a look at the weekend that was around the region. Somehow, some way, June got here, and suddenly we're in the throes of a full-blow racing season. It was a great weekend with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut at Bowman Gray Stadium, a pair of events for ACT Late Models and short-track racing all across the northeast. Some guys out there – and you know who you are! – really stepped up.

And away we go:

1. Matt DiBenedetto, Grass Valley, Calif.

The front was the place to be Saturday as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East made its debut at "The Madhouse" – the historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. DiBenedetto led all 156 laps in the Army Strong 150 to earn his third career victory and the first for the new X Team Racing.

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Madhouse lived up to its nickname on Saturday night.

Matt DiBenedetto and Corey LaJoie waged a fierce battle over the closing laps of the Army Strong 150, with DiBenedetto emerging with the first Bowman Gray Stadium victory in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history.

DiBenedetto led all 156 laps in the overtime event, but it wasn't as easy as it looked on paper.

"Honestly, I felt like there was a heck of a lot of luck on our side. That's what it took for anybody out here tonight," DiBenedetto said.

"We were just fighting like crazy. (LaJoie) did a really good job racing me really hard and not doing anything to wreck both of us. It was a good points day for both of us. We raced hard – beating and banging a lot – and the right side is tore off our car, but we're really excited about it."

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CLICK HERE to see the complete photo gallery from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Coleman Pressley stood outside of a short track press box surrounded by history on Friday night.

Pressley's first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East pole couldn't have come under better circumstances. It came at the venerable Bowman Gray Stadium, in the series' first trip to the tight quarter-mile bullring.

The second-generation driver will lead the field to the green in the Army Strong 150 on Saturday night.

"I was a little scared about (my lap), because we were half a second slower than we were in practice," said the 22-year-old Pressley, son of longtime Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series driver Robert Pressley. "I didn't think it was ever going to hold."

But it did, with Pressley's lap of 14.772 seconds (60.926 mph) holding off X-Team Racing teammate Matt DiBenedetto for the pole.

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NASCAR -- All eyes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East garage have been on Brett Moffitt, virtually since the very minute word came down that he would be moving over to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2011.

With Ryan Truex in the seat, MWR won each of the last two series championships – while Moffitt had won four races in 21 starts for Andy Santerre Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. The pairing of Moffitt and MWR seemed to have blended one of the strongest teams in the garage with one of its most promising talents.

"The transition was not difficult at all," said the 18-year-old Moffitt, a native of Grimes, Iowa. "It was actually really easy. It was a little harder to make the decision, but obviously they've had the results here in the past two years. It was where I needed to be and where I felt I needed to be to have that championship and to win a lot of races this year.

"The (MWR) guys are really easy to work with, and they have the same goal in mind as me – do everything we can do to put ourselves in position to win races and win the championship."

Moffitt leaned on Truex for some advice about making the move, though it wasn't quite as easy as people might first suspect to pry information from the usually reserved Truex.

CLICK HERE to read the complete story at NASCARHomeTracks.com

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It's Thursday again... Time to roll that out Mini Stock out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street while I pull together a week's worth of thoughts, observations and musings lacking any real insight.

ONE OF THE best drivers nobody ever talks about on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is Ron Silk.

Silk is one of those guys that doesn't necessarily garner a whole lot of attention from the outside. He's not brash, he's not flashy and he's certainly not a headline-hunter. The perfect example of Silk's entire career, it would seem, came at the end of the 2010 season.

While most everybody seemed focus on the fierce championship battle atop the standings between Bobby Santos and Ted Christopher, Silk went virtually unnoticed. Add in the fact that Mike Stefanik was making his own quiet run at yet another title, and Silk's story ranked fourth in the Top-4 stories heading into the final two races of the year.

But Silk finished in the Top-10 in all but four starts last season, including nine Top-5 finishes. He won a pole at Stafford Motor Speedway and only started a race worse than 10th once. For the record, the only start worse than 10th came at Monadnock Speedway – where he started 16th before finishing third. It came during a stretch of five straight Top-3 finishes for Silk.

So, why doesn't he get more love?

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Sorry, Dorothy.  We're back in Kansas this weekend!

After several weeks on the East Coast, NASCAR will follow the yellow brick road to Kansas.  For the Midwest, hopefully a weekend at the speedway will provide some much needed normalcy for an area getting blasted by an ugly series of tornadoes.

While Dorothy's house gets swept up in the timeless classic, there's nothing theatrical about the travesty in the Midwest. Continue...

One race expert in the Twitter-verse commented that on Sunday that Hollywood couldn't have scripted the ending to this year's Indianapolis 500.

Buzzzzzzt!  Wrong!!!  Poor use of that metaphor.

Hollywood wouldn't have scripted it.

In almost every one of Hollywood's epic sports movies, the underdog or otherwise adverse protagonist pulls out a memorable win against all odds.

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With Memorial Day comes a full and busy weekend of racing – and not just those famous 1,300 miles run at Monaco, Indianapolis and Charlotte.

Some impressive performances from the Modified ranks, as well as Late Model racers across the northeast. Good to see summer finally show its face around here, too.

And away we go:

1. Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

It was a busy couple of nights for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader. Pennink won the Valenti Modified Racing Series 100 at Twin State Speedway on Saturday, just about 24 hours after finishing a closing second on the NASCAR Tour at Stafford Motor Speedway.

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SCARBOROUGH, Maine – Dan McKeage is a driver conflicted.

On the one hand, he realized one of his racing goals by winning the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway last summer. That season-long effort earned him a trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the NASCAR awards banquet, where he was wined and dined in and around the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the better part of a week.

On the other hand, McKeage's championship season came without a single trip to Victory Lane in the track's Pro Series division for Super Late Model-type cars. In fact, the last few years have gone by for McKeage without a win – so many, now, that he can't even remember.

"I don't know. 2009 maybe?" McKeage says before catching himself. "No. 2008 maybe? I'm not really sure."

And there is the conflict.

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SCARBOROUGH, Maine – Mother Nature apparently wanted a few extra holiday weekend hours to herself.

Midway through its feature events on Saturday night, fog and drizzle forced Beech Ridge Motor Speedway to pull the plug on its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series opening night. The 40-lap Pro Series main event will join the 35-lap Sport Series feature on next week's regularly scheduled program.

"Let's not wreck the equipment on opening day," track owner Andy Cusack said over the radio just prior to pulling the plug."

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CLICK HERE to see photos from opening night of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Rowan Pennink knew what you were thinking.

He knew that after a promising 2009 campaign on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, eyes were on him last season. He knew that his on-track performance wasn't as good as it should have been. He knew that things had to change.

After finishing fourth in the standings in 2009, he faded to a distant 11th in 2010. So, Pennink changed.

Following an offseason of turnover, Pennink has stormed out of the gates in 2011. His runner-up finish in the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night was his third consecutive second-place finish to open the season. Not only is the Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver the Modified Tour points leader, but he's enjoying a 51-point cushion already.

"All you guys (in the media) have been saying we had a strong run in 2009 for the point standings, and then last year we were a little bit off our game," said Pennink, whose lone victory in four-plus seasons on Tour came last August at Riverhead Raceway.

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Ron Silk made an emphatic return to Victory Lane on Friday night.

Silk started from the pole and led every lap to win the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at Stafford Motor Speedway, snapping an 18-race winless streak on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in the process. It was just the kind of effort Silk said he's been waiting for with his Eddie Partridge-owned team.

"It was a good win," said Silk, of Norwalk, Conn. "We got the pole, led all the laps and then won the race. It definitely gets the morale up of the team. It's not like we've been running that bad – we've just been so close to winning a race for a while now, it's nice to get that out of the way."

Silk's last win came in September of the 2009 season, when the won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was the first flag-to-flag win on the Tour since Ryan Preece did it at Riverhead Raceway almost two years ago.

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STAFFORD, Conn. – Greetings from Stafford Motor Speedway, where apparently we've skipped right over mud season and spring and gone straight to swamp-August Georgia.

It's a sultry 90 degrees outside as we get ready for Round No. 3 of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season with the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at Stafford.

Tour points leader Rowan Pennink was fastest in the afternoon practice session with a lap of 18.271 seconds (98.809 mph) around the half-mile former horse track. Pennink's finished second in the first two events of the year.

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It's Thursday again.... Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AND NOW FOR something completely different.

I've been fortuate enough to be on both sides of the fence in this industry. I spent nearly 15 years as a reporter, covering auto racing from the smallest grassroots level right on up through the NASCAR national series. More recently, I've worked for the past couple of years on the marketing and public relations side of things, representing individual race teams in northern New England and working with clients like NASCAR and (yes, since you're reading this...) New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

I've watched everything from street stock races at Unity Raceway to the Daytona 500, interacted with drivers of all ilks. A lot of times, the sport is unfairly criticized for not doing enough to attract media attention. Unfortunately, it starts with the teams.

Nobody, of course, really wants to hear this.

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The Coca-Cola 600 will circle around the Charlotte Motor Speedway, then it'll circle again and again and again.  Four-hundred laps, 600 miles, several hours, and probably a few blown engines (right).

The 600 is the longest race on the schedule, yet the 1.5-mile oval isn't nearly the longest (fastest) track, so this race will be a marathon and then some.

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It's common for us chest-pounding males to refer to sports we don't like or view in anyway soft (like basketball) as a "girls' sport."

Title IX was passed nearly 40 years ago in 1972 and has helped significantly boost the opportunity for females to compete at a high level of sport.  However, despite the four decades of equality*, women still have trouble shedding outdated stereotypes when it comes to athletics.

Cue up INDYCAR's Simona de Silvestro: she doesn't shed the stereotype.  She shreds it!

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. Lots of big performances out there, from the touring ranks to the weekly short-track battles. Still, when it came right down to it, there were some familiar faces visiting Victory Lane.

Here we go:

1. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt.

Hoar won his second straight Spring Green on the ACT Late Model Tour Sunday, picking up the lead on Lap 75 of the 111-lap main event at Devil's Bowl Speedway and cruising off to his second Tour win of the season in just three races. The seven-time ACT champion became the first driver to win 30 races in his career, and he also became the first driver to win an ACT event at Devil's Bowl. The track was paved prior to the 2010 season.

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WEST HAVEN, Vt. – Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt., reached a career milestone and checked another box off his bucket list on Sunday afternoon.

Hoar won the ACT Late Model Tour Spring Green 111 at Devil's Bowl Speedway, becoming the first driver in Tour history to win 30 career races by collecting his first-ever Devil's Bowl victory. Ironically, Hoar led the final 37 laps in his RPM Motorsports No. 37 GossCars.com Dodge en route to the win.

He had never competed on the track before Sunday.

"I just had an awesome, awesome race car," said Hoar, who now has two wins this season in three starts. "(Team owner and crew chief Rick Paya) was telling me to slow it down toward the end, and I said 'Nope.'"

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NEWTON, Iowa (NASCAR) -- Brett Moffitt dominated the Pork 'Be Inspired' 175 presented by Tompkins Industries at Iowa Speedway Saturday, giving the native of nearby Grimes, Iowa, a popular NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory.

Moffitt led a race-high 138 laps and coasted to a nearly four-second win over defending race winner Max Gresham.

The win comes a year after Moffitt led 54 laps at Iowa but wrecked after contact while leading in the race's closing laps. It was the second win of the season and sixth of his career for the Michael Waltrip Racing development driver.

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In most sports, the All-Star event marks the midseason point of the year.  While the 2011 race season still seems early, consider the Chase as the equivalent of a playoff.

There are 26 races leading up to the Chase, and we've already seen the checkered flag wave on 11 of them, so we are just about midseason in NASCAR.

At the start of the season (before I joined NHMS), I previewed the season using a series of race flags to symbolize the drivers.  Here's a midseason visit to the flag stand.

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It's Thursday again.... Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THE NASCAR K&N Pro Series East tested at Bowman Gray Stadium last week, and everybody was saying all the right things publicly.

But privately, folks have to be wondering what this race on June 4 is actually going to look like.

"I think that qualifying is going to be the race," said Cody Hodgson, who drives for Dave Davis Motorsports in Denver, N.C. "You get on that track and you can't even fit two cars side-by-side, so you have to wonder how you're ever going to pass somebody."

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The 21st Vintage Celebration kicks off today and runs through Sunday.

The name says pretty much what you need to know about the event: it's a celebration of vintage cars.  Cars that help diagram the lineage of the motorsports.  From the early days of dirt tracks and open-wheel racing, you can see the progression and development into today's feats of science.

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. Rain, again, played a prominent role in northern New England – washing out the scheduled ACT Late Model Tour event at Oxford Plains and most weekly shows in New Hampshire. Still, some impressive performances dotted what racing did take place.

Here we go:

1. Derek Ramstrom, West Boylston, Mass.

Ramstrom went 2-for-2 in the Super Late Model ranks over the weekend, winning the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series 30-lap Super Late Model feature at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night and following that effort with his third career PASS North Series win at Star Speedway on Saturday.

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It's Thursday again... Time to take that ol' Mini Stock out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

IF YOU'RE FROM New England, you probably already know about Pete Rondeau.

Until this past weekend, Rondeau was best known to New Englanders as a one-time part-time competitor on the old Busch North Series. A native of Saco, Maine, he was among that group of guys who helped Kelly Moore's career become one of the best in what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Rondeau, Slugger Labbe, and even Ryan Moore all moved south eventually and took on prominent behind-the-scenes rolls with NASCAR teams.

To the rest of the world, though, Rondeau is the guy that was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s "other crew chief," when Tony Eury Jr. famously stepped down from the post during that failed experiment at DEI in 2005.

Now, though, Rondeau is a Cup-winning crew chief. He, of course, made the gutsy call to get Regan Smith out ahead of the pack at Darlington last weekend on a late restart that led Smith to Victory Lane in the Southern 500.

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Fantasy FedEx'd

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Think about it: you could "fed-ex" a package through UPS, but you would never "UPS" a package through FedEx, would you!?

As a dominant company, FedEx has struggled from time-to-time to maintain its copyright because their name has become so synonymous with shipping that it has turned into a verb.  In the eyes of United States Patent and Trademark Office, a company can lose its copyright if the brand becomes more than a name.

Shout, among others, fights the same struggle to maintain its brand.  Like "FedExing" a package has become a common reference for overnighting a package (no matter the company), people Shout out stains on their clothing no matter the cleanser.

And, there's a reason for this: FedEx (and Shout) are the leading brand among their competition.

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This is a real stretch for a title.

For those of you that read my original blog post when we first started the Granite Stripe blog, you know that New Hampshire is my original home.

I've also never even been to Kentucky, save the Cincinnati airport, which lies just across the border from Ohio.

However, when it comes to my interest in racing.  It all started with horse racing, and you can't discuss that without referencing the Kentucky Derby.

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. A light Mother's Day weekend schedule and rain showers in the northeast didn't slow some drivers, while it washed away others entirely (well, not literally...).

Here we go:

1. Keith Rocco, Wallingford, Conn.

The reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion picked up where he left off at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night, leading all 40 laps in the SK Modified feature to win the season opener. Rocco won a track-record 10 events at Stafford last season and is a perfect 1-for-1 this year as he attempts another run at the national crown.

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Son of 2-time Nationwide champion looking for his one shot

(NASCAR Home Tracks) -- Beneath a dark sense of humor and a mask of self-deprecation lies somebody that virtually all of us can relate to.

Corey LaJoie is man against the machine, the place where Yankee ingenuity butts heads with the technological age. He's just 19 years old, but the third-generation racer with New England roots seems to have the spirit of someone much older, like a country farmer hardened by tough northeast winters and using his own hands to pluck rough rocks from dry and infertile soil.

It's in his bloodlines.

"It's just playing the cards we're dealt," said LaJoie, son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie. "Some guys are dealt full houses, and I got dealt one pair."

LaJoie is trying to call everybody's bluff and use that pair to rake a big pot from from the poker players on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. There are drivers who have come through the series with name recognition similar to LaJoie's – Ryan Truex, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, just to name a few.

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It's Thursday again... Time to take that ol' Mini Stock out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

WHAT WE SAW at Thunder Road last Sunday afternoon had to have Tom Curley smiling proudly from his spot as race director in the tower over the frontstretch.

It's not that the ACT Late Model Tour Merchants Bank 150 was an exceptional race. It's not like there were four cars under a blanket coming to the checkered flag. It's not like somebody made an improbable drive from 29th to first in a span of 50 laps.

No, the race was a race was a race. It certainly wasn't the best we've seen from the Tour even this season alone, nor was it a clunker by any definition you choose.

But what had to have Curley so pleased were the two main players in the event.

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When I first started giving you my fantasy NASCAR advice, I explained that I wasn't an expert, just a guy that followed the sport.  However, after last week's performance, I might have raised the bar higher than I can jump.

I'm one of those guys that tends to tell you, "I told you so," (because that's what New Englanders do!) and this past weekend was a big boost for my already enlarged ego.

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Go Granny, Go!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

At this point, you've probably heard the story.

If not, maybe you should move to Eugene, OR, Ottumwa, IA, or Salt Lake City, UT.  (Actually, scratch that, don't move to SLC...don't even think about it!)

All three of those media markets and dozens of others across the nation carried the story of Rachel Gilbert's 100th birthday in somewhere seemingly as distant and podunk to most Americans as any of those: Loudon, NH.

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. There was plenty of action all up and down the northeast, and some truly impressive performances from a group of drivers who will all compete at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the coming months.

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Bobby Santos rebounded from an opening season mechanical failure with a win Sunday in Stafford Speedway's Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST.Santos, the defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, held off points leader Rowan Pennink over the closing laps to claim the victory. Santos opened the season with the Coors Light Pole Award at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway but lasted just 16 laps before engine issues ended his day.

Sunday at Stafford, the engine was never a problem.

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BARRE, Vt. – If you think sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway is frustrating, you should have tried driving at Thunder Road International Speedbowl on Sunday.

2010 track champion Nick Sweet and ACT Late Model Tour championship hopeful Joey Polewarczyk Jr. waged a race-long battle while bottled up in heavy lapped traffic, with Sweet emerging as the true "King of the Road" once again. Sweet took the lead for good on Lap 92 and never looked back in winning the Merchants Bank 150.

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A beautiful spring day in northern New England set the stage for Thunder Road's season-opening event. Check out the complete photo gallery from the ACT Late Model Tour Merchants Bank 150.

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BARRE, Vt. – Made it across the mountains to one of the most scenic stops in the ACT Late Model Tour. No, scratch that, Thunder Road International Speedbowl is THE most scenic stop on the Tour.

Best yet, as the birthplace of the ACT Late Model itself, the quirky high-banked quarter-mile is made for these cars. If you're only going to hit one short-track race a year, this has to be your stop.

Forty-seven Late Models practiced here on Saturday, and the early word is that there are 49 entered in today's Merchants Bank 150.

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Revolution Racing Taking Next Step In K&N Pro Series

RICHMOND, Va. – First, you have to rewind to the 2010 season finale at Dover International Speedway in October.

Darrell Wallace Jr. had seen his championship hopes crumble in a disastrous stretch of races to close out the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season. Sergio Pena had done so little that there were whispers in the Dover garage that day that he might not have a ride for this season. Michael Cherry had been promoted from the Late Model ranks to fill a vastly under-performing seat. Ryan Gifford's results never seemed to match his Richard Childress Racing bloodlines.

Yet 2011 has dawned, and Revolution Racing is positioned as one of the series' powerhouse teams – right there alongside Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

With Wallace's emphatic victory in the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway on Thursday night, he handed Revolution its second win through the first three races of the year. Wallace took over the points lead, just in front of Pena, who collected his first career win two weeks ago at South Boston.

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RICHMOND, Va. – Thursday night could have been Darrell Wallace Jr.'s coming out party.

Wallace thoroughly dominated the second half of the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway, taking his third career NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory and inheriting the series points lead in the process. Wallace led Brett Moffitt and Corey LaJoie under the checkered flag.

"It's a great feeling. We pretty much annihilated the race," said Wallace, a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver. "I just want to thank, first of all, everybody at Revolution Racing. They worked their tails off...

"It's a brand new car. This was the very first race on it, and the first win. So that was pretty (good) for our chances. I'm just so excited."

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Check out the photo gallery from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 race day at Richmond International Raceway.

CLICK HERE to view the full gallery.

-- TB

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Rolling our way through the raindrops here at Richmond International Raceway already today, where the first practice session for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 went through nearly 40 minutes before rain intervened.

No surprise to anyone, really, is the fact that Brett Moffitt is fastest in practice today – with another hour-long session tentatively scheduled from 1:30-2:30 p.m. What is surprising is just how dominant Moffitt has been.

He's a full two-tenths of a second faster than any other car here at Richmond in practice, and Moffitt would have two race wins in two tries in the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota if not for a wrecked lapped car ending his day early (while leading) at South Boston.

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It's Thursday again. Time to dust off the old Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

GETTING AN EARLY start to the race "weekend" today with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway. Seems that the series hasn't had the best luck with weather this season – twice already getting postponed through two events, and a third likely.

But while we've got some time to think here at Richmond, it's a good time to ponder a question about the racing community as it relates to development series.

I've always been a big fan of minor league sports. Heck, growing up in Maine, minor league hockey and baseball are about as close as you can get to the biggest stages. I still follow the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League closely, and with the Portland Sea Dogs a Double-A affliate of the Boston Red Sox, I keep up with the development of those players, too.

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According to the race's name, Crown Royal will present the "Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400" this weekend in Richmond, VA.

Now, the first question most people probably ask is: "Who the heck are Matthew and Daniel Hansen?"

The second is: "Am I not enough of a NASCAR buff to recognize those names and am I going to look like a dope if I voice my first question?"

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Before we get into the article, let's just take a minute to enjoy the photo to the right.

In this photo, you see Joey Logano celebrating the Coors Light "21 Means 21" pole in the Nationwide Series last weekend.

Coincidentally, Logano's car is not 21, it's just short at number 20.  And, also, coincidentally, his car number matches his current age: 20.

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It was a slow weekend in the racing world on the regional level, in part because of the Easter holiday and also in part to the rain that washed away the few things that were planned for Saturday in the northeast.

That being said, we've still cobbled together a Podium Finish, with a couple of unexpected headliners and one that was -- well -- quite expected. Let's see who made the Top-3 for the weekend of April 22-24:

1. Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn.

Where have we seen this before? No, seriously, stop me if you're surprised. Ted Christopher continued to wheel the heck out of NASCAR Modifieds, heading to Caraway Speedway and posting his second straight NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory on Saturday.

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It's Thursday again. Time to dust off the old Mini Stock for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

For those among us that harken back to the "good ol' Halcyon days" of local stock car racing, you've got to love Ted Christopher.

I mean, you don't actually have to love the guy – in fact, a trip through the grandstands at either of the Connecticut short tracks where he competes weekly would suggest that a fair amount don't.

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Kyle Busch Enters Oxford 250

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kyle Busch is heading back to Oxford Plains Speedway.

The track and Kyle Busch Motorsports announced today that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver will compete in this year's TD Bank Oxford 250 on Sunday, July 24. It will be Busch's third appearance in the northeast's marquee Late Model race after having competed in both the 2005 and 2006 editions.

"It's no secret that I love to race, so I'll be spending my weekend off from the Sprint Cup Series in July running the late model races at Oxford Plains Speedway," Busch said in a track release.

"The track is a lot of fun to drive. It's very flat, the corners are very round and the straightaway's aren't very long. Bill Ryan and his staff treated me excellent during my first two trips to Oxford and the fans there are great."

Busch will also compete in the PASS-sanctioned Brackett Mechanical/RB Performance 150 on Saturday night, July 23. Continue...

"Are you watching auto racing?"

It's a question I've had to deal with since I first became a racing fan in 2009. (The answer is a 'well, of course-toned,' "yeah!")

"Wow! A bunch of cars turning left!"

A typical retort from the uneducated mathlete.  (Perhaps you should try calculating the centripetal force heading into turn 2 maybe that would make you more appreciative.)

"It doesn't even qualify as a sport."

Also, another ignorant comment from someone that hasn't watched a lap in their life.

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Bradley Babb won't be credited with a career-best finish after all.

The ACT Late Model Tour announced Monday that Babb had been penalized after his second-place finish in the season-opening NH Governor's Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Babb was discovered to have used an unregistered practice tire on his car during the main event.

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Each Monday we take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. This week, we look both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line at a couple of familiar faces and one new driver on the scene.

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Brad Babb shook his head and stared at the ground, as if somehow the greasy asphalt below his feet held some answers, some sort of insight into the improbability of it all.

Last year's ACT Late Model Tour Rookie of the Year, Babb had just one prior Top-5 finish on the Tour. The second-generation driver out of Windham, Maine, had never before finished on the podium, never so much as contemplated competing for a victory before Sunday's season opener.

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They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but Brian Hoar seems to keep picking up plenty.

If it's been done on the ACT Late Model Tour, it seems as though Brian Hoar has done it. He's won more races in Tour history than any driver. He's finished in the Top-5 more times. He even stepped away from the series for the better part of a decade to run the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for a while – going out and setting a New Hampshire Motor Speedway track record in the process. Then he returned to full-time ACT competition and promptly won the last two ACT championships to give him seven for his career.

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I'm with you. Three days ago, if you'd told me that we'd be having an ACT Late Model Tour race today at Lee USA Speedway, I'd have told you to enjoy the soggy feet.

But, call me seldom-right and wrong-again, my friend.
We're going through the drivers meeting right now at Lee USA Speedway, and final practice is less than an hour away. Qualifying begins at 1 and then off we go... The NH Governor's Cup 150 hits center stage this afternoon.

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The ACT Late Model Tour season tends to take its followers all over the map.

The chaos of racing at Thunder Road. The excitement of being involved in an invitational at New Hampshire. A surprising first-time winner; a veteran driver on a seemingly unbeatable roll. Toss in a little qualifying drama, some tire controversies and perhaps a stern reminder or two about rules from the head offices and you've got a rather typical ACT year.

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It's back! The often-imitated, never duplicated, one-of-a-kind weekly laundry list of an auto racing writer has once again found its way into the pages of the worldwide webisphere.

And like its predecessor – "On Pit Road" – there will be plenty of dirty laundry aired, too. Consider it the "Festivus" celebration of auto racing, complete with the feats of strength, the Festivus pole and the airing of the grievances. Heck, my wife won't listen to me anymore – so you might as well do it. Am I right?

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The record books will say that Ted Christopher won the NASCAR WhelenModified Tour event last weekend at Thompson International Speedway, but his wallet will say different.

Christopher was one of two drivers penalized by NASCAR on Wednesday after carburetor issues were discovered in technical inspection following the season-opening Icebreaker 150. Fifth-place finisher Justin Bonsignore was the other.

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Of course, right!?

I had to make some stereotypical reference to that stereotype-fulfilling movie!

Although, while some NASCAR purists might have felt it made a mockery of the sport, it did a lot to bring auto racing into the living rooms of Americans.  Plus, it was Carl Edwards that, two years ago in this race, suffered a horrific crash on the last lap and legged it out on foot to the finish line, à la Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard.

However, like in the movie when Bobby and Girard were disqualified for leaving their cars and Cal Naughton Jr. was awarded the race, if you're prepping this weekend's fantasy team, you're probably more concerned with who will cross the finish line first...by vehicle!

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Granite State of Mind

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm sure you've heard the entire laundry list of complaints against New Hampshire:

- Nothing happens here.

- Nobody lives here.

- It's too cold.

- It's too snowy.

...That list goes on...

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Each Monday we'll take a look at the top performers from around the region over the weekend that was. Still a pretty limited sample size considering most tracks north of Connecticut have yet to hold so much as a single practice session, but we'll forge ahead anyhow.

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The more things change, the more they've stayed the same for Ryan Preece.

It was one year ago to the weekend that Preece first jousted with Mike Stefanik on the track and then took to some verbal sparring with the winningest driver in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history. And it was one year ago that Preece got off to a promising start to the season.

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It's like the old saying from your childhood: "Look, ma! No hands."

Ted Christopher fought off everything on Sunday afternoon at Thompson International Speedway – falling down two laps to the leaders early on, a penalty on pit road, a right hand with ligament damage and stitches, a brush with the inside wall off the backstretch and a freshly-injured left hand – to win the season-opening NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150.

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Greetings from a warm and sunny Thompson International Speedway where – get this – we're wearing short-sleeved shirts in anticipation of today's season-opening NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150.

A field of 33 cars are set to take the green flag at approximately 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Just to follow up on a couple of storylines from Saturday's qualifying day here at Thompson:

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Bobby Santos is up to his old tricks.

For the second consecutive year, the reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion set a new track record at Thompson International Speedway to win the pole for Sunday's season-opening Icebreaker.

Santos turned a lap of 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph) during Saturday's qualifying session for his third career Thompson pole. He has five career poles overall.

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In the, uh, "immortal" words of UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer, "We Are LIVE!!"

Warm and sunny early spring afternoon here at Thompson International Speedway, where the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is set to kick off the 2011 season at the place where the Tour's seasons traditionally begin and end. Practice and qualifying are on the docket today, with the Icebreaker 150 set for Sunday afternoon at approximately 3 p.m.

Ted Christopher, of course, is here. He's posted 11 career victories at Thompson, including taking the checkered flag in an astonishing seven of the last nine WMT races contested at the .625-mile oval.

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Now that's how you start out with a new team.

Brett Moffitt won the pole and led every lap in his first outing with Michael Waltrip Racing last weekend, dominating en route to winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

His efforts impressed all the right people, as Moffitt was ranked first in this week's Hunter Index. The index polls a panel of 14 motorsports journalists and NASCAR representatives as a means of ranking NASCAR-sanctioned short-track and developmental series drivers from across the country.

About the only person who could have filed a complaint with Moffitt taking the top spot was NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver George Brunnhoelzl III – who's claimed the first two WSMT races of 2011.

Moffitt, who left Joe Gibbs Racing in the offseason to take the seat vacated by two-time East Series champion Ryan Truex, also won last year's season finale at Dover, Del.

– TB

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First of all, let's just start by thanking you for finding The Granite Stripe.
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