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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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