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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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