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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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