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.
Cory Hildebrand kicked off the seven-race season with a win, while Eric Wood and Shane Narbonne set the seeds for a season-long battle with a second and third place finish (respectively). The biggest news of the day, however, was 2010 MW Grand Prix champion Scott Greenwood, who recorded a DNF and fell into a difficult hole for his title defense.
As the weather heated up, so did the bike of Narbonne, who won the next three months in impressive fashion. The second of three wins came in America's oldest motorcycle race, the 88th Loudon Classic. He skyrocketed to the top of the standings, but his rising stock soon became too much to make a title run. He would miss the final three races of the season due to participation in races with the American Motorcyclist Association.
His absence left the door open for LRRS veterans like Wood and Greenwood. After Greenwood's opening day DNF, neither racer would finish outside the top-three. With his usual front-running mate of Narbonne gone, Wood ran away with the August "Dash for the Cash." Greenwood did the same with the September race. However, it was too little too late to catch Wood, who clinched the MW Grand Prix title with a second-place finish during the Labor Day weekend.
The final race of the year proved to be one of the most exciting as Wood and Greenwood again battled in the MW Grand Prix. Greenwood started in a familiar position on the pole, but Wood was able to sneak past him in the later stages of the race and hold the position for his second win of the season.
Aside from Narbonne, the series featured a few other promising young racers, including Hildebrand, who came home in third in the class' standings after his opening week win. Tyler Sweeney, like Narbonne, missed some races due to AMA participation and registered a DNF in the Loudon Classic (which counted for double points in the standings), but compiled several impressive finishes with a third, two fourths, and a fifth in the four races in which he crossed NHMS' Granite Stripe finish line.
Away from the MW Grand Prix, local legend Rick Doucette dominated the overall LRRS field on the way to defending his 2010 Overall championship, which spans more than a dozen different classes. Hildebrand illustrated his passion for the sport by finishing second Overall, while Greenwood edged Jason Carter, who consistently appeared in Victory Lane's top-eight during the MW Grand Prix, for third.
NHMS added a few new two-wheel events in 2011 as it featured a full-course motard race during the Loudon Classic weekend. It also unveiled a short-track event during that weekend on a 0.25-mini oval, which continued running on race weekends in tandem with races from U.S. Legend Cars International. As expected, riders like Narbonne and Sweeney took an immediate interest in the new events.
The Loudon Road Race Series expects to be back at full speed in 2012, but only time will tell if some of the young drivers will move on to the national spotlight after fine tuning their skills in New Hampshire's premier series. The season's marquee Loudon Classic weekend will be held June 15-17 and more information can be found by clicking here to visit the LRRS part of NHMS.com.