Raindrops and overcast skies did little to dampen the spirits of New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, who on Tuesday gladly held the first-ever Governor’s Challenge: Mini-SYLVANIA 300 at Route 106 Race Park in Pembroke, N.H. It was the perfect start to race week, which begins on Thursday and culminates on Sunday with the SYLVANIA 300, the second race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“This was a fun event and a great way to start an important tourism weekend for the entire state,” said Lynch, who is in his final term as New Hampshire’s Governor. “This is sure to be a memorable and exciting few days of racing.”
Lynch challenged local reporters to a series of races. Media slipped, slid and spun out on their way to an exciting finish. Greg Kretschmar of the “Greg and the Morning Buzz” morning radio show was the victor, beating New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens, NASCAR driver Mike Olsen and fellow members of the media from the Union Leader, Concord Monitor, Portsmouth Herald, WKXL and WPKZ back to the finish line.
Lynch proudly handed Kretschmar the winner’s trophy in the inaugural Mini-SYLVANIA 300.
“I wish Greg congratulations on the win,” said Lynch, “it was a hard-fought battle out there.”
Gappens finished second, while Olsen and Tracy Caruso of WZID’s “New Hampshire in the Morning” radio show finished third and fourth, respectively.
“If a race has to get rained on, I’m glad it’s this one,” joked Gappens. “The one thing I will say is that Gov. Lynch has always been a great supporter of the speedway. We’re really proud of the partnership we have with him and he’s always been a willing participant in everything we’ve done, including things like this here today.”
Gappens also offered Lynch race passes for the rest of his life, a similar deal he gave to the baby that was born at “The Magic Mile” last Friday. Shawna Arnold of Belmont, N.H., began going into labor and she and her boyfriend began driving to Concord Hospital. But when she realized she was about to give birth on the way, they made a pit stop to the speedway parking lot where she gave birth to a little girl, Katie.
From a storybook beginning for baby Katie to a storybook ending for Olsen. Never before has a New Hampshire-born driver teamed up with a New Hampshire-born car owner/crew chief in a Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. That will all change on Sunday when Olsen pilots the No. 32 Ford – sponsored by North Country Ford of Lancaster, N.H. – for lifelong friend Frank Stoddard in the SYLVANIA 300. Olsen and Stoddard grew up together in North Haverhill, N.H., roughly 75 miles from the 1.058-mile oval, and have been best friends since the age of 3. The SYLVANIA 300 will be the first-ever start in a Cup Series race for the 44-year-old Olsen, who is a two-time champion in the K&N Pro Series East.
“I’m very honored to have this opportunity,” said Olsen. “My goal is to finish all 300 laps and as long as I do that I’ll be happy, no matter where I finish.”
“Our ticket office has been abuzz with interest in coming down and supporting the New Hampshire team,” said Gappens. “It’s great for everyone to have a hometown guy to root for.”
Also on hand Tuesday was the New Hampshire Lottery, which made a special announcement regarding its Set for Life promotion. Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the NH Lottery, announced that five NH Lottery finalists will have the opportunity to win a minimum of $25,000 and up to $100,000 a year for life. The drawing will be held live, in front of a capacity crowd, prior to the start of the SYLVANIA 300. Each of the finalists has already won $1,000 on the $20 Set for Life instant scratch ticket, which qualified them for the drawing on Sunday.
“Finalists will each pick an envelope, four of which contain a cash prize of $25,000, $50,000, $75,000 and $100,000,” said McIntyre. “Whoever doesn’t win the cash prize will take a chance at winning $100,000 a year for life, a lump sum of $500,000, or a lump sum payment of $250,000.
“Jerry says he has the best job in the state, but I think I have the best job in the state because I get to give money away. It’s what we do best and we truly love our partnership with the track.”
To see what is sure to be an exciting weekend of racing, purchase your tickets to the SYLVANIA 300 NASCAR weekend by stopping by our Ticket Office, visiting the speedway website at www.nhms.com or calling our Ticket Hotline at (603) 783-4931.