Serving as the springboard to such NASCAR careers as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle and Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano, Legends Car racing has become one of the fastest growing developmental series in motorsports. New Hampshire Motor Speedway is home to the Granite State Legends Cars, which begins its road course and mini-oval Legends' series, featuring some of the best emerging talent in New England, on Saturday.
Three of those drivers were at the speedway on Friday, as defending road course and mini-oval series champion Shaun Buffington; nine-time NHMS Legends Car winner Tom Gray; and 16-year-old female standout pilot Taylor Martin took part in the first-ever "Legends Media Day." Doug Stevens, a Legends expert from Griffin, Ga., will also compete this weekend.
"This segment of racing, we feel, has become a very good developmental series to give people of all ages a chance to race," said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. "There's the younger group that is looking to use this as an entry-level class before moving up, and then there are a lot of people that are moving through life that have never gotten the chance to do this. It's their hobby and they enjoy a weekend of racing like we're about to have this weekend and throughout the summer here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway."
The Magic Mile will officially drop the green flag on the 2014 race season on Saturday, April 19 when the Legends' Moat Mountain Road Course Series and Sign Works Oval Series hit the track.
Legends cars were created in 1992 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where officials observed a need for affordable racecars with minimal maintenance time and cost. At a 5/8-scale (to a normal-sized car), steel-bodied and fenderless, original Legends cars weren't exactly in line in what CMS officials envisioned. Deeming steel replacement bodywork too costly, they adapted the car to fit the needs, creating cars resembling those of the '30s and '40s when moonshiners souped-up their cars to outrun the revenuers (law enforcement) to bootleg homemade moonshine.
"Moonshine had a significant role in the start of motorsports and auto racing here in the United States," said Gappens. "Now it's everywhere. The Legends Series alone is racing in 20 countries across the globe."
Built using a "spec" model, meaning all cars are mechanically identical, Legends cars have a motorcycle engine and are purpose-built racecars with drivers ranging in age from 12 to 65 years old and competing under the INEX (inexpensive racing) sanctioning body.
"I would definitely recommend the Legends Car and this track when it comes to getting started," said Buffington, who has three series championships and 35 Legends race wins in his career at NHMS. "It's a very affordable opportunity and a perfect way to start your racing career."
Friday's "Legends Media Day" was held outside of the Granite State Legend Cars dealership at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The largest dealership of its kind in New England, GSLC opened in 2012 and provides everything from a whole car to a small part, and has everything necessary to start or maintain an affordable racing career in a Legends Car.
"We want nothing more than to draw more interest in the sport and create a very affordable option for aspiring drivers to begin their careers," said Ryan Ux, assistant sales manager at Granite State Legend Cars.
That's been the case for Martin, who has worked her way up from quarter-midgets at the age of eight years old all the way into the Legends series. Martin finished third last year - behind Buffington and Gray - in both the road course and mini-oval standings, and has her eyes set on being even more competitive in 2014; something she knows isn't always easy in a series filled with males.
"I do have a lot of respect for Danica (Patrick) and I know exactly what she's going through. It's really tough being the only girl in this series," said Martin. "But she's a big role model for me because everyone is always looking at you and you have to keep your composure and keep a level head. This series has been a great opportunity for me to not only race competitively, but to learn how to prepare myself for the next level."
The Granite State Legends Cars won't be the only four-wheeled vehicles heating up the Magic Mile on Saturday. The Granite State Bandolero Series and the North East Mini Stock Tour will also be on-track. Spectators may watch from the grandstands for free and may gain access to the infield for $15.
This year's racing season will once against be highlighted by two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends, including the Camping World RV Sales 301 on July 13 and the SYLVANIA 300 on Sept. 21. To purchase tickets, which now include special pricing for kids under the age of 12, call the track's ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931 or by visiting www.nhms.com.