Twenty-nine cones were sacrificed. But in the end, the 29-second penalty didn't keep Goffstown Superintendent Brian Balke from collecting a check for $10,000 on Tuesday afternoon in the third annual Race to Benefit Education: Superintendent Edition. Balke drove his school bus around an extremely demanding course at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a time of 2 minutes, 32.708 seconds, beating out nine other school districts from across the Granite State.
Balke, who has held a number of educational positions over the last 20 years, admits that a work desk is typically a safer alternative on most days. But with an opportunity to earn a sizeable check for the Goffstown School District, Balke put the pedal to the metal, worrying less about hitting the cones - which added one second to driver's times for each one hit - and more about maintaining a fast speed through the course.
"The entire strategy was to go as quick as we could and hit as few cones as possible - but if we had a few casualties along the way, so be it," said Balke, who plans on putting the $10,000 toward a four-wheel utility vehicle that can be used by the athletic trainers to quickly respond to serious injuries on playing fields and around campus. "All those years I had go-karting as a kid paid off. This place is fantastic. What a cool event and it's so awesome to be here."
John Cruikshank, an attendance officer for the Manchester School District, knocked over 12 fewer cones than his Goffstown adversary, but also took nearly 14 seconds longer to complete the course, leaving him 1.955 seconds behind Balke at the finish line. Sanborn Superintendent Brian Blake was the last go, yet finished a very respectable third, hitting only 10 cones and finishing 5.252 seconds behind.
"It was a unique, new event for New Hampshire Motor Speedway to have school busses actually competing on the track," said speedway executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens, who took all 10 representatives for course drive-through session on the speedway's "Cool Bus" before the competition. "I really thought this was a great platform to raise awareness for education and have some fun at the same time."
Race to Benefit Education Top 10
Brian Balke, Goffstown.....................2:32.708 (29)
John Cruikshank, Manchester ..........2:34.663 (17)
Brian Blake, Sanborn........................2:37.960 (10)
Laura Nelson, Derry.........................2:48.071 (19)
Matt Cashman, Concord..................2:51.519 (36)
Tom Burke, Merrimack Valley...........2:52.366 (2)
Richard Towne, Franklin....................2:55.498 (7)
Mike Hopkins, Rochester...................2:55.777 (32)
Mike Morgan, Exeter.........................3:07.124 (14)
Nate Greenberg, Londonderry...........3:34.049 (27)
(Cones hit in parentheses)
"It was tough going first, but whether I was first to go, fifth to go or sixth to go, I still probably would have finished in 10th place. But it was a lot of fun," said Nate Greenberg, Superintendent of Schools in Londonderry. "I'd be less careful about the cones if got to do it again. I'd just run them all over and set the speed record and worry about the penalties later."
This was the third year in a row the speedway has hosted a competition to donate money to a children's program in New Hampshire. Two years ago, city officials in Nashua won education funds for correctly predicting the winner of the 2012 July Sprint Cup Race, Kasey Kahne. Last year, New Hampshire sheriff's raced cruisers through a slalom, water hazard and multiple hairpin turns, and it was Strafford County Deputy Mike Raiche that took home a check to help fund the Strafford County Child Advocacy Center (CAC), which assists children who are victims of crime and abuse.
Goffstown School District is comprised of seven schools in the southern New Hampshire area. Schools include New Boston Central, Dunbarton Elementary, Glen Lake, Bartlett Elementary, Maple Ave Elementary, Mountain View Middle and Goffstown High.
All 10 superintendents and representatives participating in Tuesday's event received 20 tickets to the July 13 Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Magic Mile.