When Bruton Smith, Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., bought New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Directors Terry Kirk and Todd Beaulieu of Nelcar knew this could be their step in the door to get Legends at the most popular racetrack in New England, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Through many talks with the Speedway and hosting a Legends booth during NASCAR weekends, they were making progress into getting Legends on the famed racetrack.
Now, two years later, the goal has been accomplished with the first ever Legends Car race at NHMS. It was held on the 1.6 mile road course during the popular Vintage Celebration weekend. For 15 laps, 16 of the best Legends Car drivers in New England took to the course, many with no prior road racing experience. With the difficulty of many shifting points and turning both left and right, the drivers quickly adapted to the challenges and put on a great show.
During practice, which doubled as qualifying as well, for many drivers it was only their first time turning right in a race car. While the tracks unique layout was tough on the drivers, there were only a few incidents throughout practice and the drivers were all confident that they were well enough adapted to the road racing to put on a good 15 lap show. When the second round of practice was over, it was the 399 of Bob Weymouth who ran the quickest time through practice and would start his car from the pole position.
The 23 of Connecticut driver Shawn Buffington would start on his outside for the feature. Both drivers had a history of road racing in their long careers of Legends Car racing. The 2009 Nelcar Champion, Max Zachem would start third with Tom Gray and Bobby Timmons rounding out the top five.
When the green flag came out, the 16 car field screamed by and Weymouth beat the field to turn one. Things got jumbled up quick though, as Buffington had to detour through the grass to avoid wrecking. That didn't slow him down; he got around Weymouth and led the first lap.
Zachem was coming in a hurry, he was putting the pressure on Buffington before the first caution flag flew on lap seven, when rookie driver Jake Spillers took a spin in his 6 car. When the green flag came back out on lap nine, Buffington once again had the top spot and held it in front of Zachem. However, on the next lap Zachem finally got a run on Buffington and took over the top spot. Buffington was able to get the lead back the following lap, as the two battled hard for the win.
There were many battles going on the racetrack behind the two leaders, the 15 of Jim Mayrand and the 56 of Evan Beaulieu were racing hard for the sixth spot, and the 46 of Chad Harrington was coming up through the field after losing ground on the restart. When the checkered flag flew, it was Buffington who was able to hold off Zachem and take the win in the first ever Legends race at the “Magic Mile,” Weymouth was third, Timmons was fourth and Gray rounded out the top five.
"The whole race control was going nuts over all the battles on the track," concluded Tom Blanchette, Director of Operations at the Speedway, and the one who put this show together. "There were three distinct battles going on spread out through the entire field, it was a real great race."
The first race at NHMS was in the books, and it was a successful one, with only one caution and many great battles and few incidents through the whole day.
There will be more details regarding the next race at NHMS in the coming weeks. On behalf of Nelcar, we would like to thank Jerry Gappens, Tom Blanchette and the entire NHMS staff for having the Nelcar Legends as part of the Vintage Celebration week. The next points race will be at the Unity Raceway in Unity, Maine, with Timmons, Beaulieu and Forest Boucher having to fight from the rear of the field under Nelcar's top three rule, it's got the potential to be a great race, as many races at Unity Raceway. For more info, news and points, visit Nelcar.net.