Eric Wood has a lot of respect for America’s oldest motorcycle race. And over the last few years he has ridden his bike into victory lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but never as a winner.
That changed today when the native of Ashburnham, Mass., survived a mid-race red flag and a bad restart to win the 89th annual Loudon Classic at “The Magic Mile.”
“I’ve been watching this race since I’ve been able to walk,” said Wood, who finished second in last year’s Classic, a Middle Weight Grand Prix race. “I’ve watched a lot of great riders win here. This just means so much to finally get a win.”
Wood took home a winner’s purse of $1,000. He was followed across the Granite Stripe by Tyler Sweeney (Lynn. Mass.), Scott Greenwood (Dunbarton, N.H.), Cory Hildebrand (Milford, N.H.) and Jason Carter (Raymond, N.H.).
Defending champion Shane Narbonne (Tyngsboro, Mass.) bowed out early after taking a nasty spill on Lap 3 of Turn 4. The 22-year-old, who also won the 2009 Classic, said he wasn’t sure what happened, but knew he couldn’t continue when he saw that the throttle was destroyed.
“I’m not mad that I crashed, just that I worked so hard to try and win this thing again,” said Narbonne, who won the Unlimited Superbike race earlier in the day and rebounded to win the Motard in the nightcap. “They say it’s really hard to win (the Classic) two times in a row. I guess that’s true.”
Narbonne wasn’t the only rider to take a spill in Turn 4 of the speedway’s 1.6-mile road course. Brendin Tanner crashed in nearly the identical spot as Narbonne with 12 laps to go. Tanner suffered a broken foot, bringing out the red flag and resetting the field, but more importantly in wiped out Wood’s 11-second lead.
Racing resumed after nearly a 30-minute break with Sweeney grabbing the early lead when Wood’s clutch slipped, an error that dropped him as far back as ninth into Turn 1. But by the time there were nine laps to go, Wood was back out in front – and comfortably so.
“It might have looked easy at times, but it’s never easy with a field like this,” said Wood. “There’s a lot of talent here and I was fortunate enough to be out in front.”
Other day two winners include Rick Doucette (Expert LW Supersport), Bill Coolahan (Amateur LW Supersport), Wood (Supertwins), Antonio Marchetti (Amateur Unlimited Superbike), Dennis Levesque (Formula 40), Lee Schmidt (Novice Rookie), Christopher Rau (Amateur LW Superbike), and Chris Wells and Jeff Gillard (Sidecar Modern).
The third and final day of racing begins on Sunday at 12:20 p.m. Prior to the races, New Hampshire Legislators will take part in a Parade Lap, while Rainbow the Macaw Parrot will attempt to set the speed standard for a tethered bird riding on a motorcyclist’s shoulder. Rainbow will perch on the shoulder of her owner, Myles Bratter, and will ride down the front stretch of the speedway at an anticipated speed of 90 mph. The “Guinness Book of World Records” will be on hand to attest the event.
For photos, click here.
89th Loudon Classic Provisional Finishing Order
(Finish. No., Name, City, State)
1. 5, Eric Wood, Ashburnham, Mass.
2. 745, Tyler Sweeney, Lynn, Mass.
3. 4, Scott Greenwood, Dunbarton, N.H.
4. 33, Cory Hildebrand, Milford, N.H.
5. 15, Jason Carter, Raymond, N.H.
6. 909, Houk Nichols, Woodbury, Conn.
7. 20X, Brian Killmeier, Port Crane, N.Y.
8. 318, Ronald Poulin, Amesbury, Mass.
9. 48, Riley Rodgers, Hollis, N.H.
10. 10, Kip Peterson, Riverside, R.I.