Making History: Top 10 Moments that Define New Hampshire Motor Speedway
For three decades, race fans from across the northeast and around the world have flocked to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for world-class NASCAR events on “The Magic Mile.” As fans make plans to return for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Aug. 2, the highlight of the famed 1.058-mile speedway’s 30th anniversary season, officials are looking back on 10 key moments that shaped the history of New Hampshire’s iconic facility.
Racing Toward the Future: Ushering in a new era for motorsports greatness in the northeast, New Hampshire International Speedway officially opened its doors on June 5, 1990 in Loudon, New Hampshire. Less than six weeks later, on July 15, Tommy Ellis claimed victory in the first-ever NASCAR-sanctioned event at the facility, the Budweiser 300 Xfinity Series race.
Wallace Wins Inaugural Cup Series Showdown: In the midst of arguably his most successful season in 25 years of Cup Series competition, Rusty Wallace outpaced the field to win the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway on July 11, 1993. The victory was his fifth in a season where he ultimately captured 10 checkered flags, but fell short of the season-long championship, which went to Dale Earnhardt.
One for the Record Books: Under the summer sun, an up-and-coming racer named Jeff Gordon captured one of his seven Cup Series wins of the 1995 season at the Slick 50 300 on July 9. Prior to his 1995 breakout season, the Hendrick Motorsports driver only had two wins to his name. With his Hall of Fame career now behind him, Gordon holds numerous records at “The Magic Mile,” including most Top 5 Finishes (16); Most Top 10 Finishes (22); Most Starts (42); Most Laps Completed (11,363) and Most Laps Led (1,371).
Beating the Odds: After missing much of the previous two seasons recovering from severe, life-threatening injuries sustained in a horrific accident during practice at Michigan International Speedway – after which doctors gave him just a 10 percent chance of survival – Ernie Irvan not only returned to racing, but to victory lane with a win on July 14, 1996. “I don’t even know what to say,” crew chief Larry McReynolds said after the win. “This is a long way from that hospital bed in Michigan back in ’94.” It has been called one of the most emotional victories in NASCAR history.
Chasing History: Of Jeff Burton’s 21 career Cup Series wins, four came at New Hampshire International Speedway, the last of which came on Sept. 17, 2000. The track also holds the distinction of being the first where Burton raced in Cup Series competition (1993). In 20 years since setting the all-time wins mark at “The Magic Mile,” only Kevin Harvick has matched the feat.
Sweeping Up the Competition: Jimmie Johnson swept both Cup Series events at Loudon in 2003. The seven-time series champion’s only other Cup win at the track came in 2010. A return to victory lane this year would tie him with Burton and Harvick as the winningest Cup Series driver all-time at the track.
We Work for the Fans: On Jan. 11, 2008, Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman Bruton Smith finalized the purchase of the newly-named New Hampshire Motor Speedway and immediately began working on a series of fan enhancements to improve the race day experience, including a new tram system and gift shop. A state-of-the-art, four-sided scoreboard added in 2011 was among more recent improvements, which also include updates to grandstand seating and camping areas.
Before They Were Famous: Before they were household names, some of NASCAR’s best drivers fought hard to earn their first win at the sport’s premier level. On June 29, 2009, Joey Logano scored his first career Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the win, the native of nearby Middletown, Conn., joined the likes of Clint Bowyer, Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Ryan Newman, who each earned his first win in NASCAR’s top series at “The Magic Mile.”
Leading the Way: At New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s fall race, Brad Keselowski set a new track qualifying record with a blistering 27.090 second lap clocking in at 140.598 mph on Sept. 19, 2014. Keselowski led the field to green at the SYLVANIA 300 after a dominating win at the track earlier in the year that saw him lead 138 laps en route to victory.
Three-peat for Harvick?: Back-to-back defending race winner Kevin Harvick won his second consecutive Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 last season, taking home his fourth Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the win, Harvick tied Jeff Burton as the all-time leader for Cup Series victories at the track. A third consecutive victory at “The Magic Mile” in 2020 would leave Harvick alone at the top of the track’s all-time wins list.
Adult tickets starting at $70 are on sale at https://www.nhms.com/events/foxwoods-resort-casino-301/tickets/. Tickets for kids 12 and under are just $10. Free parking will be available in the S1, S2, S3 and S9 lots on Aug. 2. Further details can be found on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway website.
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