Veterans Look To Defend Their Home Turf
Even as the NASCAR Camping World Series East has expanded from its northeastern roots and its schedule now includes some of the top short-track facilities on the East Coast, New Hampshire Motor Speedway remains the undeniable series home base.
Some of the most accomplished names in series history will be back at the ‘Magic Mile’ to defend their home turf against the latest crop of young drivers looking to make their mark.
Names like Brad Leighton (No. 55 Irving Oil Chevrolet) and Mike Olsen (No. 61 KDD Auto Parts Chevrolet) will climb back behind the wheel. Dale Shaw will serve as crew chief as his son, Dale Shaw Jr., makes his NASCAR Camping World Series debut. And the series most recent winner, Ryan Truex (No. 00 NAPA Toyota), will try to make it two in a row at a track in which both his father and brother have wins at.
Among the most notable names entered in the Heluva Good! 125 is Leighton, who hails from Center Harbor, N.H.. While the 1999 & 2000 series champion has cut back his NASCAR schedule in recent years, the two races at New Hampshire remain highlighted on his calendar.
“We’re all short-track racers up her in the northeast,” Leighton said, “and when we go there, it’s a big deal. It’s always been a big deal for me.
“This place has treated me so well and I’ve always treated the speedway with respect. We put a lot of effort in there and it’s paid off.”
Leighton, 47, has more wins around the 1.058-mile oval than any other series driver with eight. Four times he’s captured the track’s championship, which is awarded to the driver with the highest total points accumulated at New Hampshire during a season.
He’s come close to adding to that total in recent years. In 2007, he ran second to eventual series champion Joey Logano. Last year, he was spun trying to take the lead late in the late going of the June event, and led 44 laps in the Septmber race before being sidelined with three laps to go because of fuel issues.
“Based on last year’s performance, we definitely felt we were in contention to win both events,” Leighton said. “It’s really the same car, the same crew — all volunteer.”
The car, owned by championship car owner Steve Griswold, is being housed in Charlotte, N.C., at Andy Santerre Motorsports. Former NASCAR Nationwide Series crew chief Matt Goslant has been working to get the car ready for the weekend.
“I’m hoping we run well for him,” Leighton said. “I’m out there to win and have fun. He’s out there to make a name for himself, and I’d like to win to help him.”
Olsen, the two-time series champion, has been busy fielding a car for Jonathan Smith. He’ll make his first start since the final race of 2009 and just his fifth in the last two seasons. That includes a pair of seventh-place finishes at New Hampshire last year.
Olsen’s lone win there came in 2006, where he memorably tracked down race leader Sean Caisse in the closing laps. As the day grew hotter and the track got slicker, Olsen kept his cool and reeled in Caisse, who had led 86 laps, and made the winning pass on the final lap.
Dale Shaw Jr., 19, has had success running in the New England short tracks and will make his debut in the series where his dad is a former champion (1994) and is fourth on the all-time win list with 19 victories. Three of those wins for the elder Shaw came at New Hampshire (Sept. 1996, May 1997, and Aug. 1998).
Ryan Truex earned his first career win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Ryan’s father, Martin Truex, won at New Hampshire in 1994, while Ryan’s brother, current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr., won there in 2000 and 2003.
In addition, two other New Englanders are looking forward to returning to their home turf. Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet) will look to match Leighton’s mark with a third straight win at what he calls his home track. MacDonald, from Rowley, Mass., swept both races there last year. And Uncasville, Conn., driver Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Casino Chevrolet) used a pair of third-place runs in 2008 to propel him to his first NASCAR championship.
The Race: Heluva Good! Summer 125
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
The Date: Friday, June 26
The Time: 5:10.m. ET
TV Schedule: SPEED, July 9, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: 1.058-mile asphalt oval
Race Purse: $217,884
2008 Winner: Eddie MacDonald
2008 Polesitter: None - rain
Event Schedule: Thursday, June 25 - Practice, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.; Qualifying, 3 p.m.
News & Notes
The Race … The Heluva Good! Summer 125 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the sixth event in an 11-race schedule this year for the NASCAR Camping World Series East, and the first of two trips to Loudon, N.H. This will be the 51st all-time race for the series at NHMS.
The Procedure … The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 125 laps (132.5 miles).
The Track … NHMS is a 1.058-mile, slightly-banked asphalt oval. The NCWSE, along with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, were among the first NASCAR series to compete at NHMS when it opened in 1990. NHMS has played host to more NCWSE races than any other facility in the series’ history.
Race Winners … The inaugural NCWSE race on Sept. 2, 1990 at NHMS was won by Mike McLaughlin. McLaughlin, who also captured the NWMT race that same day, went on to earn three more NCWSE wins at the ‘Magic Mile.’ New Hampshire native Brad Leighton has the most series wins at NHMS with eight. Eddie MacDonald won both races last year.
Pole Winners … Kelly Moore has the most Coors Light Pole Awards in NCWSE history at NHMS with six. Qualifying for the June 2008 race was rained out and Peyton Sellers sat on the pole for the September event. Brian Hoar set the qualifying record in 2002 at 28.892 seconds (127.141 mph).
Competition Counts … Each of the last seven races have featured nine or more lead changes. Each of last year’s races had nine lead changes among six different drivers. The record for most lead changes is 12, achieved twice (Sept. 2005 and Sept. 1996), and the record for more different leaders is eight (Sept. 2006)
Going for a ‘Spin’ in Lowell on Wednesday
Defending race winner Eddie MacDonald and Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Matt DiBenedetto will be among the drivers to kick off the New Hampshire weekend a day early, as they are set to take part in NASCAR Night at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass. — home of the Lowell Spinners, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox — on Wednesday, June 24.
MacDonald, from Rowley, Mass., will have his No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet on hand at the ballpark, and they will be joined by NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers Bobby Grigas III and Ryan Preece in signing autographs for the fans and taking part in in-game ticket giveaways and on-field promotions.
The Lowell Spinners play in the short-season New York-Penn League and have sold out all of their home games dating back to 2000. In addition to being the home to future Boston Red Sox, the club are routinely make headlines for their original and wacky promotions.
New Englanders have lock on Victory Lane
Looking to pick the winner of Friday’s New England 100? Narrow your search for favorites down to those that hail from New England.
The win by Mayetta, N.J., native Martin Truex Jr.’s in the July 2003 race was the last time a driver from outside of New England has gone to Victory Lane in a NASCAR Camping World Series East race.
Of the 21 different winners over the 50 previous events at the ‘Magic Mile,’ all six New England states have been represented. New Hampshire and Maine have had six winners apiece, while Connecticut and Massachusetts have had three each. Rhode Island’s lone winner was Mike Stefanik (1995 and 2005).
Truex and his father are joined by fellow outsiders Steve Park and Mike McLaughlin (both from New York) as the only non-New Englanders to break through.
Other notes to keep in mind when looking for a favorite:
* Just four rookies have won at New Hampshire — McLaughlin (1990), Park (1996), Brad Leighton (1996) and Joey Logano (2007).
* Only nine times has the pole winner gone on to win the race. Truex Jr. and Leighton did it twice and it was most recently accomplished by Logano in June 2007.
* Joe Bessey’s win from the 24th-starting position in 1994 is the furthest back an eventual winner has begin. Only four times as the winner qualified outside of the top 10.
Last year’s event ...
Eddie MacDonald achieved what he called his biggest win of the season when he emerged from a three-wide scramble with Matt Kobyluck and rookie Trevor Bayne to pull off his first win at New Hampshire. MacDonald used the inside lane to squeeze by Bayne just as Bayne was trying to take the lead from Kobyluck on the inside.
MacDonald led the Heluva Good! 125 three times for 35 laps, taking the lead for the final time on a green-white-checkered finish that stretched the race to 127 laps. Bayne finished second, followed by Kobyluck and rookies Austin Dillon and Ricky Carmichael.
Marc Davis, Mike Olsen, John Salemi, Brad Leighton and Brian Ickler rounded out the top 10.
Up Next: Thompson
The seventh of 11 NASCAR Camping World Series races in 2009 will take place at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on Saturday, July 11.
The Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy 100 will mark the 26th running of the NASCAR Camping World Series East at the 0.625-mile banked oval. Bobby Dragon won the series’ inaugural race at Thompson on July 31, 1988 and repeated in 1989. Ricky Craven is the East’s all-time wins leader at Thompson with three triumphs. Trevor Bayne earned his first career win in last year’s event.
Eddie MacDonald (2005) and Matt Kobyluck (2006) are the only two active full-time competitors that have won at Thompson before, increasing the probability of a first-time winner reaching Victory Lane.
The NASCAR Camping World Series will join Thompson’s Mini Stock, Limited Sportsmen and Late Model divisions on the race card on July 11. The PASS Super Late Models are also slated to compete. The green flag for the Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy 100 is set to drop at 8:30 p.m.