Column By: AMY HARROP / RPW – LOUDON, NH – New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the “hub” of racing in New England. For over two decades, the track has been home to the some of the biggest racing events on the East Coast. This weekend is no different, with the track hosting an action-packed three day weekend featuring some of the greatest racing divisions in the country.
Connecticut native, Joey Logano, is one of the biggest names that fans think of when they think of true New England racers. New Hampshire Motor Speedway means a lot to Joey, seeing that he grew up coming to the speedway as a little boy with his family. During his morning press conference, Joey shared that it was “wild” to meet drivers like Jeff Gordon in his early years, only to be racing with them on the big stage years later.
His first career Cup win also came at NHMS, which he compares to “winning the Daytona 500”. The win came on June 28th, 2009, during his rookie year of racing. At 19 years old, he became the youngest Cup Series winner in history, winning a rain-shortened 273-lap race.
Joey’s second greatest memory from the track comes from his 2014 victory, which solidified him in the second round of the chase that season.
Last year at this time, the #22 team was struggling on the track, fighting to come up with top-10 finishes after a handful of successful years. Logano failed to make the playoffs last year, but a win at Talladega earlier this season solidified his Playoff berth this year. Although he is “locked in” to the playoffs, Logano says that the team’s mindset is no different this time around and that they are focused on winning races and improving as a team.
Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Martin Truex, Jr., is a New Jersey native, but he considers NHMS to be his home track. Truex recalls following the Modified Series’ around New England in his early days, looking up to some of the biggest drivers in the division.
It’s always been a family affair for the Truex family, with Martin’s younger brother, Ryan, making his way up through the ranks, currently competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Their father also raced during their early years, later handing the keys over to his sons, who have each made successful careers out of being behind the wheel.
It may be surprising to some that Truex has never captured a Cup victory at NHMS. He’s led hundreds of laps at the track over the past five years, but has never been able to lift the trophy, or in New Hampshire’s case, the coveted lobster.
Truex Jr. hopes that his luck changes this year with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301, the track’s only marquee event for the Cup Series this season.
Kyle Larson may be from California, but he has New England roots within his race team. Larson’s spotter, Derek Kneeland, is a Windham, Maine native and a fellow driver. Kneeland occasionally returns home to try his hand behind the wheel of his #90 PASS Super Late Model.
Kneeland has his own fan base in New England, and Larson jokes that he and Derek need to do joint autograph sessions when they are at NHMS, seeing that Kneeland is seemingly more popular than he is in New England.
Larson has been very strong at NHMS in recent years, dominating nearly all practices and qualifying sessions last year at the track, only to come up short in the end. Larson was second in first practice this weekend, and hopes to finally end up on top at the conclusion of Sunday’s race.
Matt DiBenedetto is still fresh off of his career-best Cup finish at Daytona International Speedway, where he finished seventh just two short weeks ago. Go Fas Racing team owner, Archie St. Hilaire, is from Old Orchard Beach, Maine and has had deep ties to the New England racing scene for years.
DiBenedetto’s #32 machine has a Maine-centric theme this weekend, featuring Weir’s Motor Sales, Inc. on the hood and other Maine businesses, such as Bentley’s Saloon, on the car. DiBenedetto and Archie made an appearance with the car this past Wednesday at Bentley’s, meeting and greeting with fans and friends before heading down to New Hampshire for the big show.
Berlin, Connecticut native, Ryan Preece, is pulling double-duty this weekend in both the XFINITY Series and the Whelen Modified Tour, a process that he’s no stranger to. Preece is racing a handful of select races this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Preece has proven strong so far this season, capturing a victory earlier this year in Bristol, which was a race that included an $100,000 Dash for Cash bonus.
Preece was all smiles during his morning press conference, saying that he’s “excited” to continue to make gains this weekend at his home track.
After all of his struggles this season, Kaz Grala still had a smile posted on his face during his morning press conference with fellow drivers, Ryan Truex and Daniel Hemric. Grala made the sudden switch to the #61 Fury Racing car after his original team, JGL, shut down operations earlier this season.
Grala also missed last week due to lack of sponsorship on the car, but he says that the week off gave the team more preparation time for the big show this weekend at his home track.
At this point in the season, the Boston native is racing for wins, not points. He’s been gaining strength each and every week, capturing a top-10 finish just a few short weeks ago in the division.
The Whelen Modified Tour is back once more at the “Crown Jewel” of New England, welcoming back local drivers like Anthony Nocella, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and more that have proven strong at various tracks throughout New England.
Manchester, Maine driver, Reid Lanpher, is also making his K&N East debut at NHMS this weekend. Lanpher, the 2015 and 2017 Beech Ridge Motor Speedway track champion, won the Granite State Pro Stock Series race at the speedway just a handful of weeks ago.
Lanpher, who is racing for team EJP racing, also captured a hard-earned victory this past Wednesday at Seekonk Speedway down in Seekonk, Massachusetts. This is Lanpher’s third race in the K&N series, seeing that this race follows up his appearances in the division at Kern County Raceway Park and Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this season.
Blare those trumpets loud and proud, because it’s homecoming time here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Maybe one of these New England natives will come out on top, but only time will tell.
Check out the weekend’s schedule here:
Saturday, July 21st
9:00 am: Whelen Modified Tour Qualifying
11:05 am: XFINITY Series Qualifying
2:00 pm: Whelen Modified Tour — Eastern Propane & Oil 100
4:00 pm: XFINITY Series — Lakes Region 200
6:45 pm: K&N Pro Series East — United Site Services 70
Sunday, July 22nd
1:20 pm: MENCS Driver Introductions
2:00 pm: MENCS — Foxwoods Resort Casino 301