Story By: CHRIS LEONE / BULLRING BASH – ATTLEBORO, MA – Thomas Saari has been named the Grand Marshal and honorary starter for the inaugural Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge event at N. Woodstock, NH’s White Mountain Motorsports Park on Sunday, June 16. The event will be the latest chapter of an unlikely auto racing journey for Saari that started in earnest just a few years ago.
The Rindge, NH resident was the winner of a Facebook contest that involved guessing the winner of the 61st Daytona 500 held on February 17. Saari was one of two entrants who predicted that Danny Hamlin would triumph in “The Great American Race”. Though he remarked “long shot!” at the time of his prediction, it ended up coming true when Hamlin held off teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones during a green-white-checkers finish.
He was then chosen to be the White Mountain Grand Marshal via a random drawing with fellow correct prognosticator Matt Emhoff. Saari will thus wave the green flag at the Battle at the Banks event for the Bullring Bash Modifieds and Midstate Site Development Legend Cars.
“I just have always liked (Denny’s) style,” Saari said of his Daytona pick. “I think he’s a really down-to-earth racer, and his style kind of attracts me. I don’t root for any one NASCAR driver in particular, but I’ve always liked Denny, so I was kind of pulling for him.”
The 68-year-old Saari is more than just a lifelong fan of racing. In recent years, he has become a solid Legend Car competitor in his own right. Saari said he tried out some stock car racing when he was younger, but never reached the level where he was “having fun” with it. However, after his family had grown up and he had become more secure financially, he ended up finding his way back into the sport without even intending to.
“I had a buddy that was into it, and I went snowmobiling with him one day,” Saari recalled. “He was telling me about (the Legend Cars), and I really didn’t know anything about them. But he told me how he was racing up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and I was really intrigued by it. I told him, ‘That sounds really cool. I want to look into it.’ So I ended up actually buying a new car from Granite State Legends – because I didn’t know what else to do, really. If I had known better, I probably would have been able to get a second-hand car and saved some money. But I bought it and started racing, and I’ve been doing it for four years now.”
Saari primarily competes in Legends Car road racing events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. In each of the last four years, he has ranked in the top-10 of Road Course International Champions Masters Series points for the INEX U.S. Legend Cars, culminating with sixth in the standings for 2018. As such, it is somewhat fitting that he will throw the green flag at an event that includes one of the biggest Legend Car races in the region this year.
“Maybe it would have been a little more appropriate if (the contest winner) was just a fan that wanted to get involved in the sport in some way or another,” Saari remarked. “But it is what it is, I guess.”
By day, Saari owns and operates Saari Excavating LLC, an excavation and demolition company headquartered in New Ipswich, NH. He noted the flexibility of running his own business is part of what allows him to race and have fun doing so. But on June 16, he will get to experience racing from a new perspective, waving a green flag in front of a thundering herd of race cars for the first time.
“It’s an honor to be involved in something that’s starting up like this,” Saari said. “I’m really happy that Josh Vanada is involved. I got to know him a little bit from racing at Thompson, and he’s a really cool guy. I really like him.”