More to NASCAR Weekend in New Hampshire than the Sprint Cup race
While Sunday is always the biggest day of NASCAR’s weekends in Loudon, N.H., Friday and Saturday aren’t necessarily filler.
The three support series (one national, two regional) that race before the Cup cars are worth a look, too – especially for fans who enjoy seeing young drivers climb NASCAR’s ladder, and for teams scouting talent.
That’ll be the case again this weekend, when New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts the Camping World East, Whelen Modified and Nationwide tours before Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Sprint Cup event.
There’s a whiff of disappointment in that 18-year-old Joey Logano, who became the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series event June 14 at Kentucky, isn’t scheduled to compete this weekend. (Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart gets the Nationwide assignment instead.)
Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch pulling out of the Whelen Modified Tour race makes Saturday’s New England 100 slightly less intriguing, too.
But whether it’s Friday’s Camping World East Heluva Good Summer 125 (series points leader Austin Dillon is the grandson of Sprint Cup team owner Richard Childress) through Saturday’s Mod race and Nationwide tour’s Camping World RV Sales 200 (Brad Keselowski, driving for team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., is knocking on the Sprint Cup door), there’s a lot on the line in each pre-Cup race.
Nobody knows that better than Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s top Cup driver since Earnhardt Jr. joined Hendrick Motorsports this season. First a Modified driver in his home state of New Jersey, Truex followed his father into what was then NASCAR’s Busch North Series, which has raced at least twice per season at New Hampshire since 1991.
Truex scored three wins at Loudon, had two second-place finishes, and won two poles – performances not lost on DEI, which signed him in 2003.
“New Hampshire was the biggest race of the year for us, every time we went there,” Truex said Tuesday during a conference call. “It was like our Daytona.
“We’d get to racing in front of a lot of people who could give us a chance one day. That’s how it happened for me. It helped jump-start my career. I had a lot of success there growing up, and that’s a big reason why I got the chances I’ve had and where I’m at today.”
Now in his third Sprint Cup season after consecutive Nationwide championships (2004, ’05), Truex is currently 17th in points. New Hampshire – where he finished fifth in both races last year -- is key to moving inside the Top 12 cutoff for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Truex knows Loudon is just as important to those racing Friday or Saturday.
“I don’t think that’s changed to this day,” he said. “They’re up there knowing everybody in the Cup series is on the trail, watching for some new talent. It’s a big weekend for everybody to just go in and race.”
Mike Loftus writes for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass.