September 22, 2014
Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
I was not planning to go to the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Loudon, New Hampshire, until one of my former students and friend, Jason Griffeth of the Red Sox called me 2 weeks before the event saying he had a couple of tickets. Did I want to go? I had not been to a Sprint Cup race since 2009 when I last covered the Brickyard 400. The last race I attended at Loudon had to be at least 10 to 15 years ago.
I knew going with Jason would be a pleasant experience since he is a huge fan of racing. In fact his love for racing is how he netted the tickets. Some three weeks ago he had the opportunity to experience the modifieds racing at Stafford Springs in Connecticut. He bought a program and was leafing through it when the announcer said they were giving away a couple of race tickets. After finding out that the numbers were in the racing program the Woodland native noticed the numbers were his.
“Wow, I never have won anything before”, said Griffeth when he talked with me on the phone. “Do you want to go?’.
With an offer like that how could I refuse?
The experience began with a trip to my daughter’s in Westbrook and a Friday night at Maine Indoor Karting (MIK) in Scarborough. I planned on meeting one of Spud Speedway’s most ardent fans, Joe Thibodeau and his wife Lisa Anderson from Stockholm, at the track for their introduction to kart racing.
Lo-and-behold in addition to Joe and Lisa, Dan Haines from Caribou was there with his family. He was also a “newbie” at MIK. I had the privilege to compete against both Dan, Lisa, and Joe in a couple of races. Of course I won but they all put up some good lap times for “rookies”
I left Westbrook early Sunday morning to meet Jason at Ben’s Parking which was located in the woods directly behind the track on a back road. The $20 was well spent because after the race a gentleman offered to show me how to get to Route 28 without traffic, which I did; making back to Westbook in short order. I wish I would have written the guide’s name down so I could give him credit.
I spent the time before the race with Jason talking about racing with a smattering of Red Sox talk also. We met several nice people who were race fans who all had interesting stories to tell. One 25 year-old named Alex from Connecticut was confined to his wheel chair. That did not dampen his enthusiasm for racing especially for his driver, #24 Jeff Gordon.
His parents had been attending the races at NHMS for years and were corrected several times when they made a mistake about a driver’s number or some trivial racing fact. Alex knew his stuff!
When race time came, Jason and I shared Sprint Fan Experience headsets through which we could listen to the race broadcast and to driver communications. It is absolutely necessary to wear some sort of hearing protection since the noise of 43 Sprint Cup cars at the one-mile track is deafening. I do not recall the noise level being that loud from my last experience at the track. Thus the title “Loud-In”.
The first half of the race was ho-hum with Brad Keselowski seemingly destined to walk away with the race. When he came in to the pits for his out-of-sequence stop the race was then dominated by Denny Hamlin whose trouble with his fuel filler put him several laps behind the leaders.
Connecticut native Joey Logano won the race, his fourth Sprint Cup win this year to put him into the next round of the Chase. I was impressed with Aric Almirola’s sixth place finish after a disastrous start at Chicagoland last weekend. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver is still in 16th but with good finish in the next race at the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware he could knock of some top ranked drivers like Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle.
Jason and I both were impressed with how well Danika Patrick did until a no tire stop near the end of the race put her at the mercy of those who had fresher tires. We heard her ask over the radio who around her had fresh tires and when she found out many had the better set up for the finish she steeled herself for what she knew was coming. She eventually finished 19th after being jostled to the rear several times.
I found out that one of my former students, Amber Kelley and her parent’s Jim and Tammy from Caribou were at the race. They enjoyed their first NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the infield with garage passes provided to them by Cherryfield’s Andy Santerre. Amber has volunteered many years for the Andy Santerre Charity Snowmobile ride to benefit the Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) co-hosted by Joe and Lorraine Chamberlain each year in the County. For her hard work Amber was rewarded with the passes and an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes at a race. She told me it was a busy place.
WAR is on at Wiscasset
Wyatt Alexander with “Up North” connections placed third in the penultimate NELCAR Legends race at Wiscasset Saturday. The race was won by Matt Bourgoine. In Pro stocks, Alexander finished seventh in the race won by John Peters.
The finale for NELCAR Legends will be Saturday at Oxford Plains Speedway with racing slated to start at 1 pm. This will be Alexander’s last race in the Legends car. He will be concentrating on the Pro Stock/Late Model races in 2015. It will also feature the PASS Super Late Models.
Austin and Kody Notes
You probably know by now that Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault finished 18th in the Nationwide race in Kentucky Saturday. A set up in the chassis caused Theriault to back pedal at the beginning of the race. He fought his way back up to the 18th position once the car was adjusted during the race.
I looked to see what Jimmie Johnson’s Nationwide record was prior to moving up to a part-time Sprint Cup ride in 2001 at age 25. When he broke into the junior circuit in 1998 at the age of 22 he had an average finish of 24th in three races. His sophomore season he ran in five races with a 20th place average finish. His third year he ran 31 of 32 races and had a finishing average of 19th with six top tens.
I am encouraged knowing this since Austin’s three race average finish is 16.6. If Jimmie Johnson can finish 24th in his first year and move on to win SIX drivers championships, Austin Theriault with help can move into the top ranks of NASCAR and do well also. Let’s hope that someone provides the financial backing to help make this happen with a top-notch team. Austin will be back in his #57 car at the PASS race at Oxford Saturday. He leads all PASS drivers with a 3.5 finishing record in four races.
My good friend Kody Swanson holds onto a 12 point lead over second place Tracy Hines heading into the United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown finale on October 11 at the New York Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York. Swanson held onto the lead despite finishing ninth at The Four Crown Nationals Finale at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg,Ohio.
Swanson lead most of the laps until, with two laps to go, the right rear tire went down and his fellow competitors streamed by him. The race was won by Tucson,Arizona’s Jerry Coons after apparent winner Caleb Armstrong of New Castle, Indiana was cited for an illegal tire change.
The race at the Fairgrounds will be the first since 2003 in a race won by J.J. Yeley.Should be a great season finale!
No I will not be going to Colombia November 17-24th to cover a race or meet with Colombian Indy Car drivers. I will be going back again this year with Neighbors First based out of Presque Isle as we help to finish the third floor of a church we helped work on last year in a neighborhood of Bogotá called Bosa Esmeralda.
This area was once a squatters neighborhood too dangerous for even the milkman to make home deliveries (yes they still do that in Bogotá). When Pastor Edison of Bogotá decided that he needed to help those people, he and a group of fellow followers of Christ started to feed the kids of the Bosa neighborhood. In addition to food for the physical person they also ministered to the souls of the people in the area which has brought peace to a place with a violent and sometimes deadly past.
Last year we built the second floor with showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen to minister to the 150 or so kids that are fed every week. The third floor will feature a commercial sewing education center so women can learn to sew at home or work in the garment industry and be given hope where there was little or no hope in the past. I will fill you in with more details as the time draws near. More now more information can be found at the Neighbors First website.
Let’s Go Racing!
Soli Deo Gloria