Image via WikipediaBob and Gary Bahre purchased Bryar Motorsports Park, reconfigured the road course track and added a 1.058 mile oval, and opened New Hampshire International Speedway in 1990. It's located near Loudon, New Hampshire, about an hour's drive from Boston.
NASCAR made its debut at the track, a Busch Series race won by Tommy Ellis, in July 1990. For the next three years, NHIS hosted two Busch Series races per year. They were successful and the track was added to the Cup schedule in 1993. The inaugural Slick 50 300 was won by Rusty Wallace.
In 1997, NHIS added a second Cup race. Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith bought North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina and moved its two Cup races out of the aging facility -- one to New Hampshire and the other to Texas Motor Speedway. In 2007, the Bahres sold NHIS to Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and the name was changed to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
In 2000, a pair of accidents claimed the lives of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin Jr., two promising young drivers. Both involved stuck accelerator pedals and head-on crashes into the wall. Petty's accident occurred during practice for a Busch Series race, Irwin's during the first Cup race at the track that year. The track owners decided to use restrictor plates when the Cup Series returned in September. The race, which had no lead changes and was won by Jeff Burton, was so boring that the experiment was quickly dropped.
In 2002, to create more competitive racing at the track, progressive banking (four degrees in the bottom lanes to seven degrees at the top) was added to the turns. The following year, SAFER barriers were installed around the track.
One incident at the track changed NASCAR rules. In the September 2003 Sylvania 300 Dale Jarrett wrecked and was stuck in the middle of the track. He was in danger of being hit as cars raced back to the caution flag. NASCAR quickly changed the rules, banning racing back to the line and instituting the "Lucky Dog."
The track at Loudon has been described as "Martinsville on steroids." NHMS is a little over a mile compared to the half-mile at Martinsville, but the idea is the same -- drag race down the straightaway, fight through the almost flat turns, then drag race down the other straightaway. Most of the action usually takes place in the corners, especially as cars exit side-by-side and head down the 1500 feet straightaways.
Juan Montoya holds the qualifying record at Loudon -- 133.431 mph set in September 2009. Jeff Gordon is the top money winner at the track with over $3 million in earnings. He has fifteen Top 10s, twelve Top 5s and three wins in 26 starts. Denny Hamlin has the best average finish -- 6.5 in four starts -- while Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin have average finishes just over 10.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts several regional racing series, including the NASCAR Camping World Series East and the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour, amateur series events sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America, Loudon RoadRace Series, Vintage Racer Group, U.S. Classic Racing Association and the World Karting Association. NHMS also hosts the only Craftsman Truck Series, Nationwide Series, and Sprint Cup Series races held in the New England area. The Lenox Industrial Tools 300 is held at the end of June or the beginning of July and the Sylvania 300, the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, is held in September. Sprint Cup races are 300 laps or 317.4 miles.
(diagram from NASCAR.com)
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