When it was announced that the September date for the Monster Energy Cup Series would be dropped in favor of adding a second date in Las Vegas, people feared that the phenomenal racing featured alongside the Cup Series would also be lost.
Those worries were assuaged during last year’s September Cup weekend, when New Hampshire Motor Speedway announced that the September weekend would remain, instead focused on the regional touring series NASCAR sanctions, including the first ever Pinty’s Series race in the United States, and a 125-lap K&N Pro Series East race. The crown jewel of it all was the 250-lap, $25,000 to win Musket 250.
Most of the critics’ fears were not realized. The racing lived up to the lofty expectations. Pit strategy created by the long green-flag runs added another element unseen at Loudon ever before. The race was not a battle of attrition as many dreaded it would be. And the crowd looked solid.
It couldn’t have ended any better: two of the biggest names in modified racing going at it, with a tremendous finish to the longest and highest-paying Whelen Modified Tour race in recent memory.
Five-time champion Doug Coby was largely pleased with how the weekend went.
“In the last eight laps, you had the top-six drivers on the Tour, the six fastest cars from this weekend, all on the lead lap, all battling for a win,” he said. “And a guy–me–with the freshest tires, who just got the lucky dog, and I drove from sixth to second in about a lap-and-a-half. That’s cool. So no matter how it shook out, no matter who won, that’s what this race needed to be to get people back here next year.”
Was the weekend perfect? Not quite. The race distance can be adjusted slightly, as the opening green-flag run may have lacked the intensity some hoped would be there. But much of the criticism is likely to be nitpicking of sorts.
“I still think it’s a little long for us,” said Coby. “I think we could put on a better show with a shorter race, but this added a lot more drama and a lot more intrigue with how the pit stops fell… If the cautions fell another way, the pit stops fall another way, but in a race this long there shouldn’t be a lot of cautions, because everyone should be patient.”
It wasn’t just the Tour garage that was thrilled. The Pinty’s Series’ stars were thrilled to get a race at the Magic Mile, too.
“Oh, of course, of course,” said series leader L.P. Dumoulin on whether he wanted the Canadian series to make a return to New Hampshire. “I want to be back here.”
The man currently chasing him in the championship battle, Alex Tagliani, agreed.
“I really liked the type of racing we had,” he said. “I think we ran clean, guys brought some great pieces, made it a good race. So hopefully next year, we can come and be even more competitive in this race and put on a good show.”
The drivers and fans made it pretty clear what they thought of the weekend.
Life may have given racing fans in New England lemons. But there’s a chance here for New Hampshire Motor Speedway to make some delicious lemonade.