After New Hampshire Motor Speedway lost their second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series date, they were committed to keeping the traditional September racing weekend.
Insert the longest race in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour — the Musket 250 — the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and you have the Full Throttle Fall Weekend. This Friday and Saturday, it hits the track again in the Granite State for the second time.
“This was all part of the initial conversation with NASCAR,” David McGrath, the executive Vice President and general manager of NHMS said. “When we made the announcement to move the September race, we wanted to create a new event with as much NASCAR in it as we could. With the long history of modifieds at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the draft, the restrictor plates, and the way they have raced here for so many years. We wanted to create a marquee race that really showcases the racing of the Modifieds and the ‘Magic Mile.’
The first race didn’t disappoint.
With 31 drivers taking the green flag, the race went down to the final corner. When Justin Bonsignore and Ryan Preece got together racing for the lead, it opened the door for Chase Dowling and Patrick Emerling to slide by, with the two of them drag-racing across the line, and Dowling coming out on top. It was the first career Whelen Modified Tour win for Dowling, who is returning this year looking to make it two-for-two.
— #MyTrackMyRoots (@NASCARHomeTrack) September 22, 2018
“The real unknown at the time was if the cars would last 250 miles, and it worked out,” McGrath said. “Some ran into racing difficulties, but the real engine failures were minimal at best. The racing itself, and what the fans experienced, with the first-time ever that these three regional divisions have been together, to have them all here was historic, and the fans had a great weekend of racing. Did we learn some things? Absolutely. We’ve made some changes this year.”
Those changes include additional space in the infield for camping, the movement of the track’s Fan Zone, the addition of a Legends Cars race, and more. The track will also bring back the pit pass program, which will allow fans to gain access to the garages, pit road and race track.
“At the end of the day, the team is always trying to come up with ways to enhance the fan experience at the ‘Magic Mile’,” McGrath said. “The fans loved the autograph sessions, loved the access, the general feeling of a short-track and the closeness they were able to get to some of the drivers and the teams I think was a big win. You don’t get that type of access when the national series is here. We tend to try to pack as much racing in as possible.”
Just two days out from the start, the weather forecast looks like another classic New Hampshire fall weekend. With sunny skies expected, and temperatures near 80 degrees, fans should have no reason to not want to attend one of the more thrilling modified races of the season.
On the Whelen Modified Tour front, the trophies for the Musket 250 are some of the more original on the entire schedule. The trophies include a custom musket, minuteman trophy and tricorn hat.
“Every race on the tour is important, but we just wanted this one to feel special,” McGrath said. “We give away a lobster in July, which is iconic, but what a great tribute to the heritage of being a New Englander than being able to race for the Musket… what embodies that New England spirit like the Minuteman?… Ideally, we all talked about it, we wanted the drivers to talk about coming to New Hampshire with this iconic event weekend on the tour.”
Although all signs point towards the weekend, McGrath on his team also have two things in mind. First, they are planning to honor the late nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik, who lost his life last Sunday.
Second, they are are also excited what this event has the potential to do going forward.
“While we are excited about the race weekend, our hearts are heavy with the passing of Mike Stefanik. In his career, Mike had a lot of memorable wins here at NHMS,” McGrath said. “Our hearts are going out to his family and friends in the NASCAR world.
“We’re going to look at some things, we like the current lineup, but if there are things that make sense to add or evaluate, we will do that. We went into this as a team last year that this was a multiple-year deal where we wanted to make a commitment to race fans in New England. Our DNA is racing. This is an important race weekend.”