July 30, 2012

PODIUM FINISH: For Week Ending July 29

Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

Rain put a damper (no pun intended) on a lot of weekend racing in the northeast, but that didn't slow everybody – including a first-time winner on the ACT Late Model Tour. Those who did get to race made good use of their time.

Without further ado, let's take a look at who made this week's Podium:

1. Austin Theriault, Fort Kent, Maine

The 18-year-old Brad Keselowski Racing development driver finally delivered on his potential, winning the ACT Late Model Tour 150 on Saturday night at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Theriault led 60 of the race's 112 laps before it was halted early by rain.

July 28, 2012

FIRST TIMER: Theriault Capitalizes For First ACT Win

SCARBOROUGH, Maine – Austin Theriault got the late caution flag he never got a week earlier, and he cashed it in for his first career ACT Late Model Tour victory.

Theriault used the outside lane on a Lap 110 restart, powered past Jeff Taylor down the backstretch at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, and won the ACT 150 on Saturday night. The race was called due to rain just three laps after Theriault returned to the lead.

“That was a wild race,” Theriault said. “We had one of the best cars (all day), and I'm so happy right now.”

Taylor settled for second, and Dave Farrington finished third for his best career ACT finish. Glen Luce and Brian Hoar rounded out the Top-5.

Theriault started on the outside pole and led for 57 laps in the middle stages of the race, until a Lap 83 restart allowed Taylor to get back by him.

Taylor couldn't check out on Theriault, however. Theriault stayed glued to Taylor's bumper, only twice trying unsuccessfully to get past the veteran on the inside. But without enough grip to pull off the pass, Theriault was forced to hope for either a Taylor mistake or a caution flag to get a chance at a restart on Taylor's outside.

With the fastest car in the TD Bank Oxford 250 last Sunday, Theriault never got the late-race caution he coveted to gain track position and take a shot at winning. On Saturday night, that caution he needed came on Lap 109 for an incident off Turn 2.

July 26, 2012

BUMP STOPS: Long Memories, Long Debate And Long Gone

It's Thursday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

THERE ARE TWO lasting images I'll carry from the TD Bank Oxford 250 last weekend.

The first is seeing winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and third-place finisher Austin Theriault – Polewarczyk's soon-to-be brother-in-law – standing on the podium, an iPhone in a gaudy pink case between them, talking to Brittany Theriault via speaker phone.

The two of them, giggling like small children, trying to keep a straight face as they talk Polewarczyk's fiancee who was in Chicago following the race over on Speed 51.

Sometimes, we forget just how good Polewarcyk is – and how relatively young he is, at that. At just 23 years old, he's already won the three biggest Late Model events in New England. As a champion of the Oxford 250, the ACT Invitational at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Thunder Road's unique Milk Bowl, he already has a resume that many racers envy.

It also doesn't look like Polewarczyk will slow anytime soon.

Consider that he's likely still five years away from being in what is viewed as a driver's “prime,” and the sky is the limit on the regional scene for the Hudson, N.H., racer. Best of all, Polewarczyk really doesn't have any enemies.

July 25, 2012

FANTASY: Brick Building

Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 Fantasy Preview

Tony Stewart has kissed the bricks
on more than one occasion. (Getty)
The final off week in NASCAR's 2012 schedule should have provided drivers with the opportunity to assess their stock and figure out how to save their seasons.  The beauty of the new Wild Card format is that a driver is only a few great weeks away from recovering a season and making a Chase run.

Denny Hamlin said last week of Kasey Kahne's win that he never counted out anyone from Hendrick Motorsports, and made special note that he wouldn't write off Jeff Gordon until it was no longer mathematically possible for him to win enough races to claim a Wild Card spot.  Gordon is probably two wins away from being a Chaser with seven races to go.

Carl Edwards, who switched crew chiefs during the off week, is desperately in need of a single win to have a good shot at making the Chase.  Kyle Busch's lone victory narrowly holds off Ryan Newman and Joey Logano for the final Wild Card spot.  While Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are both comfortably locked in the top-10, but, with winless seasons, are only a few bad days away from being in jeopardy of making a postseason appearance.

July 23, 2012

VIDEO: TD Bank Oxford 250

video

PODIUM FINISH: Week Ending July 22

Each Monday we take a look back at the best performances from around the region over the week that was.

Hard to imagine that anybody collected more money in Victory Lane than Joey Polewarczyk Jr. did at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, but there were plenty of other performances that merited attention, too.

Without further ado, let's take a look at who made The Podium this week:

1. Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Hudson, N.H.

Polewarczyk won the 39th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 on Sunday in just his fifth career start in the midsummer classic for crate engine Late Models. He led a whopping 205 laps in the dominating performance at one of the New England tracks where he has traditionally performed at his best.

PHOTO FINISH: TD Bank Oxford 250

Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne sits in his car while his team makes adjustments during practice at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine, on Sunday morning.

Here's a look at the weekend in pictures:

July 22, 2012

CAREER POLE: Joey Polewarczyk Makes TD Bank 250 Win Look Easy


OXFORD, Maine – Jeff Taylor stood on the podium, one arm around Joey Polewarczyk Jr. and the other around the 6-foot-tall trophy and looked the youngster straight in the eye.

“You don't know how hard it is to win one of these things,” Taylor said.

Polewarczyk smiled his usual wide grin: Truth is, he doesn't.

Polewarczyk, of Hudson, N.H., led more than 200 laps on Sunday evening at Oxford Plains Speedway, dominating a field of nearly 40 Late Models from across New England and Canada to win the 39th annual TD Bank Oxford 250. Polewarczyk earned a winning share of $45,500 – his first victory in his fifth start in the midsummer jewel.

“I can't believe this. This is unbelievable,” said Polewarczyk, who was just 19 when he finished third behind Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick in 2008. “It really hasn't sunk in yet. I've been coming to this race since I was seven years old, just watching from the stands. Now, I just can't believe I won it.”

Taylor finished a fading second, after running in the Top-5 throughout the race. A nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway track champion, a record for the historic short track in rural western Maine, the TD Bank 250 is the only thing missing from the veteran driver's impressive resume.

Austin Theriault, 18, of Fort Kent, Maine, finished third. It was the second-straight third-place finish for the Brad Keselowski development driver. ACT Late Model Tour point leader Wayne Helliwell Jr. was fourth, and Oxford Plains Late Model point leader Travis Stearns was fifth.

July 21, 2012

TD BANK 250: Big-Time Mentality Leads To Short-Track Success

OXFORD, Maine – The region's best Late Model drivers, many with strong career ties to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, have descended upon the otherwise rural working-class town of Oxford this weekend to bask in the glow of a national spotlight.

Sunday's 39th annual TD Bank Oxford 250 might be the pride and joy of short-track racing northern New Englanders, but it's also a race with far greater appeal. The list of non-winners (Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte, Dale Jarrett) is as impressive as the list of winners (Kyle Busch, Geoff Bodine, Dave Dion), and with the likes of current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers taking their off-weekends over the last decade to compete in the event, it's only added to the attention.

The race inevitably comes down to New England's racing tradition, where the drivers and teams who excel on the quarter-mile and third-mile bullrings of Maine and New Hampshire use the historic Oxford Plains Speedway as a proving ground for their short-track mettle.

But this year's short-list of TD Bank 250 favorites – including the likes of two-time winner Eddie MacDonald, Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Nick Sweet and Austin Theriault – all have turned in some of their most impressive career performances on a track that couldn't be more different than Oxford Plains.

They may cut their teeth at Oxford, but they've shone most brightly on the big stage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

July 19, 2012

BUMP STOPS: Modified Modifieds, The Oxford 250 And Rallying Back

It's Thursday again. Time to take the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

IF WE COULD just take a quick look back at last week's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it certainly can't hurt to mention what a fantastic NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event it was on Saturday.

Seventeen lead changes over the final half of the race. The winningest driver in Tour history taking the checkered flag by the closest margin of victory in his career. The spec engine versus the built engine, the halftime break, the race between the old guard and the new guard in Modified racing.

You hear a lot of talk in the garage area about how “NASCAR is killing this series,” but it certainly looked alive and well in the Town Fair Tire 100 on Saturday. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to advance an agenda, plain and simple.

First, on the spec engine program being implemented by NASCAR.

The talk all night on Friday after qualifying was how Ron Silk – one of only two drivers in the field utilizing the spec engine – was four-tenths of a second faster than anybody else in qualifying. If that's the case, then what's holding teams back from buying one themselves? The entire debate led to an underground uproar about how now teams using traditional motors built independently were going to have to buy the spec engine just to be competitive.

Maybe that's true. If it is, it's coming at a cost of roughly half what it costs to have a motor built.

If the notion is that suddenly longtime engine builders like Billy The Kid or Petit are going to lose business, well, that's not exactly true, either. According to one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver – where the spec engine has become more the norm than the exception, even among teams with Sprint Cup Series backing – local engine builders will still turn a profit on the spec engines. Someone, after all, needs to assemble and maintain them.

As for the halftime break Saturday, it did change the racing. With so many caution periods in the first half of the event, and only two after it, tire strategy wasn't a factor. However, as Mike Stefanik said after winning – he knew that he didn't have to save anything. Go as hard as you can for 50 laps, bolt on four fresh tires without losing any track position, and go as hard as you can for another 50 laps.

What fans saw was all-out racing from start-to-finish, and not just for the final 20 laps. The lead pack of 6-10 cars stayed as a pack throughout the afternoon – and on the final lap no fewer than six drivers were legitimate threats to win.

Then there was the added bonus of having the series veterans like Silk, Stefanik and Donny Lia mixing it up with relative newcomers to success at New Hampshire like Rowan Pennink, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece.

It had been several years since we saw a race this good from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It's no coincidence that the race came in light of changes from NASCAR this season at the track – and not in spite of them.

THERE ARE TWO marquee Late Model events in New England each season – the three-year-old ACT Invitational at NHMS and the midsummer tradition at Oxford Plains Speedway, the TD Bank Oxford 250.

The 39th running of the TD Bank 250 is slated for Sunday, and a who's who of Late Model racing in New England is among the contenders for the second-richest short track race in America. The overall purse for the TD Bank 250 is bigger than those of either the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., each December or the People's United Milk Bowl at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in the fall.

There are ACT Late Model Tour standouts like Brian Hoar and Joey Polewarczyk Jr. to consider. There are two-time TD Bank 250 winners Eddie MacDonald and Ben Rowe trying to join an elite list of three-time 250 winners in Dave Dion, Mike Rowe and Ralph Nason. There are up-and-coming talents like Nick Sweet, Austin Theriault and Ben Ashline. Then there's the list of Oxford Plains Speedway weekly competitors such as Shawn Martin, T.J. Brackett and Travis Stearns.

And we haven't even mentioned nine-time Oxford track champion Jeff Taylor, who has yet to win an Oxford 250. Or 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne.

The format is unique, of course, and plays as much a part in the race's outcome as the talent and equipment on the race track. There are no time trials and relatively few provisionals to fall back on for more than 70 cars trying to qualify for a starting field of less than 40 – it's all determined by a luck-of-the-draw heat race lineup. Making matters worse – it all happens in about a seven-hour span, so there's no off-night to go back to the shop and regroup.

Most stay away from predictions, but where's the sport in that? If these guys are going to stick their necks out this weekend, then I'm going to as well.

My podium prediction for Sunday's main event: 1. Nick Sweet, 2. Austin Theriault, 3. Jeff Taylor.

Sweet has been very, VERY good at Oxford in ACT Late Model Tour competition over the last few years – and were it not for Kyle Busch's invasion into the 2011 event, Sweet would have won last year's TD Bank 250 in a landslide.

Theriault is ready for his breakout performance in a marquee event, and the 250 laps of tire management and patience plays right into the 18-year-old Fort Kent driver's hands.

Taylor has more championships than anybody at Oxford, and he's won them in both Super Late Models and Late Models. Nobody short of Mike Rowe knows how to get around the flat, circle at Oxford better.

Feel free to leave your own podium prediction in the comments below.

THE NASCAR WHELEN Modified Tour championship is now Doug Coby's to lose after finishing third at New Hampshire last weekend.

GLOBAL RALLYCROSS' DEBUT at New Hampshire last weekend was a success.

As predicted, the racing was entertaining, wildly unpredictable and entirely unique (and foreign) to the stock-car racing fan base at most NASCAR events.

It was also a pleasant surprise to see just how many fans stuck around both Friday and Saturday nights to watch Travis Pastrana, Ken Block and other X-Games stars compete.

But this much is true, too: It's not a great event on television. Much like NHRA drag racing, you really have to be at the track to appreciate what these guys are doing on every lap – from 70-foot jumps, to chicanes, to dirt turns and slashing through water. There's a lot of down time for track maintenance and car repairs, not unlike drag racing, and that can seem like an eternity on TV.

Having said that, watching 10 cars burst off the standing start in the final, or seeing one car take the 70-foot jump while another crosses underneath it, or watching one car try and make up ground after going through the “Long Cut” corner (a course extension each car must take at least once during each race) is breathtaking.

When they come back next year, make sure you're there. You'll be talking about it for a while.

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the fried clam platter and don't forget to tip your waitress. The Boneheads are here, so stick around.

– TB

July 16, 2012

PODIUM FINISH: Week Ending July 15

Each Monday we take a look the week that was from around the region.

The bright lights were shining at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, but it wasn't the only place providing some great racing and dominating performances. There were touring series, open shows, Oxford 250 preps and lots of weekly series action.

Without further ado, let's take a look back at who made The Podium this week:

1. Mike Stefanik, Coventry, R.I.

In what he called the closest win of his career, Stefanik held off Ron Silk by .003-seconds – the second-closest margin of victory in New Hampshire Motor Speedway history – to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's Town Fair Tire 100 on Saturday afternoon.

July 15, 2012

MYTHICAL PROPORTIONS: Is It Really That Hard To Pass At New Hampshire?


LOUDON, N.H. – It's an interesting question when it comes to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, particularly at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

When a track is burdened with the notion that it is a place “where you can't pass,” is it because the track really is that difficult to race on with other cars around you – or does it simply become an excuse, a crutch that drivers and teams can use when then aren't able to hit on the right setup?

For much of Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire, it appeared the former was the case.

The first quarter of the event produced a green flag run featuring battles for position and several drivers moving up through the field. Brad Keselowski started 22nd in the field and rolled all the way into the Top-10, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. went from ninth on the grid to the Top-5.

But once the cars pitted for fuel, tires and a few adjustments, the battles for position ceased on the track. The next 150 laps looked, quite frankly, like a practice session.

It looked like the track notorious for being impossible to pass on.

Denny Hamlin, though, might have debunked that myth single-handedly.

RIGHT TRACK: Kasey Kahne Capitalizes On Track Position To Win Lenox 301

LOUDON, N.H. – Kasey Kahne got the one thing everybody wanted – track position – when it mattered most, and he cashed in by leading the final 66 laps to win the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

It was the second win of the season for Kahne, who is trying to lock himself into a wild card spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup later this season.

“We did it with pit strategy,” Kahne said. “We got track position, and we were able to lead those final laps there.”

Denny Hamlin finished second with the car that was most likely to win the race. He led half the race – a total of 150 laps – until confusion under the final caution flag of the day cost Hamlin his lead. He went from the lead to 13 in the running order after taking four tires on his pit stop when most everybody else took four tires only.

Hamlin charged all the way to second – within one second of the lead in lapped traffic over the final few laps of the event – but ran out of time when his car washed up toward the wall in Turn 4 as the cars came to the white flag.

“It was just a miscommunication,” Hamlin said. “I told (crew chief Darian Grubb) all I needed was tires, and that was it. He took it that I needed four tires. It was just a miscommunication, but we still had a shot at the win. I just didn't pass the all the cars quick enough.”

July 14, 2012

OLD HAT: Mike Stefanik Makes The Old New Again At New Hampshire

LOUDON, N.H. – So many cliches to choose from, so little time.

Like a fine wine, Mike Stefanik gets better with age. Mike Stefanik is only as young as he feels. Mike Stefanik has found the magic touch at the Magic Mile. And on and on and on...

But really, whittling down Mike Stefanik's success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just isn't that easy. To wit: Before winning at the track last August, the winningest driver in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history had gone 21 races over a span of 13 years between Modified wins; he's since won two of the last three races contested here.

His eighth win in the division Saturday in the Town Fair Tire 100 was his eighth career Modified win at New Hampshire, the most by any driver in Tour history. Not only has Stefanik's career spanned decades, but so has his record of excellence.

Perhaps as much as ability, his on-track performance can be credited to a mindset. He hinted at his desire to win after the race.

“You hate to give (wins) away. They don't come enough,” said Stefanik, a seven-time Modified Tour champion. “I mean, some people might argue that point because we've been successful at a lot of tracks, but this feeling right here never gets old. I'm 54, but I still feel like I'm 21.”

CLOSE CALL: Mike Stefanik Wins Second-Closest Modifed Race In NHMS History

LOUDON, N.H. – When you've won as many NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races as Mike Stefanik has, you're always looking for new ways to keep things interesting.

Stefanik did that on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, emerging from one of the fiercest battles the Magic Mile has ever seen to win the Town Fair Tire 100 off the final corner for his series-leading 72 career victory. The official margin of victory over runner-up Ron Silk was .003 seconds – about the width of the front nerf bar – and was the second-closest finish in Tour history at New Hampshire.

In 2008, Chuck Hossfeld beat Ted Christopher by .001-seconds.

“I actually physically sat up in my seat as much as I could and kind of peered over the front of my car and rolled my eyes over to see which bumper was ahead,” Stefanik said. “It's kind of funny that you would actually think about doing that, but I just wanted to win after such a hard-fought battle with Ronnie Silk.

“You hate to give (wins) away. They don't come enough.”

The win was also Stefanik's eighth career win at New Hampshire – also a series record – and his second in the last three events here. He said it was the narrowest win of his storied Whelen Modified Tour career.

July 13, 2012

VIDEO: Ron Silk Wins Mod Pole

BATTLE TESTED: Silk Wins Modified Pole After Summer Test

LOUDON, N.H. – All a test session did a few weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway did for Ron Silk was let him know that he was on the right track.

Silk – one of the final few cars to hit the track for a time trial run – blitzed the competition and won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Town Fair Tire 100. For the second time in his career at New Hampshire, he'll start the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event from the pin.

“It was pretty good, obviously. The car drove real well,” Silk said. “We were pretty quick in practice, but not really happy with how the car was driving. We spent a lot of time after practice and changed just about everything we could.”

In addition to his two career poles, Silk has two career victories at NHMS. His most recent win came in the series' most recent race at the facility last September.

VIDEO: Donny Lia Town Fair Tire 100 Practice

BABY BOOM: Donny Lia Fastest In Whelen Modified Tour Practice At NHMS

LOUDON, N.H. – Donny Lia didn't show any signs of the distractions that typically come along with having a baby.

Lia, whose wife gave birth to the couple's second son on Thursday, posted the fastest lap in the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour practice session of the weekend today – more than a full mile per hour faster than second-fastest Ron Silk.

“This car has always run good here,” said Lia, a two-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and two-time New Hampshire winner. “We've been making headway the last few races. I'm a little surprised, only because we've been struggling a little bit lately, but if there's a place we're going to run well, it's going to be here.”

Lia, of Jericho, N.Y., posted a fast lap of 29.338 mph (129.825 mph). He was followed on the speed sheet by Silk (129.327 mph) and Ted Christopher (128.702). Bryon Chew and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman rounded out the Top-5.

July 12, 2012

VIDEO: Travis Pastrana Global RallyCross Practice At NHMS

What will Global RallyCross actually look like this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? This:




Special thanks to Matt Rolfe at M Rolfe Designs for the video.

July 11, 2012

FANTASY: Bringing the Magic to NH

LENOX Industrial Tools 301 Fantasy Preview

Ryan Newman has met Loudon the Lobster
a few times in his career. (NHMS/HHP)
Wow!  It's crazy here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week.  After months of writing fantasy NASCAR blogs about far off race tracks, I finally get to talk about us!

At this point, the infield is filled with campers, the display lot is packed with tents and the track for the SYLVANIA SilverStar zXe Global RallyCross is shaping up.  Despite not being able to set up shop until the Saturday before race week, some campers arrived a day early last Friday in hopes of finding the best possible spot.  In recent days, the camping lots have filled up and the haulers have started arriving in packs.  All we're really missing are the fans, but they'll be here soon enough.

BUMP STOPS: Wow Factor, Winning Races and Winning Formulas

It's Wednesday again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

AND AWAY WE go people. It's RACE WEEK!!

What does that mean? Well, mostly it means if you can't get your racing fix this week in New England, you're addiction to motorsports is more severe than Jose Canseco's addiction to attention. And that's saying something.

For those of us pounding the pavement each week on the regional scene, the highlight of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. And given their penchant for putting on some great racing – complete with bump-drafting, margins of victory measured in inches and not seconds, and a starting field representing several generations and racing backgrounds, it's not hard to see why.

The Whelen Modified Tour has gotten a bit of a bum rap lately at New Hampshire, and in the interest of full disclosure, I've been as tough on their recent performances as anybody. The events have been lauded for a couple of decades now as “the best race of the weekend” at the Magic Mile, a sentiment that remains largely true.

While it's not true that Sprint Cup Series crew chiefs and drivers are all standing atop their haulers in the garage area gripped by the on-track Modified racing, at least no more than they are for any other supporting races at any of the tracks they attend during their long 10-month grind across the country, it doesn't really much matter. The fact is, Modified racing is a unique, regionalized form of motorsports whose participants and fans are as passionate about what they love as, well... as Jose Canseco is about off-the-market “health” supplements.

One of the reasons that we've come to criticize Modified races at New Hampshire is really quite unfair.

July 9, 2012

PODIUM FINISH: Week Ending July 8

Each Monday we take a look back at the top performances from around the region during the week that was.

Not surprisingly given a long holiday week of racing, there were no shortages of candidates, and the local scene wasn't the only place to find the best of the best this week as one driver went across the pond in search of a win. It may have made it a little harder to sift through – and made it a bit harder to get yourself through to The Podium – but for fans and the diehard followers of the local scene, it made it a lot of fun to watch.

Without further ado, let's look at who made The Podium:

1. Ben Kennedy, Daytona Beach, Fla.

The great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., headed overseas during the Fourth of July week and ended up with a history making performance. Kennedy won the Michelin 100 in Tour, France, on Saturday for his first career NASCAR-sanctioned win.

July 5, 2012

FANTASY: Fireworks at Daytona

Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (and Repetition) Fantasy Preview

Matt Kenseth picked up his second
Daytona win in February. (Getty)
Hopefully everyone managed to get in a fireworks show last night.  There were severe thunderstorms rolling through the state of NH right around dusk, so the sky was filled with a different form of flashing light.

I was in Manchester for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game and the lightning provided quite the "ooh-aah" backdrop in centerfield.  However, it stayed dry, as the storm missed the downtown part of the Queen City.  The home team battled back with two outs twice: they tied it in the bottom of the ninth and hit a walk-off home run (while trailing) in the bottom of the 11th.

Afterward, the Fisher Cats put on perhaps the best firework display I'd ever seen.  If you've never been to one of their games, they have several each month after which they fire off about 10-15 minutes of fireworks.  It's definitely worth a trip.

BUMP STOPS: RallyCross, Ryan Blaney And Racing's Roots

It's Fourth of July week again. Time to roll the ol' Mini Stock out of the garage and dust it off for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street while the bombs burst in air overhead...

HARD AS IT is to believe, the NASCAR Lenox Industrial Tools 301 weekend is just eight days away.

That means we're all in for a treat of a weekend, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the Whelen Modified Tour and the debut of Global RallyCross at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

I'll admit, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the announcement over the offseason that Global RallyCross was coming to the speedway during a weekend so intensely devoted to oval-track racing. But after what I saw at the X Games last weekend,it's gotten me pretty excited to see this.

If you're not willing to buy into the Travis Pastrana-moving-to-NASCAR hype, then you ought to do yourself the favor and see this guy perform in his own element. Oh yeah, and some guy named “Ken Block” will be there, too.

It's such a unique form of motorsports – is there anything out there remotely resembling it? – that NHMS fans are in for a fantastic experience.

July 2, 2012

PODIUM FINISH: Week Ending July 1

Each Monday we take a look back at the week that was from around the region.

If you didn't already know, things are in full swing with the Fourth of July holiday week kicking into gear as a lead-up to Sprint Cup Series weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Oxford 250. And, predictably, drivers are kicking their game into high gear, too.

Without further ado, let's find out who made The Podium this week:

1. Wayne Helliwell Jr., Dover, N.H.

Helliwell won the first of two 30-lap Late Model features on Saturday night at Canaan Fair Speedway, giving him six straight wins in the division to open the season. In addition, Helliwell also has two ACT Late Model Tour victories.