By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer
NASCAR has been competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or as many know it, The Magic Mile in some aspect since it’s opening in 1990.
It’s has become a tradition to attend races at the track, especially for those living in New England. This piece will look back at the track history, the original uncertainty of a race in 2020 and hear from fans themselves on what the track means to them.
NASCAR made it’s debut at the track that year with the then Busch Series, a race won by Tommy Ellis. For three years, the Busch Series saw success at the track with a pair of races held each year.
It wasn’t until 1993 that the NASCAR Cup Series would get their chance there. It was Rusty Wallace who went on to win the inaugural Slick 50 300 that July.
In 1996, NHMS gained a second Cup date in the middle of September. A date that stood until 2017 when the track essentially lost a race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. However, Loudon has still gone on to hold ‘Full Throttle Weekend’ in the month of September consisting of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.
In addition, the speedway hosts the only NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series events held in the six-states that make up the New England region.
With the 2020 NASCAR season like other sports affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic there was plenty of uncertainty regarding New Hampshire’s place on the schedule. Would Loudon even get to keep their race this season? Races were being cancelled or their date otherwise given to other race tracks. Loudon was no exception to this. The track’s original date set for late July got moved to Sunday, August 2. With that, only the Cup Series will race at the track, no NASCAR Xfinity Series this season.
The next thing on the agenda and popular question was, would fans be allowed? Some tracks have allowed a certain percentage of fans, while others have opted to only have essential personnel due to the pandemic.
It was announced that 35% of fans would be allowed at The Magic Mile, that’s roughly 19,000 fans. Social distancing guidelines and health and safety protocols will still apply.
Fans Happy Their Yearly Tradition Will Continue
When it was announced that fans would be allowed at this year’s event, fans swooped up tickets immediately. Kickin’ the Tires recently spoke to a couple of New England residents and die hard NASCAR fans who have been attending NHMS for years.
Brendan Keeler from Rutland, Vermont has attended over 10 races at Loudon, some have been with his mom, his dad and his best friend. He will be rooting for his favorite driver Martin Truex Jr in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday afternoon.
“This is going to be my 11th trip to NHMS”, said Keeler. “The excitement you feel those couple days prior still feels the same as the first year I went back in 2008. It’s just such a nice facility to go bond with family, see old friends, make new ones and watch some good racing. It’s always a fun time at NHMS, Go Truex!”
Patrick O’Toole from Charlestown, New Hampshire has been attending races at The Magic Mile with his dad since 2001. His favorite driver is the reigning NASCAR Cup Series Champion and driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch.
“I’ve been going to NHMS since 2001 with my father,” said O’Toole. “The first race was the NASCAR Busch Series (Now Xfinity Series) standalone race in 2001. My first cup race was the September 2002 race where Ryan [Newman] got his first career win in the rain shortened race. Starting in 2009 we went to both races, until they took one away. This year will be my 19th consecutive year going to NHMS and 2021 will be my twentieth.”
A Word from the Writer
As this piece comes to a close, and as the writer of this piece, I would like to share a couple of my fondest memories of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. If you don’t know me, I live in Rhode Island, born and raised. Therefore, NHMS is my home track and it’s been a yearly tradition for me since 2006 for me to be at The Magic Mile.
I was eight years old when Rusty Wallace won the first Cup Series race at The Magic Mile back in 1993, and I still remember it to this day. I grew up cheering for that No. 2 and continued to cheer for him until he retired from the sport in 2005. This of course was long before my media days, they weren’t even a thought back then. I was just a fan who loved racing, and of course I still love racing, it’s just slightly different now being in the industry.
I went on to attend my first race in person at the track in September of 2006, Kevin Harvick won that day from the pole in the No. 29 Reese’s Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
I suppose it’s quite fitting then to mention that Kevin Harvick also won the first race I’ve ever covered as a member of the NASCAR media for Kickin’ the Tires as well, which took place last July when he won his fourth race at NH.
This year’s race may be different with the COVID-19 pandemic but one thing remains the same, racing will take place at NHMS this Sunday. Oh, and something else that will continue on? I’ll once again be there covering the action for Kickin’ the Tires. There’s something different about covering a race at your home track, it’s home and the feeling is amazing. Thank you NASCAR for making this weekend possible.
Are you one of the thousands of fans expected to attend Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at NHMS? If so, be sure to check out our race preview below. It includes a variety of information including important information if you’re attending and some driver statistics as well. Even if you’re not attending and watching from home, be sure to check it out for race day information.
Tune into all the NASCAR Cup Series action from Loudon, NH on Sunday August 2 live at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN and PRN.
Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography / NKP Photo