Will Rookie Run be Repeated at New Hampshire? A rookie championship point leader brings the NASCAR Camping World Series East to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year. Eighteen-year-old Austin Dillon, of Lewisville, ...
Will Rookie Run be Repeated at New Hampshire?
A rookie championship point leader brings the NASCAR Camping World Series East to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year.
Eighteen-year-old Austin Dillon, of Lewisville, N.C., leads the NASCAR Camping World Series East to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. for the Heluva Good! 125 Friday, June 27.
A year ago, another teenage championship point leading rookie brought the series to "The Magic Mile" for the first of two annual appearances at the Loudon, N.H. track.
Joey Logano, then 17, held a 40-point lead over Mike Olsen when the series arrived at NHMS last June. Logano proceeded to win the race en route to the 2007 championship. Logano was the first rookie to win a NASCAR Camping World Series East event at New Hampshire since Martin Truex Jr. in 1990.
Like Logano, Dillon won the season opener at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. He holds a 55-point lead over Brian Ickler.
And like Logano last year, all eyes will be on Dillon from practice through qualifying and the race to see the youngster's talent for themselves.
"New Hampshire's a tough track, but we had a good, solid test session there in the spring," Dillon said. "We learned a lot and that should help us when we get there.
"It's one of the biggest tracks I've been on. It's flat and with the long straightaways, you've got to be careful getting into the corners. It's a tough place, but I think it will be a lot of fun, too."
Dillon faces one thing that Logano hasn't had to deal with: a team change.
After the NASCAR Camping World Series East's most recent event at Watkins Glen, N.Y., June 8, Dillon shifted from Andy Santerre Motorsports to his family's Team Dillon Motorsports.
The two entities partnered to launch young Dillon's NASCAR career. After four events, simple logistics - and hour travel time between Dillon's headquarters in Welcome, N.C. and Santerre's shops in Harrisburg - made the change necessary.
"We've got our same team, our same crew chief and our same cars," Team Dillon Racing operatior and the driver's father Mike Dillon said. "It's just a change in where we work everyday."
News & Notes
The race ... The Heluva Good! 125 is the fifth of 13 races on the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Series East schedule. It is also the first of two appearances of the series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will host race number 11 on Sept. 12.
The procedure ... A maximum of 36 starting spots are available for the Heluva Good! 125. Starting positions 1-32 will be determined by time trials. Starting positions 33 and 34 will be assigned based on current series owner points. Position 35 is available to the highest ranking of the top-30 drivers in the point standings who did not qualify for one of the original 32 starting spots. Position 36 is available to any past series champion who participated in the 2007 season but did not qualify for one of the original 32 starting spots. If a past champion is not assigned this position, it will be assigned to the next eligible driver who did not qualify for one of the 32 original starting spots based on current driver point standings.
The track ... New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been a cornerstone of the NASCAR Camping World Series East since it opened in 1990. The June 27 Heluva Good! 125 is the 48th appearance of the series at NHMS. At 1.058-mile in length, it is the largest oval track on which the series competes.
The records ... Qualifying: Brian Hoar, July 18, 2002, 127.141 mph, 29.892 seconds. Race: Ted Christopher, May 12, 2001, 108.476 mph, 1 hour, 13 minutes, 9 seconds.
Winning Records ... Three drivers entered in the Heluva Good! 125 have previous NASCAR Camping World Series East wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The three could be contenders again this year.
Two-time series champ Brad Leighton (No. 55 Irving Racing Chevrolet), Steve Park (No. 35 Waste Management/Recycle America Chevrolet) and Mike Olsen (No. 61 Fadden Racing Chevrolet) should be among those to watch throughout Friday afternoon's event.
Leighton is the division's all-time leading winner at the track with eight. In last year's June event, he qualified 11th and finished second to Joey Logano. In the September event, he qualified 14th and finished seventh.
Former NHMS winner (2006) and two- time series champion Olsen will make his first start of the year this weekend after retiring as a full-time driver at the end of 2007. Olsen also fields the No. 16 Bodycoach.net Chevrolet for second-year driver Max Dumarey. Olsen, who won a pair of series championships in 2001 and 2006, also has two NHMS pole awards.
DEI Trio Has Momentum Entering New Hampshire
The trio of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. NASCAR Camping World Series East drivers and their teams arrive at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with undeniable momentum.
The teammates include Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Foundation Chevrolet) who is fifth in points; rookie Trevor Bayne (No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Chevrolet) who is sixth in points; and Jesus Hernandez (No. 11 DEI Chevrolet) who is eighth in points.
Earnhardt, 18, of Mooresville, N.C., in his second season of competition in the series, posted his career-high finish of second place in the most recent event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on June 8. He has two topfives and three top-10 finishes through the first four races of 2008.
Bayne, 17, of Knoxville, Tenn., has finished second twice in his first four NASCAR series starts and has three top-10 finishes.
Hernandez, 27, of Fresno, Calif., also in a second season of competition, has a best finish of fourth so far in 2008. He also finished fifth at Iowa Speedway in May.
Led by crew chiefs Clinton Cram (No. 8), Rich Lavalette (No. 1) and Rick Burgdoff (No. 11), the teams appear to be on the same page benefiting the performance of all.
In two of the first four races of 2008, the team cars finished together inside the top five.
In the second race of the season, they placed third through fifth (Bayne, Earnhardt, Hernandez) at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. In the fourth race, they placed second through fourth (Earnhardt, Bayne, Hernandez) at Watkins Glen.
"It was just a really smooth weekend for us," Burgdoff said of DEI's performance at The Glen. "All of the teams had really strong cars and our drivers pushed them as far as they could go without making any mistakes."
All three drivers are seeking their first career NASCAR Camping World Series wins. Joining Earnhardt with a career-high second-place finish entering the New Hampshire event is Hernandez. He was runner-up in the 2007 Iowa race. Bayne's best finish is his third place at Iowa last month.
While Bayne will be racing at New Hampshire for the first time this weekend, Earnhardt and Hernandez were in both events there in 2007. In the June event, Earnhardt started 42nd and finished 15th, while Hernandez qualified 19th and finished 23rd. In the September race, Earnhardt qualified seventh and finished 11th, while Hernandez qualified 10th and finished 14th.
Steve Park A Five-Time Winner At New Hampshire
When it comes to winning, Steve Park knows his way around New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Park posted his first career NASCAR Camping World Series East win at New Hampshire in 1996. Park also had great success at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, where he earned four of his 16 career Modified wins.
In addition, the best finishes Park has posted at NHMS include a sixth in NASCAR Sprint Cup, a second-place finish in NASCAR Nationwide Series, and a pair of seconds in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Park's NASCAR racing roots go back to the NASCAR Modified division at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on Long Island, N.Y.
Steve Park's performances at NHMS captured the attention of Dale Earnhardt, who eventually hired Park and moved him through the NASCAR Nationwide Series to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Park drove DEI Chevrolets to victories at Watkins Glen, N.Y. and North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham.
By The Numbers ...
Eventual series champions have eight wins, 27 top fives and 37 top 10s in 48 races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Since 2000, no eventual champion has finished lower than 12th at New Hampshire.
Since the first event in 1990, the only driver to finish a race at New Hampshire outside the top 20 and go on to win the title was Brad Leighton, who was 26th in the July race in 1999. Of course it helped that, in the series' other three races at the Magic Mile that year, he had two wins and a third-place finish.
Ricky Craven (1991), Brad Leighton (1999 & 2000), Andy Santerre (2004), Mike Olsen (2006) and Joey Logano (2007) recorded wins at New Hampshire during their championship season.
NHMS has been an Achilles' Heel to Matt Kobyluck's title aspirations. The series veteran, who is coming off a win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, has just three top fives in 24 career starts.
NASCAR Local Tracks Play Big Role At New Hampshire
New Hampshire Motor Speedway will always have the soul of a short track.
Beginning in 1964, NHMS builder Bob Bahre and his family operated a longtime NASCAR sanctioned short track in Oxford, Maine. The family operated the track until 1986, when Bahre decided to move on.
Bahre had his mind set on operating a track that hosted NASCAR national series events. He liked the major league feel of NASCAR touring events at Oxford, which was a hub for the original NASCAR North Series that evolved into today's NASCAR Camping World Series East.
Bahre built New Hampshire Motor Speedway on the site of an old road racing track in Loudon, N.H. When it opened in 1990, the NASCAR Camping World Series was one of the first divisions to call Bahre's new 1.058-mile oval home.
In addition to NHMS, now operated by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., New Hampshire has four NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks. They include All Star Speedway, a .250-mile paved oval in Epping, N.H.; Lee USA Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval in Lee, N.H.; Monadnock Speedway, a .250-mile oval in Winchester, N.H., and Twin State Speedway, a .333-mile paved oval in Claremont, N.H.
For a listing of NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks, visit www.nascarhometracks.com.