Loudon has come full circle

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Posted June 30, 2009, at 9:51 p.m.

The climate has definitely changed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since it held its first Sprint Cup race on July 11, 1993. But it’s still a first-class operation.

Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte and the ageless Mark Martin are the only Cup regulars who were regulars back in 1993.

We have witnessed the ascension of Newburgh’s Ricky Craven from the Camping World East series to the Cup series and his subsequent retirement from racing.

Well, to be honest, Craven hasn’t officially retired, but Cup drivers don’t really retire. It’s kind of like a Brett Favre retirement.

They hang up the helmet until they get the itch again.

The new hometown hero is Joey Logano, the 19-year-old from Middletown, Conn., who became the youngest driver in history to win a Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

Now, I don’t claim to be a MapQuest whiz but Middletown, Conn. and Loudon, N.H., don’t appear to be neighboring communities.

But neither were Newburgh, Maine, and Loudon.

The truth of the matter is there aren’t a lot of New Englanders involved in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Ironically, Logano’s crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, is also from Connecticut (Berlin).

And Logano and Zipadelli cut their teeth in the Camping World East series which has held races at Loudon since 1992.

Craven also helped create a name for himself in the Camping World Series.

The easygoing Logano could cut into the overwhelming support for Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose status as the most popular driver in the Sprint Cup series is dwindling.

It has become evident that he is not as good as his late father. His focus isn’t the same. He has lots of interests besides auto racing.

His father may have had other interests, but he had a greater passion for racing.

He didn’t have the distractions his son has had to deal with, including a feud with his stepmother, Teresa, that led to his departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to join Hendrick Motorsports after the 2007 season.

He is the only driver with Hendrick Motorsports who isn’t among the top 11 drivers in points.

He is 19th and 285 points out of 12th, the final Race for the Chase position.

His teammates, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Martin are second, third and 11th in points, respectively.

All four finished in the top 14 in Sunday’s race, in which NASCAR’s decision to implement double-file restarts with the leaders up front and the lapped cars in back was certainly validated.

The excitement it adds had also been showcased over the road course at Infineon Raceway the previous weekend.

Double-file restarts provided the majority of excitement at both tracks.

You can expect more developments in NASCAR.

They appear to be leaning toward having unified starting times like the NFL so the fans can plan accordingly.

For example, all Sunday races could start at 1:00 local time (i.e. 4 p.m. in California).

I’m in favor of it.

And you can expect to see Danica Patrick in NASCAR at some time, although you’ll find a lot of naysayers.

If she doesn’t get the contract she wants from an IRL team, she’ll challenge herself in NASCAR right away. She’s a fearless risk-taker with some talent. She would be a positive addition.

If it doesn’t work out, like it didn’t for Dario Franchitti, she can always go back to IRL.

Franchitti hasn’t missed a beat.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/06/30/sports/loudon-has-come-full-circle/ printed on July 14, 2014