|Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images|
The track has dubious honors as being one of the toughest ovals on the NASCAR circuit if not in all of motorsports and has been dubbed “Martinsville on steroids” and more commonly “The Magic Mile”.
Opened in June 1990 as New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS), the first NASCAR event was the Budweiser 300 for the Busch Series (now Nationwide Series). Tommy Ellis won that inaugural race. And for the next three years that series enjoyed two races a season at the facility.
A Cup race took a few years to follow but arrived in July 1993. The Slick 50 300 was won by Rusty Wallace. Sadly, that was the last race Davey Allison would ever compete as he died the very next day in the helicopter he was piloting to visit with Neil Bonnett in Talladega.
Tragedy befell the track when Adam Petty, son of Kyle, grandson of Richard, and great-grandson of Lee, perished in practice for a Busch Series race in May of 2000. Not too long after Kenny Irwin Jr. , Rookie of the Year in 1998, suffered a similar fate to Petty.
Restrictor plates were enacted for the September 2000 race in reaction to the tragic deaths. It was short-lived; Jeff Burton won from the pole with no lead changes throughout the entire event so it was the only time they were run at New Hampshire.
Throughout the years tweaks have been made to up the competition at the track and provide a safer facility. The “free pass” rule or “the lucky dog” in which the first car behind the leader not on the lead lap would get their lap back during each caution period was a direct result of an incident at New Hampshire involving Dale Jarrett in the fall of 2003.
But good incidents have occurred there as well like the time Ernie Irvan won the July 1996 race. It was highly emotional as Irvan was less than two years separated from a near fatal crash at Michigan International Speedway that left him with a less than 10% chance of survival. His performance at New Hampshire and subsequent win at the event was a triumphant story.
New Hampshire received a name change to New Hampshire Motor Speedway when Speedway Motorsports purchased NHIS in 2007. One of the conditions of the deal was a 50% interest in North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina. Bruton Smith owns the remaining 50%.
For me New Hampshire is simpler than its history. It is the place where NASCAR races into New England and shakes up the staid atmosphere.
It’s the place my good friend Cheryl, a resident of New Hampshire and avid photographer, anxiously awaits so she can root for her favorite driver Jeff Gordon and take pictures that are captivating, capturing the action on and off the track.
For its rich history, conduit for change and beautiful New England setting, New Hampshire Motor Speedway is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.
Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.