Good show could mean return trip

Bobby Santos of Franklin won the pole for today’s Granite State Classic Modified event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bobby Santos of Franklin won the pole for today’s Granite State Classic Modified event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe Staff)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 13, 2011

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LOUDON, N.H. - Tomorrow’s Indy 225 race will mark the return of the Izod IndyCar Series to New Hampshire Motor Speedway after a 13-year hiatus. The drivers are well aware of the importance of putting on a good show to draw more fans and ensure the mile-oval at NHMS becomes a permanent fixture on the IndyCar Series schedule.

“This is a great market and we need to be here,’’ said Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 Honda-powered Dallara fielded by Andretti Autosport. “Hopefully we’ll have good attendance on Sunday that makes it worthwhile coming back.

“I think we’d all like that. I think the short ovals are good for racing.’’

Mile ovals such as NHMS appear to suit Hunter-Reay, who has the all-time IndyCar records for most laps led in a race, most consecutive laps led in a race, and most laps led in a race by a race winner after winning a 250-lap event June 5, 2004, at The Milwaukee Mile, a flat mile oval to which NHMS has been compared.

“It seems to be really hard to pass in practice, but once you get out there in the race and you have guys falling off, it really comes alive,’’ Hunter-Reay said. “It would be nice to come back year after year.’’

When he was 12, Hunter-Reay and his father came to Loudon in 1995 to watch Andre Ribeiro win his first race in what proved to be the last IndyCar race at NHMS sanctioned by the now-defunct Championship Auto Racing Teams.

“I went to a few races with Dad to Mid-Ohio and Loudon, a couple of others, Road America, maybe,’’ Hunter-Reay said. “I’m not sure why we picked this one. At that time, I was just happy to go to an IndyCar race.

“It’s beautiful around here. It’s a great place to have a race,’’ he said.

Best foot forward There was no pun intended when Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe lauded “the huge feat’’ by Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski, a fellow Penske Racing driver who won last week’s 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway after suffering a broken left ankle last Wednesday during a practice crash at Road Atlanta.

“It’s incredible,’’ Briscoe said, when asked about Keselowski’s victory, which gave him two this season and bolstered his chances for one of two wild-card berths in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. “I mean, it was just so important on so many levels and a huge feat by him, personally.’’

Keselowski planned to pull double duty last weekend, racing in the Nationwide Series event at Iowa Speedway and the Sprint Cup race at Pocono, but was forced to pull out of the Nationwide race.

“He’s such a strong character and he was in so much pain during the race, but a pretty phenomenal job holding off Kyle Busch for the win,’’ Briscoe said. “I mean it was a huge win for him and the whole team and I think a personal feat for Brad, it was very impressive.’’

Santos wins pole Bobby Santos of Franklin, Mass., ranked fifth in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver standings with 1,132 points, captured the pole position for today’s 100-mile Modified event, the Granite State Classic. Santos toured the mile oval in a winning speed of 127.564 miles per hour to edge Eric Beers, of Northampton, Pa., who was second in 127.351. “This is like the Super Bowl,’’ Santos said. “Any race at New Hampshire where you can get a win or a pole means a lot to us.’’ . . . Eddie McDonald of Rowley, Mass., will start from the pole for the final 25-lap qualifying heat in today’s American-Canadian Tour event. The finishing order will be inverted, which will set the starting grid for the 50-lap event.

Michael Vega can be reached at