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Dale Earnhardt Jr. shocked by Juan Montoya's departure from No. 42

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff August 14, 2013 03:03 PM

LOUDON, N.H. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr., like most of his NASCAR brethren, was surprised to learn Tuesday that Juan Pablo Montoya, who defected from Formula One to drive full-time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 for Chip Ganassi Racing, would not be returning to the No. 42 car in 2014.

"It was a shock to me,'' said Earnhardt, speaking to reporters Wednesday during a break in the Hendrick Motorsports team test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Iím sure Juan and Chip have had these discussions about it and it wasnít something he would find out like everyone else did.

"It was funny, because there was no discussion about it. You normally hear about these things underground a little bit earlier before they happen. I didnít hear anything about it. I was really shocked.''

Montoya, 37, won twice in 239 series starts and recorded 23 top fives, 56 top 10s, and nine pole victories. In 22 starts this season, Montoya has had three top fives, including a runner-up finish at Dover.

But judging from the manner in which some of Montoya's competitors spoke about him, it appeared the Colombian-born driver was not likely to continue with his stock car racing career.

"I donít know what Juanís plans are, but heís been a lot of fun to have in the series,'' Earnhardt said. "If he wanted to, he didnít have to be here. He didnít have to try and come back and race in this series.

"Heís had a pretty good career, and he doesnít have anything to prove, I guess is my point," Earnhardt said. "But heís been a lot of fun to have him around. I was worried about him being a Formula One driver and how the culture was so different and how he would fit in and interact with us.

"Iíve always enjoyed working with him and racing with him and competing with him. Heís been a good guy off the racetrack. Itís been fun having him around. I hope he sticks around, but you just never know. He just kind of picks his own battles, so you never know where heís going to race next.''

Hendrick Motorsports conducts test at NHMS

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff August 14, 2013 02:41 PM

LOUDON, N.H. -- With the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championshp fast approaching, Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, and Jimmie Johnson crammed two days of testing into one Wednesday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to prepare for their visit next month for the Sylvania 300, the second event in NASCAR's 10-race playoff format.

"This is an important race in the Chase, obviously,'' said Gordon, who has completed and led more laps at the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon than any other driver in Sprint Cup history. "Anything we can learn here that we can take somewhere else to help us get in the Chase is as crucial as well."

With an average finish of 16.0 in 28 career starts at NHMS, Earnhardt stood to benefit by taking part in the team test.

"Testing anywhere can help you, and we didnít think we were as good as we needed to be last time and weíre trying to pick up a few things that can help us,'' said Earnhardt, who started third but finished 14th in July's Sprint Cup race at NHMS. "If we are fortunate enough to make the Chase, this is one of the important races in the Chase so weíre trying to get off to a good start, and the race is real key.''

Asked why New Hampshire in particular was important in the Chase, Earnhardt said, "They're all very important. You canít really give up any [points], you canít take a race off, and you canít have a bad event, so you need to be prepared for each one.

"The [projected] average finish to win a championship has to be definitely under seventh, so that means you have to finish good everywhere.''

Jimmie Johnson hosts Champions Luncheon in Boston, recognizes Boston Marathon survivors

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff June 27, 2013 09:20 PM

Jimmie Johnson, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who currently sits atop the driver standings, made a Boston whistletop Thursday and hosted a Champions Luncheon at the Cask 'n Flagon near Fenway Park. Johnson will drive in the July 14 Lennox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR champion was joined by sports legends from other Boston championship teams, including: the Celtics' JoJo White, the Bruins' Johnny Bucyk, the Patriots' Joe Andruzzi, and Tim Wakefield from the Boston Red Sox.

They engaged in a panel discussion, moderated by ESPN announcer Allen Bestwick, about the common traits of a championship team.

''It's about the people," said Johnson. "We are all only as good as our weakest link. We are a team and no one person is successful alone."

But the real champions were those Boston Marathon survivors who attended the luncheon, including MBTA Transit police officer Richard Donohue, who was seriously wounded in the Watertown shootout with the marathon bombing suspects.

"The marathon bombings actually hit pretty close to home for me,'' said Donohue. "My great, great grandfather, Larry Brignolia, who was a blacksmith, won the 1899 Boston Marathon at a whopping 173 pounds. That record still stands today.

"I weighed about 173 pounds when the Marathon kicked off and I weigh about 150-149 now,'' Donohue said. "This was my third year as a Transit police officer working the Marathon and itíll probably be my last. During the pursuit of the bombers, I was hit by a bullet in my right leg and there it remains today.''

Donohue said he had never suffered so much as a broken bone before, let alone a gunshot wound. ''The recovery process was one I wasn't too familiar with,'' said Donohue, whose protracted recovery has been slowed by nerve damage to his foot.

"There were some folks who had similar physical injuries and the Boston hospitals provided all of us with top-notch care,'' he said "Myself, I went to Mount Auburn and then I went to Spaulding [Rehabilitation Hospital] and without them I wouldnít be here today, as well as the first responders who were on the scene and jumped into action.

"All of us who survived, we have months, if not years to recover and some of us might never do so,'' Donohue said. "I have some severe nerve damage to my left foot and thatís why Iím on crutches today. I may never return to the job I love, protecting the city I love, but I am optimistic I will do so.''

Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, announced at the luncheon that the track had joined forces with its corporate partners to provide 2,000 tickets to first responders from all over the New England region to attend the July 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Loudon, N.H.

"Our champion first responders always go the extra mile without giving a second thought to what might happen to them," Gappens said. "Our race this summer is the 301, going the extra mile in honor of our heroes."

Live updates from the 55th Daytona 500

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff February 24, 2013 12:50 PM

End of race: Lap 200 of 200 Jimmie Johnson wins 55th Daytona 500 in his 400th career start. Danica Patrick (8th) becomes highest-finishing woman in 500 history.

Lap 191 of 200 Caution No. 6: Debris. With Jimmie Johnson leading with 10 to go, a caution for debris comes out to remove a piece of sheet metal. Johnson radioed to crew chief Chad Knaus he ran it over ``center grill.'' It came as a sigh of relief as the race was building to a tension-filled crescendo.

Lap 180 of 200 With 20 to go, Brad Keselowki has cycled his way to the front under caution after Jeff Burton tagged the wall coming through the tri-oval and brought out the fifth caution of the race.

Lap 160 of 200 Hamlin, who must be running on eggshells worried about his engine holding up, leads with 40 to go. Top 5: 11-56-16-48-24.

Lap 150 of 200 Toyotas starting to blow up. Kenseth drops out of lead on backstretch because of smoke from left front tire. Lap after Kenseth goes behind wall, Kyle Busch comes down pit road with smoke coming from exhaust. He goes behind the wall on Lap 154. Denny Hamlin leads the race.

Lap 143 of 200 The make-up of the top 10 is telling: Six Toyotas, threeChevys, one Ford. Looks like a Toyota Shootout is looming at end.

Lap 138 of 200 Caution No. 4: Crash in Turn 1. Keselowski bumped David Reutimann from behind, causing Trevor Bayne, who was running behind Keselowski, to check up and cause a six-car chain reaction. It collected the Ford machine of Carl Edwards, who was involved in his fifth wreck this month at Daytona and fourth during Speedweeks.

Lap 136 of 200 Led by Kenseth, who has led 73 of first 136 laps, six Toyotas are running in the top 6.

Lap 130 of 200 Danica pits after leading three laps.Interesting move by crew chief Tony Gibson. It puts her on sequence with Chevys of Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Lap 127 of 200 Leaders pit, but Danica stays out on track and takes lead.

Lap 120 of 200 Kenseth continues to lead. Green flag pit stops looming.

Lap 115 of 200 Kenseth leads a 10-car draft. Hamlin and Patrick continue to run i the top three.

Lap 105 of 200 No change in the lead draft. Kenseth continues to lead six-car draft that is comprised of four Toyotas. Chevrolet's of Danica Patrick and Jimmie Johnson are the only interlopers.

Lap 100 of 200 Kenseth, who went to the front on Lap 93, leads the halfway point of the race. He had drafting support from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was running second. Danica Patrick kept pace in third.

Lap 90 of 200 Danica Patrick becomes first woman to lead the Daytona 500. Patrick, who also was the first woman to lead at the Indy 500 when she lead 19 laps as a rookie in 2005, went by Michael Waltrip on the restart of the race at the end of Lap 89.

Lap 86 of 200 Leaders pit under caution. Most stopped for fuel only.

Lap 85 of 200 Caution No. 3: Debris on backstretch. Cars of Juan Pablo Montoya and Casey Mears have returned to the race. Top 10 leaders: 11-56-20-48-24-16-22-10-88-15. Mon

Lap 78 of 200 After cycle of green-flap was completed, Denny Hamlin has taken the lead. Martin Truex Jr. running second. Kenseth running third.Danica Patrick, who dropped to 12th after taking four tires and fuel, reported a bit of a vibration coming from beneath the throttle.

Lap 70 of 200 Green-flag stops on pit road. Aric Amirola hit with a pass-through penalty for speeding off pit roaad. Ryan Newman and Michael Waltrip, who have yet to pit, currently lead the pack.

Lap 68 of 200 Kenseth, who reported having an issue with a tire, continues to lead the race. Top 5: Kenseth, Johnson, Danica, Gordon, KyBusch.

Lap 45 of 200 Matt Kesenth, the two-time and defending Daytona 500 champion, took the lead and ran in front of an 11-car draft. Nine cars were involved in the wreck, which ended the day for drivers Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, and Kasey Kahne.

Lap 33 of 200 Caution No. 2: Crash Turn 1. Kasey Kahne triggered a multi-car crash in Turn 1 when he spun into the low line, clipping the front end of Juan Pablo Montoya and collecting the car of Kevin Harvick, winner of the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel, and Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick's boss. Patrick was running ahead of the trouble on the low line when it erupted in Turn 1. She was running third when the race restarted on Lap 37.

Lap 28 of 200 Danica Patrick drops seven spots on her first pit for two tires and fuel. Now running 9th.

Lap 27 of 200 Caution No. 1: debris. The stoppage might be huge for Gordon, whose temps creeped up because of a large piece of debris on his front grill. Leaders come down pit road.

Lap 20 of 200 Jeff Gordon, who qualified second fastest and pushed aside in Victory Lane by his daughter Ella Sofia to be pictured with pole winner Danica Patrick, has led the first 20 laps. However, he might have to back off after reporting to crew chief Alan Gustafson: ``Temps have creeped up some.'' The lead draft has been joined by Kevin Harvick (eighth), Greg Biffle (ninth) and Matt Kenseth (10th), making it a 10-car conga line.

Lap 10 of 200 Running a high line around Daytona, Jeff Gordon leads a seven-car breakaway draft that includes Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson.

Green!Green!Green! The 55th Daytona 500 is underway. Jeff Gordon, who started on the inside of pole sitter Danica Patrick, who opted to start on the outside (high) line, wound up going to the front and leading the first. Honorary starter Ray Lewis, the former Ravens linebacker, did a swell job unfurling the green. Not such a swell job by grand marshal James Franco, whose starting command ``Drivers -- and Danica! -- start your engines!'' caused everyone to wince.

Pre-race Greetings from the press box at Daytona International Speedway where we hope to bring you the start and finish of the 55th Daytona 500, the season-opening event of NASCAR's Sprint Cup season. The Zac Brown Band is performing a pre-race concert right now as we're about a half-hour from Danica Patrick, the first woman in NASCAR history to win a Sprint Cup pole position, from leading the field to the green flag. The track has made repairs to the fencing on the frontstretch tri-oval from Saturday's horrific 12-car crash during the Nationwide Series opener, which injured 28 fans who were hit from flying debris that was sprayed into the grandstands. Actor James Franco will give the starting command. ``But maybe I'll have to change it up for Danica,'' he said before the race. Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will serve as the honorary starter and throw the green flag.

Bobby Allison shared in Tony Stewart's post-race anguish

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff February 24, 2013 12:34 PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison, on hand to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his victory in the 1988 Daytona 500, said Sunday he shared in Tony Stewart's anguish following his victory in Saturday's crash-marred Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart escaped the carnage of a 12-car wreck on the last lap of the season-opening Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona, which injured 28 spectators who were hit with flying debris that was sprayed into the grandstands facing the frontstretch tri-oval near the start/finish line.

Stewart, who won the Nationwide opener at Daytona for the seventh time in his career and fifth time in the last six races, was visibly upset afterward in a muted Victory Lane celebration. "As much as we're happy about our win and our accomplishment today, I'm more worried about the people in the stands, the drivers, everybody involved. I want to celebrate this, but I don't want to celebrate until we hear from everybody at the track."

Allison said he shared Stewart's concern when he survived a horrific, high-speed crash in 1987 at Talladega, where his car was launched into the fencing, ripping it apart. Allison's son, Davey Allison, wound up winning the race to record his first career NASCAR victory.

"What happened in my crash, part of that deal was I broke my dry sump oil tank, which put warm dirty oil all over me, in my face, inside my goggles and my eyes," Allison recalled. "When the car stopped I realized I wasnít hurt physically, but I couldnít see. I had both eyes full of motor oil.

"When the safety crew got up there and helped me get out of the car and get wiped off a little bit and brushed off a little bit, they put me in the ambulance, and I asked, 'How many people got hurt?í And they were like 'Nobody got hurt.' So they took the long way around the race track to get back to the infield hospital. I said, 'Did you have to take me this way so I didnít see all those dead bodies laying there?"

While there were no fatalities in the aftermath of that wreck, which brought about the advent off restrictor-plate racing at superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega, many fans were injured. But Allison had no news of that.

"They had me worried," Allison recalled. "But when we got back to the infield car center [the track physician] came out there and said, 'Shutoff the helicopters, we donít need them.' I said, 'If they donít need the helicopters, that means nobody is hurt bad,' so it gave me some relief.

"So I understand the concern all the drivers have for the spectators and for everybody involved,'' Allison said. "Iím glad it wasnít worse than it was, because it couldíve been really bad.''

Last-lap crash at Daytona raises questions about fence, fan safety

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff February 24, 2013 10:39 AM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A horrific 12-car crash on the last lap of Saturday's Nationwide Series opener Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, which injured 28 spectators who were sprayed with flying debris, raised questions before the start of Sunday's 55th running of the Daytona 500 about improved fencing and fan safety.

Daytona track president Joie Chitwood said the track transported 14 injured fans to local hospitals and 14 others were treated and relased from the track's infield medical facility. Byron Cogdell, a hospital spokesman at Halifax Health medical center, indicated 12 patients were received from the track, seven of which were admitted due to injuries sustained during the accident.

Five patients were released, but the remaining two critically-injured patients, one a minor, had been stabilized. Cogdell said six patients were taken to Halifax Health -- Medical Center of Port Orange (Fla.), and all were treated and released.

"I just want to reiterate how important our fans are to us,'' Chitwood said. "As we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, we had our guest services team dispatched to Halifax and other medical institutions [Saturday] night.

"We helped all of those released from medical care, to get reunited with to family and friends, personal items, cars,'' Chitwood said. "We transported some of our fans back to Orlando. Throughout the night, we were making sure those released were getting proper care from us as it relates to getting connected back to everyone.''

The accident was triggered as the lead pack of drivers, led by race leader Regan Smith, came steaming toward the finish line on the front stretch tri-oval at Daytona's 2.5-mile, high-banked super speedway. Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski from making a move for the lead and wound up spinning into the wall in front of heavy traffic.

The No. 32 Chevrolet Camaro of rookie driver Kyle Larson got hit from behind, spun, and skidded backwards toward the wall and was launched into the air. Larson's car then helicoptered into the catch fence, penetrating the crossover gate opening and causing the engine and front end suspension to be sheared from the front of the car.

While Larsen was unhurt, a tire from Larson's car catapulted over the 22-foot fencing and landed about nine rows up in the grandstands facing the frontstretch tri-oval near the start/finish line.

The accident muted the Victory Lane celebration of Tony Stewart, who made it through the last-lap carnage unscathed. It was Stewart's seventh victory in 11 starts in the Nationwide season opener at Daytona and fifth in the last six races.

"I looked in the mirror, and that's the worst image I've ever seen in a race in my life," Stewart said afterward. "As much as we're happy about our win and our accomplishment today, I'm more worried about the people in the stands, the drivers, everybody involved."

Chitwood said track workers toiled all night to make repairs to the fence. He said the track had replaced the existing fencing in 2010 following Carl Edwards's 2009 crash in a restrictor-plate race at Talladega, which caused NASCAR to re-evaluate the specifications of its fencing.

"We brought in a structural engineering firm to review all of our fencing arrangements,'' Chitwood said. "We took all of the recommendations they made and we actually installed new fencing at Daytona International Speedway prior to the 2010 season. So we felt like we had done everything with respect to protocol in making sure we were prepared for [Saturday's] event.''

While the fencing, in theory, did its job by preventing Larson's car from traveling into the grandstands, NASCAR senior vice president for racing operations Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body would evaluate the performance of the fencing and the Nationwide Series car.

"When you look at NASCAR as a whole, that's what we try to do every day," O'Donnell said. "Our fans are first and foremost for us to have an exciting and safe experience at the track, so that's what wer'e going to continue to look at.'"

Asked if NASCAR would look into removing crossover gates from the fencing of its sanctioned tracks, O'Donnell said. "If that's what we thought the experts said we should do, we'd certainly take a look at that. I think it's way too soon to make that kind of statment without really studying exactly what happened and apply what we can from there.''

Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford, on had at Daytona to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first career stock car victory, suggested it might be time for NASCAR and the IndyCar Series to look into its fencing.

"Definitely, maybe a double fence -- one behind the other Ė maybe with some space in between to stop something like this [flying debris],'' said Rutherford, who indicated the IndyCar Series was especially sensitive after Dan Wheldon was killed in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where his car was catapulted into the fence and torn apart.

"NASCAR and the Indy Car series are looking at everything they can to make it safer,'' Rutherford said. "What happened yesterday is a terrible thing. As drivers, we accept that [risk]. We accept that and thatís part of the game and you move on, but you donít want to involve the fans and we certainly pray for the fans and their safety. Itís just something thatís kind of a shocker.''

NHMS, Sylvania announce 5-year sponsorship extension

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff January 22, 2013 02:30 PM

Amid an increasingly difficult economic climate for NASCAR teams and track promoters, New Hampshire Motor Speedway Tuesday announced it had reached a five-year sponsorship extension with Sylvania through 2017.

Based in Danvers, Mass., Sylvania will remain the title sponsor of the Sylvania 300 at NHMS, the trackís fall event in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

"Itís our second renewal with them since [Speedway Motorsports Inc.] bought the track five years ago," said NHMS general manager Jerry Gappens, speaking by phone from Charlotte, N.C., where the announcement was made during NASCARís preseason media tour.

"But it speaks volumes on several fronts, No. 1, with the economy the way itís been not only for the speedway but also for the sport of NASCAR," Gappens said. "I think the continuity is very important. Weíve got a long partnership of working closely together to build the Sylvania 300 into a marquee event in the Chase."

Gappens said the track's 15-year bond with Sylvania ranked as the third-longest running title sponsorship in NASCAR behind Coca Cola and Charlotte Motor Speedwayís 23-year association and Food City and Bristol Motor Speedwayís 21-year partnership.

"I think itís quite a tribute to the fans of the speedway for supporting it," said Gappens, who hosted a group of Sylvania officials at last fallís Chase race to conduct negotiations on an extension. "They were so impressed with that crowd last September. We were right at near capacity and they took notice of that.

"You didnít see any empty aluminum [grandstands] like youíre seeing at some of the other places," Gappens said. "I think that helped solidify their look on it. They had some of their top brass here looking at it for the first time and they walked away really impressed.

"So I think itís good news and nice to have them solidified for the next five years."

NHMS's `miracle baby' makes Magic Mile debut

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff September 23, 2012 11:01 AM

LOUDON, N.H. --- Katie Ann Hebert, the baby that was delivered in the parking lot of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, returned Sunday to the site of her birth and was feted with gifts and a pair of lifetime tickets to every NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the 1.058-mile oval.

Shawna Arnold, the baby's 27-year-old mother, went into labor as she was traveling from her home in Belmont, N.H., to Concord General Hospital with the baby's father, Erik Hebert, and grandmother.

Hebert, 30, who was behind the wheel of his mother's brand new Saturn sedan, said he was driving Arnold to the hospital last Friday afternoon and was motoring south on Route 106 when she began going into labor, prompting him to pull into the parking lot of the track's main offices.

"We were coming up on the track on 106 when she said, `Oh my God, my water broke!' '' Hebert said Sunday before the Sylvania 300 at NHMS. "Then she said, `Oh my God, I've got a head!' and I pulled into the parking lot.''

It was a fortuitous move, as the track had just opened its gates to recreational vehicles arriving for the track's race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. As such, emergency medical technicians and apparatus were on hand at the track and sprang into action when they were summoned to the main offices.

"I totally believe there are angels among us,'' said Jerry Gappens, the track's executive vice president and general manager. "And that was certainly the case last Friday when they gave birth a little miracle baby in our parking lot. This was as good a place for it to happen because we had the people in place to help.

"We had trained professionals on hand who handled these types of situations. So, of all the parkings lots along the way, this was the best one.''

Arnold, who has three older daughters ranging in ages from 7 to 2-1/2 years, said it was the first time she gave birth outside of a hospital.

"I had started to go into labor about 45 minutes before,'' said Arnold. "I felt I had time [to get to the hospital], because I had my three other daughters at the hospital. But Katie wasn't going to wait. She was ready to come and I delivered her in the backseat of the car in the parking lot.''

While her mother was a casual NASCAR fan growing up in Belmont, Gappens seized upon the opportunity to make a new fan of the 9-day-old infant, saying the Magic Mile's miracle baby ``was going to be a part of our family for many years to come.''

Jeff Gordon captures Sylvania 300 pole at NHMS

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff September 21, 2012 05:37 PM

LOUDON, N.H. -- Jeff Gordon, who fought his way to earn the last wild-card berth in the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, captured the pole position for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Gordon, who finished 35th after crashing on Lap 189 in last weekend's Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, arrived 12th in the points but earned the right to start at the front of the 43-car field by touring the 1.058-mile oval in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet in 28.232 seconds (134.911 miles per hour).

It bettered Kyle Busch's qualifying time of 28.265, which knocked Busch's No. 18 M&M's Toyota off the top of the speed charts.

"They don't pay any points for qualifying,'' said Gordon, who was 47 points astern of Chase leader Brad Keselowski with nine races to go. "But if I'm sitting here as the winner come Sunday, then we might be saying something different. At this point, we've got a lot of work to do and it's not going to happen all in one race. It's going to happen in nine races and we're certainly not going to quit.

"We're going to fight, we're going to go out and be aggressive and we're going to go out and try to win races.''

Tony Stewart, the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion, qualified third fastest (28.304) while Brian Vickers was fourth fastest (28.322).

Denny Hamlin, who tweeted after finishing 16th in last weekend's Chase race in Chicago, "This is Week 1 of 10. We will win next week," was fastest during practice but wound up qualifying 32d after his crew made a miscalculation on his qualifying tire pressures.

"I knew something was wrong,'' Hamlin said. "It looked like we just ended up having race pressures in. We didnít put our qualifying pressures in. That was a tough one. I knew something was really, really wrong, because the car was just bottomed out real bad. Simple mistake. Weíll rebound from it. Weíre quick enough."

NHMS to continue hosting two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates in 2013

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff September 21, 2012 09:36 AM

LOUDON, N.H. -- New Hampshire Motor Speedway will continue to host a pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup dates in 2013, including the second event in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, track officials announced Friday.

The 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H. will host its first race July 14 and the second Sept. 22.

ďWe are full steam ahead for our race this Sunday, but weíre also tremendously honored to have the opportunity to do this all over again next year,Ē said Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, in a released statement. ďThis has been an extremely exciting season and we are privileged to be an integral part in determining NASCARís champion. Itís going to be a long winter, but I think I can speak for everyone here at ĎThe Magic Mileí when I say we canít wait for the 2013 season to begin.Ē

NHMS has hosted a pair of Sprint Cup races, NASCAR's premier touring series, since 1997 and has hosted a Chase race since the inception of the new playoff format in 2004.

ďThe main reason why we have both races again next year is because of the enthusiastic support of our race fans in New England,Ē said Gappens. ďThe drivers know this is a great place to compete and the fans know it's an amazing place to watch a race.Ē

Chat with NASCAR's Clint Bowyer

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff September 18, 2012 08:50 PM

bowyer.jpgNASCAR driver Clint Bowyer, who is sixth in the Chase for the Cup standings heading into this weekend's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is scheduled to join Boston.com readers on Wednesday at 1 p.m. to talk racing.

Set a reminder in the chat window below, and get your questions ready.

Hamlin honors Afghanistan-bound NH troops

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff September 12, 2012 01:20 PM



Denny Hamlin visits with the New Hampshire Natitonal Guard's 169th Med-Evac Unit Tuesday as part of NASCAR's ``Chase Across America'' media blitz.

CONCORD, N.H. --- Denny Hamlin, the top seed among the 12 drivers entered in NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, visited Tuesday with the New Hampshire National Guard's 169th Med-Evac Aviation Unit, which will be deployed to Afghanistan six days after the Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup race Sept. 23 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Hamlin's visit coincided with the solemn remembrances nationwide for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Hamlin arrived on the tarmac of the aviation facility behind the wheel of an NHMS pace car and was given a tour of a Black Hawk helicopter and allowed to sit in the pilot's seat.


Hamlin at the controls of a Black Hawk helicopter.

He returned the favor by providing the troops with a beneath-the-hood tour of his No. 11 FedEx Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing, and fired up the motor of his snarling 3,500-pound stock car.

"I told them that was the first time I've ever got to visit with troops outside of the race track,'' said Hamlin. "We constantly have inside our NASCAR races individuals from our military that we honor each and every week during the drivers' meeting and during the race intros.

"But to actually see guys and gals who you know are going away for a year, that was the first time I had ever been a part of that,'' Hamlin said. "That was a very unique experience.''

Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at NHMS, invited the 169th Med-Evac Unit to attend the Sylvania 300 as special guests of the track, promising them red-carpet VIP treatment.

Hamlin, however, took it a step further, promising to have the 169th join him in Victory Lane at NHMS if he wins the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

"I told 'em all we got a good shot at it,'' said Hamlin, who was dominant in July's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 but had a pit-road miscommunication cost him a victory. "If we win at New Hampshire, they're all going to come to Victory Lane. They were wondering where are we going to have some beer, and I told them, 'Meet me in Victory Lane, we'll have plenty.'"

While the National Guard already serves as a primary sponsor of another driver in the Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Andy Foote, chief warrant officer for the 169th, said the unit might have another rooting interest in the race.

ďWeíre looking forward to going out to the track and watching you,Ē Foote said. ďWeíve got a lot of NASCAR fans in this group and I think youíve made a few more today. We wish you the best of luck when you come back here.Ē

Hamlin will enter the 10-race Chase, which gets underway Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., as one of the hottest drivers on the NASCAR circuit, with two victories in the last three weeks of the regular season and a series-leading four victories on the season to go along with 13 top 10s and 11 top 5s.

ďWe expect to run well at most of these final 10 tracks,'' Hamlin said. "But we expect to win at New Hampshire.Ē

Kasey Kahne wins Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 15, 2012 01:08 PM

Race over: Kasey Kahne bolstered his bid for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with a victory in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It was Kahne's second victory of the season after a triumph at Charlotte and first of his career at New Hampshire, where he led the last 66 laps of the race to finish ahead of runner-up Denny Hamlin, third place Clint Bowyer, fourth place Dale Earnhardt Jr., and fifth place Brad Keselowski.

Lap 295/301: Hamlin continued to close the gap on Kahne, pulling within 1.032 seconds.

Lap 280/301: Kahne continued to lead, but Hamlin mounted a strong run to move into second, 3.031 seconds behind.

Lap 260/301: Kahne built a 0.610-second lead (about 10 car lengths) over Bowyer. But the most impressive sight was seeing Hamlin climb to fourth with 39 to go.

Lap 239/301: Restart. Kasey Kahne took the lead when the racing resumed. Clint Bowyer jumped out to second ahead of Earnhardt. Harvick ran fourth. Hamlin, who took four tires when the rest of the field took two, wound up dropping to 11th.

Lap 234/301:Caution No. 3: David Reutimann's No. 10 Chevrolet fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing blew an engine coming out of Turn 2. It came after Kyle Busch had pitted under green and dropped back after sliding through his pit box. Jimmie Johnson, who also pitted under green and fell a lap down, regained the lap as the beneficiary of a free pass.
The top 5: 1. Kahne, 2. Earnhardt, 3. Harvick, 4. Bowyer, 5. Keselowski.

Lap 210/301: Hamlin built an impressive 2.311-second lead over second-place, Busch.

Lap 201/301: One hundred laps to go. Hamlin continued to lead. Twenty cars remained on lead lap, with Tony Stewart bringing up the rear in 20th, 9.911 seconds back of the leader.

Lap 196/301: Restart. Denny Hamlin wrested the lead from his JGR teammate, Busch. The top 5: 1. Hamlin, 2. Busch, 3. Johnson, 4. Kahne, 5. Earnhardt.

Lap 190/301: The leaders pitted under caution. Kyle Busch cycled to the front when he stayed out on the track. Hamlin wound up in second. The top 5: 1. Busch, 2. Hamlin, 3. Kahne, 4. Johnson, 5. Keselowski. There were 20 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 189/301: Caution No. 2 Debris in Turn 3 brought out the second caution of the race. Paul Menard got his lap back with the free pass.

Lap 180/301: JGR Toyotas continued to show their strength as Hamlin led with 180 complete. He continued to be chased by Hendrick's four-car stable, led by Kahne, Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt. Tony Stewart dropped off the pace, falling a lap behind on Lap 173.

Lap 154/301: Hamlin pitted under green, sparking a series of cycle of green-flag stops by the leaders. He exited in seventh, then cycled his way back to the front on Lap 158. The top 5: 1. Hamlin, 2. Gordon, 3. Kahne, 4. Jimmie Johnson, 5. Marcus Ambrose.

Lap 150/301: NASCAR officials in flag stand showed the cross-flags, signifying the halfway point of the race. Hamlin continued to lead at the juncture.

Lap 146/301: Gordon finally pitted under green for four tires and fuel. He entered fourth and came out 21st, one lap down.

Lap 140/301: Hamlin led the race after 140 laps. He continued to be chased by the Hendricks' gang. Jeff Gordon, who briefly inherited the lead from Hamlin on Lap 90 when he stayed out on the track during a round of pit stops under caution, seemed to fall back, dropping to fourth.

Lap 130/301: Getting caught up after some connectivity issues at NHMS. Hamlin continued to lead the race, but Jimmie Johnson has moved into the second position ahead of Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon, who dropped back to fourth behind third-place Kasey Kahne. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran fifth at this juncture of the race.

Lap 100/301: Denny Hamlin led the race after 100 laps. He was trailed by Hendrick Motorsports' entire four-car stable, in order: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Lap 94/301: Restart. Denny Hamlin overtook Jeff Gordon for the lead in Turn 2.

Lap 88/301: Caution No. 1: Debris in Turn 3 brought out the first caution. Race leader Denny Hamlin lead the field into the pits under caution. Jeff Gordon stayed out and inherited the lead, becoming the third different leader of the race.

Lap 72/301: Denny Hamlin took the lead after the first cycle of green-flag pit stops. It proved ruinous for Kyle Busch, who was hit with a penalty for entering pit road too fast. Busch wound up serving a pass-through penalty that relegated him to 22d place, 28.696 seconds behind his JGR teammate, Hamlin.

Lap 67/301: Race leader Kyle Busch is in the pits.

Lap 59/301: The lapped car of Landon Cassill started a cycle of green-flag pit stops when he was the first to make a green-flag pit stop. Cassill went two laps down to race leader Kyle Busch.

Lap 50/301: Kyle Busch has not wavered one bit in leading the first 50 laps of the Lenox 301. Top 5 after 50 laps: 1 Busch, 2. Kahne, 3. Hamlin, 4. Gordon, 5. Johnson.

Lap 40/301: Kyle Busch has led the first 40 laps. Dominant run in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.

Lap 30/301: Broken record. Kyle Busch continued to lead the field. Kahne has moved back into second place. There were 33 cars on the lead lap. The running order: 1. Busch, 2. Kahne, 3. Hamlin, 4. Gordon, 5. Johnson.

Lap 20/301: Kyle Busch continued to lead the race. He's led all 20 laps. Kelly Bires, driver of the No. 79 Team Kyle/Bestway Disposal Ford, was the second driver to park it on Lap 19
Lap 13/301: With 13 laps complete, an interesting pattern has emerged. There are four pairs of teammates among the top 10 drivers: the JGR duo of Busch and Hamlin (1st and 2d), the Michael Waltrip Racing tandem of Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. (4th and 5th), the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (6th and 7th) and the Stewart-Haas Racing pair of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman (8th and 9th).

Lap 10/301: Kyle Busch continued to lead the field, but his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, passed Kasey Kahne to move into second place.

Lap 4/301: J.J. Yeley, driving the No. 49 Robinson-Blakeney Racing Toyota, was the first behind the pit wall after four laps.

Lap 1/301: Green! Green! Green! The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 has gone green and pole sitter Kyle Busch has led the first lap.

Pre-race Greetings from a steamy New Hampshire Motor Speedway where the starting command of ``Gentlemen, start your engines!'' has just been given and the drivers in the 43-car grid have complied, igniting their engines in a loud eruption.

Kyle Busch will start from the pole. Kasey Kahne will start from the outside pole.

The field has yet to roll off pit road to get the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at NHMS.

Kevin Harvick engages Amber Cope in Tweet beef

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 15, 2012 09:50 AM

By Michael Vega, Globe Staff

LOUDON, N.H. -- After verbally smacking down Amber Cope following his runner-up finish to Brad Keselowski in Saturday's F.W. Webb 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick took to Twitter to take Cope to task for her interference on the backstretch that enabled Keselowski pass Harvick for the race lead with 21 laps to go.

Harvick got held up on the backstretch of the 1.058-mile oval when he came upon the lapped car of Amber Cope, of Pulyallup, Wash., one of the twin nieces of 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.

Cope, who was supposed to start 42d, never took the green flag after developing problems and pulling into the garage. She came back out 33 laps behind the leaders and finished 26th in her No. 24 Chevrolet.

Afterward, Harvick took Cope to task, giving her car a disapproving nudge with his own on pit road.

"The 24 every time you'd come up to her, she didn't know whether she was going high or low,'' Harvick said. "It looked like she went up, so I committed to the bottom and then she came down.''

Harvick refused to describe the incident as ``one of those racing deals.''

"It's not one of those deals,'' he said. "It's somebody who shouldn't be on the race track and has no clue what they're doing in the race car. She wants to be Danica Patrick but she can't hold her ... hold her helmet.''

Afterward, Harvick went on Twitter and took another sideswipe at Cope when he posted the following message:

Looking forward to tomorrow should be an intense race! Best part about it is I know the #24 will be able to drive straight tomorrow!

Harvick, no doubt, was referring to Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race and the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon.

Cope responded in kind on Twitter:

@KevinHarvick Way to go tough guy. I bet if u take a moment in your arrogance u will realize your fault @keselowski figured it out.

Brad Keselowski wins F.W. Webb 200 at NHMS

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 14, 2012 05:51 PM

LOUDON, N.H. --- Brad Keselowski capitalized on lapped traffic that held up race leader Kevin Harvick with 21 laps to go, and went on to take the lead and held on to win Saturday's F.W. Webb 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Harvick finished runner-up and Nationwide Series rookie Austin Dillon finished third to claim the $100,000 Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash bonus. Sam Hornish Jr., Keselowks's Penske Racing teammate, finished fourth.

"This series is hard, it's tough racing,'' said Keselowski, who won from the pole position to deliver Penske Racing its 25th Nationwide Series victory. "Kevin raced me hard and it was great racing. There's very few other guys I'd like to race with than Kevin. He's a lot of fun to race with. I probably got a break in traffic, so that's the way it goes.''

Harvick got held up on the backstretch of the 1.058-mile oval when he came upon the lapped car of Amber Cope, of Pulyallup, Wash., one of the twin nieces of 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.

Cope, who was supposed to start 42d, never took the green flag after developing problems and pulling into the garage. She came back out 33 laps behind the leaders and finished 26th in her No. 24 Chevrolet.

Afterward, Harvick took Cope to task, giving her car a disapproving nudge with his own on pit road.

"The 24 every time you'd come up to her, she didn't know whether she was going high or low,'' Harvick said. "It looked like she went up, so I committed to the bottom and then she came down.''

Harvick refused to describe the incident as ``one of those racing deals.''

"It's not one of those deals,'' he said. "It's somebody who shouldn't be on the race track and has no clue what they're doing in the race car. She wants to be Danica Patrick but she can't hold her ... hold her helmet.''

Said Keselowski: "You're always going to have some traffic, and some drivers who don't know where they're at and stuff like that. Sometimes it goes against you, today it went for us.''

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the reigning Nationwide Series champion, finished fifth in the race, and runner-up to Dillion in the Dash 4 Cash bonus, but was overcome by the 90-degree heat on pit road.

Stenhouse, who had been battling a strep throat infection all week, passed out after climbing from his car. He was attended to by track's medical personnel and, as a precaution, taken by stretcher to the infield medical center, where he was treated and released.

"I feel OK now,'' Stenhouse said afterward. "They gave me some fluids and got good to go. I think just being a little sick all week, not eating much and not drinking enough fluids caught up with me after the race. I think we'll be good to go now.''

Kyle Busch wins pole for Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 13, 2012 05:16 PM

LOUDON, N.H. --- Kyle Busch, the last of 44 drivers who made a qualifying attempt for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301, wound up winning the pole position Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch captured his first pole of the season and ninth overall of his career with a fast lap of 28.548 seconds (133.417 miles per hour) in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.

"Definitely a great day for us,'' said Busch. ``We unloaded with a really fast race car right off the truck with [crew chief] Dave [Rogers] and the guys re-working everything over the winter trying to come up with a new package for here.

"We haven't had quite something that works for us, but this time around it was really good,'' said Busch, who was fastest in practice in 28.555 seconds (133.385 m.p.h.) ``Excellent lap just trying to hit the same marks I did in practice and back up that time. It would've put us second quick, I think , but we picked up just a little bit here and a little there and we were able to have the fastest lap.''

Busch knocked Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne off the pole after Kahne recorded a fast lap of 28.551 seconds, bettering the lap of Busch's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin by one-thousandth of a second (28.552).

Kahne will start on the outside pole while Hamlin will start third in the 43-car grid.

"Kyle will always be the fastest member at Joe Gibbs Racing when it comes to being able to get the most out of his race car, one lap, pure speed,'' Hamlin said. "For me to be remotely in the same area code as him says something good about me, but I'm happy just to be able to see him at the start.''

Drivers shocked, concerned by Allmendinger's suspension

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 13, 2012 02:45 PM

LOUDON, N.H. -- Several NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers reacted to the suspension of driver A.J. Allmendinger after he tested positive for a banned substance. Hours before the start of last Saturday night's Coke Zero 400, NASCAR officials announced its decision to ban Allmendinger from driving the No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge fielded by Penske Racing, prompting the team to deploy Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. as an emergency replacement.

"NASCAR has got their policies in place and it was a little bit of a shock I think to all of us that it happened when it did,'' said Tony Stewart, who went on to win the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. "That is not in A.J. Allmendinger's character so I don't know what is going on there. It's unfortunate because he's a good guy and he's a really good race car driver so I mean I would say there is probably a logical explanation for it.''

One driver, Carl Edwards, suggested it might be time for drivers to seek an independent testing organization to work in concert with the sanctioning body's drug testers as a way to provide an added safeguard for drivers.

"I think weíre all kind of in a position where, letís be honest, itís an imperfect world,'' Edwards said. "People are imperfect. Tests are imperfect.

"I think the drivers need to get together and we need to have our own group that is paid by us, that works for us, to be here in tandem with the NASCAR drug testers and have them test us at the same time so that we have not just an A and B sample, but an A and B testing facility, and we can all agree on that facility, itís no big deal."

"I donít think it would be a contentious thing, I think that would remove almost all doubt in any situation of a positive test,'' Edwards said.

"I think until we do that, no matter what is found to be positive, no matter what the test results are, there is always gonna be that little question of, ĎMaybe there was a mistake,'' Edwards continued. ``I think that was brought up by somebody early on in this testing stuff with the testing policy, but I donít know that thereís been anymore serious discussion, and thatís just something I thought of a little bit this week.

"At the end of the day what does a guy that doesnít drink, use any drugs, have any chance of being in violation, what does that guy really have to gain by subjecting himself to these tests?'' Edwards said. ``He has the potential, that is real because itís an imperfect world, of having some sort of false positive or having something happen. I think thatís really scary for a lot of the guys in this sport when you go in there and subject yourself to that.Ē

Brad Keselowski, however, offered a strong dissenting opinion on the matter, saying, ``I don't think we need any committees or anything like that. I feel you shouldn't be allowed to take anything. Just man up and drive the damn race car.''

The Exhaust Circuit

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff July 13, 2012 12:51 PM

LOUDON, N.H. --- The baby boom, it seems, has hit NASCAR. Ryan Newman and his wife, Krissie, will be expecting their second daughter anytime soon -- and we mean anytime soon -- during this weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Last Sunday, Kevin and Delana Harvick welcomed their first child into the world when Keelan Paul Harvick was born (6 pounds 8 ounces; 19.5 inches) the day after the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday, Harvick, the driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet fielded by Richard Childress Racing, met with the media at NHMS to describe the whirlwind nature of the week leading up to his son's birth.

"It's been a crazy week to tell you the truth,'' Harvick said. "It all started in Daytona, as everybody knows. Yeah, we went in and she did a great job and had a baby within about two hours. Dad waited a little long to get her to the hospital. I was obviously not her favorite person as they told her they wouldnít give her an epidural.

"She did good. She had it all natural, no drugs or nothing,'' Harvick said. "We had a healthy baby boy, and that was the most important part. Everybody is good and at home, doing normal things.Ē

That brought a measure of relief for Harvick, who was asked if, as an accomplished driver on NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, he did the driving when he chauffered his wife to the hospital.

"First off, I did drive her to the hospital,'' Harvick said. "The only part for me it wasn't very fast because she was obviously in a lot of pain. Like I said, that was partly my fault because I made her wait too long. So, we didn't make any real fast corners. We would go straight and fast. I had been to the doctor's office several times so I knew where every bump was. So I didn't get yelled at on the drive over and that was my goal.''


As if hitting the wall at Daytona wasn't punishing enough, Jimmie Johnson went out and punished himself some more by competing in his first sprint triathlon -- 1/2-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 5K run -- last Sunday morning in Charleston, S.C.

Johnson finished 46th overall and seventh in his age-group in 1:11:57 after finishing 36th at Daytona, where his night ended with a thud on Lap 123 when his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet spun coming out of Turn 4 and was sent hurtling into a retaining wall where it hit head-on at full speed.

Unhurt, Johnson climbed out of his car and began to prepare himself to make the trek to Charleston, where he was joined by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and members of his No. 48 pit crew who, Johnson said, flew home after the race, jumped into a motorhome and ``literally pulled up in the parking lot 30 minutes prior to the start,'' he said..

Johnson, who finished behind Kahne by 27 seconds, said he struggled on the run portion, which was typically one of his strong suits.

"Once I got in the run, I started to cramp and unfortunately stopped a couple of times and had a pretty poor run-time, which affected my overall [result],'' he said. "But it was such an awesome experience. The training for the event itself, I had butterflies like I was getting ready to start a Cup race or something.

"That cut into my sleep, the little bit of sleep that we had, following the Daytona race,'' he said. "So all in all, it was an amazing experience. It was a really cool thing all around and I look forward to doing more in the future. But from the incident, I don't think I slept or sat still long enough for any pain to set in.

"And the pain that I had was relative to the triathlon and not the crash,'' Johnson said. "So, I think I worked out all the kinks in Charleston."

Johnson said no side-drafting was allowed in the swim or bike portion, but was surprised by a fan who approached him as he was putting on his shoes in the transition area.

"I went a couple of hundred yards and my calves started to cramp-up,'' Johnson said. "I went to a curb and was stretching my calves real quick and a guy in a No. 24 hat came running up with a Bud Light and said, `Hey, this will help, this will help.' I was, `Not yet man, I've got three miles and I'll be back and then I'll take you up on that.'

"That got me laughing pretty good,'' Johnson said. "And then he did find me after the event. I was thankful to see him then.''


When Jeff Burton won the New Hampshire 300 in 2000, setting a NASCAR record by leading all 300 laps, it was a feat that was not likely to ever be matched. Johnson, however, felt it was possible. After all, Johnson was the driver who smashed Cale Yarborough's record three consecutive NASCAR titles by winning five in a row.

"It's possible, it's there,'' Johnson said. "I remember watching that [race]. I remember watching [Dale] Earnhardt [Sr.] trying to get a lap back or something with Burton. But Burton knew he wanted to keep him down because Earnhardt was strong. So anything is possible.

"When you look at the three straight [championships] that Cale had [won] and people thought it was impossible to break that and win from the the mid-to-late 70s all the way to the 2010 when we had our [fifth] in a row.

"So it's possible, long story short,'' Johnson said. "I think it gets more difficult as time goes on. But it is possible. And I want to believe those things are possible because I'd love to win seven championships. So I still have a carrot out there in front of myself.''

Video NASCAR at NHMS preview

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff July 13, 2012 08:24 AM

Sporting News motorsports reporter Steven Levine previews the action at this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Q&A with NASCAR's Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff July 10, 2012 05:04 PM

100stenhouse.jpgNASCAR is in New England this week, and up-and-coming driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the Nationwide series defending champ who is moving to a full-time ride on the Sprint Cup circuit next season, talked racing on Thursday during a chat on Boston.com.

Stenhouse, who will take over the Roush Fenway Racing Team car driven by Matt Kenseth, is third in this season's Nationwide points race. He was second last week at Daytona.

NASCAR's Nationwide series races on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Sprint Cup event is on Sunday. Review his Q&A below.

About the auto racing blog Updates and insights from The Globe's Michael Vega.

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