Harvick, NASCAR win in New Hampshire

LOUDON, N.H. – NASCAR’s popularity might be on the wane (or so we’re told) but you’d be hard-pressed to find much better action on the track these days.

Consider Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It featured nothing but an edge-of-your-seat finish between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. A bit of beating and banging and a drag race out of the final turn to the finish line.

If you missed it, well you’ll likely have the opportunity to see numerous replays. It was highlight worthy.

As far as the particulars? Harvick, winless since last November, ended a stretch of 21 winless starts. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver knows the way to victory lane at NHMS – he’d won there three times before Sunday.

But it took a gutsy call by crew chief Rodney Childers to put Harvick out front – opting for track position rather than fresh tires under caution with little more than 25 laps remaining. That put his No. 4 Ford first on the ensuing restart and it proved to be the winning call.

“I didn’t think we had the best chance to win staying out,” Harvick said, “but Rodney and those guys made a great call.

“We had a good car all day, we just never could get track position and stayed out there, ran a lot of good laps.”

As for holding off Hamlin?

“He tried to move me out of the way down there (in Turn 1) and I knew that was coming as close as he was,” Harvick said.

“So, I just stood on the brakes and I’m … half-throttle down the back straightaway. I’m like ‘you’re not getting under me again’ and he drove to the outside of me …. I waited until he got near me and I just put a wheel on him.”

Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota) had been among those taking two tires and the former race leader restarted fourth. It took him nearly the entire run to catch Harvick, but you know what they say – catching someone and passing them, well, it’s not the same thing.

Hamlin did but he couldn’t.

The finish certainly spiced things up, but the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, No. 20 of 36, was far from a snoozer. Maybe you have to be there, I don’t know.

Kyle Busch won the opening stage and led 118 laps, Aric Almirola took the second and there were enough lead changes and cautions too keep things interesting.

The rest of the rundown had Erik Jones (JGR) in third and Ryan Blaney (Team Penske Ford) in fourth and Matt DiBenedetto (Leavine Family Racing Toyota) finishing fifth. Those folks didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to finish that high – other than run extremely well for the better part of the day.

The three had varied pit strategies as well – and were in the top 10 before and after the final pit cycle. So nobody snookered anyone to gain spots they hadn’t pretty much already earned. Jones had stayed out while Blaney and DiBenedetto took right-side tires only.

It was an impressive showing for Hamlin, whose team rolled out a backup after he spun and damaged the primary on Friday.

“This is nowhere near the car that I wrecked on Friday,” Hamlin said.

Speaking of backups – Alex Bowman finished 14th in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48/88 Chevrolet. On-track incidents damaged the No. 88 team’s primary (Friday) and backup (Saturday). Crew chief Greg Ives “borrowed” the No. 48 team’s backup for race day.

The No. 48 primary didn’t fare as well – seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson lost laps when he lost power steering and finished 30th.

Points leader and defending series champion Joey Logano (Team Penske Ford) finished ninth.

• Harvick became the season’s 10th winner – his playoff chances were already solid with his third-place points position. Sunday’s win erased any doubt.

Move over Papa Bear, here comes NASCAR

Saturday, July 21, 1956 – Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears of the NFL for several decades, played host to NASCAR’s top series for a 200-lap affair contested on the 0.5-mile track surrounding the football field. Glen “Fireball” Roberts won the race, the 33rd of the season, piloting the No. 22 Pete DePaolo-owned Ford. Jim Paschal, Ralph Moody, Speedy Thompson and Frank Mundy rounded out the top five.

The facility hosted weekly stock car racing for a short period of time in the 1950s as well as NASCAR convertible series events in 1956 (two races) and ’57.

Andy Granatelli, who would go on to become a major player in automobile racing in the U.S., promoted the weekly Chicago races in the beginning. As the CEO of STP, Granatelli eventually put his company’s sponsorship behind Richard Petty to start one of the longest-running sponsorship relationships in NASCAR.

Billy Myers started on the pole. It was the only No. 1 qualifying spot in 84 starts for Myers.

Richmond takes Pocono thriller

Sunday, July 20, 1986 – Tim Richmond, accustomed to winning by somewhat more comfortable margins, came out on top in a last-lap drag race with Ricky Rudd to the finish line to win the Summer 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Richmond, driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, passed teammate Geoff Bodine for the lead to start the last lap, but the race out of Turn 3 saw Rudd come charging to the inside of the two frontrunners. Richmond’s margin of victory over Rudd was 0.05 second.

The victory was the third in four races for Richmond, who became the third driver in five seasons to sweep both races at the 2.5-mile track.

The race was cut from 200 to 150 laps due to poor visibility resulting from fog in the area. The start of the race had been delayed approximately 90 minutes because of weather issues.

Richmond won despite sustaining heavy damage to his vehicle during a wreck; he lost nearly two laps while repairs were being made.

Neil Bonnett, driver of the No. 12 Chevrolet fielded by Junior Johnson, was transported to a local hospital after his involvement in a five-car incident on lap 126. He was treated for a broken collarbone and rib.

Wade sets record with 4th win in row

Sunday, July 19, 1964 – Bill Wade established a NASCAR premier series record of four consecutive victories when he captured The Glen 151.8 at Watkins Glen International. Wade, driving the No. 1 Mercury for car owner Bud Moore, sported a six-second winning margin over LeeRoy Yarborough. The race consisted of 66 laps around the 2.3-mile road course.

Prior to the streak, Wade, a Houston, Texas native, had been winless on NASCAR’s top circuit.

The consecutive wins came at Old Bridge, Bridgehampton, Islip and Watkins Glen, a part of NASCAR’s “Northern Tour” at the time.

Wade began driving for Moore in ’64 after spending much of the ’63 season driving for another Spartanburg, S.C. owner, Cotton Owens.

Richard Petty fell out just 10 laps into the race when he hit a tire barrier; Petty later replaced David Pearson in the No. 6 Dodge fielded by Owens for the remainder of the race, giving Pearson credit for a sixth-place finish.

Wade was named NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year in 1963

According to reports, Wade had to overcome carburetor issues as well as a constant barrage of rocks bouncing off his car’s windshield to score the win at Watkins Glen. “Those stones sounded like the pop of a shotgun,” he told the Associated Press.

Wade finished fourth in points in ’64; the following January, he was killed when a tire on his entry blew while he was testing at Daytona international Speedway and his car struck the wall. He was 34.

Petty’s first start comes outside U.S.

Friday, July 18, 1958 – Richard Petty, son of NASCAR premier series champion Lee Petty, makes his first official start in the series at Canadian Exposition Stadium in Toronto, Ont. Petty, who turned 21 only 16 days earlier, started seventh in the 19-car field and finished 17th in his 1957 Oldsmobile.

The younger Petty had made his first start in a NASCAR-sanctioned event a week earlier, competing in a convertible race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway. He finished sixth.

The start in Canada was one of nine for Petty that season. By month’s end he had earned his first career top-10 in the top series, finishing ninth at Wall Stadium in Belmar, N.J.

While Lee Petty would end his career with three titles and 54 victories, Richard Petty would go on to win a NASCAR record 200 races and seven championships. He holds numerous other NASCAR records, such as most starts (1,184), runner-up finishes (157) and laps led (51,406).

Petty was one of five members of NASCAR’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, inducted in 2010. Lee Petty was inducted into the Hall the following year.

The 1958 race was the only visit by NASCAR’s premier series to the Canadian track.

Richard Petty completed only 55 of the 100 scheduled laps in his debut, exiting due to a crash. The reason for the crash has often said to have been the result of his father knocking him aside while battling for the lead with Cotton Owens. However, Petty has also remarked that the incident in question took place in another race.

White ‘lands’ win at Montgomery

Sunday, July 17, 1960 – Hard-charging Rex White outlasted a field of 18 fellow competitors to score the win in the inaugural Empire State 200 NASCAR stock car race at Montgomery (N.Y.) Air Base. White put his No. 4 Chevrolet out front three times to lead 63 of the race’s 100 laps. Richard and Lee Petty finished second and third respectively, while Ned Jarrett and Buck Baker completed the top five.

The race, No. 25 of 44 for the season, was the only time NASCAR brought its premier series to the facility, located approximately 75 miles north of New York City.

The layout of the track featured only three turns, similar to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway which hosts two Cup races annually. However, there was no banking on the 2-mile layout located on an auxiliary air base.

Crowd estimates ranged from 3,000 to 5,000, not enough to convince local authorities to seek additional NASCAR races.

It was the ninth career victory for White and his second of the season.

‘Shorty’ finds victory lane in Busti

Wednesday, July 16, 1958 – Lloyd George “Shorty” Rollins rolled to his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series, winning the 150-lapper at State Line Speedway in Busti, N.Y. Rollins, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, pushed his No. 99 Ford to the front with 12 laps remaining. Regional favorites Bob Duell, Ken Johnson, Emory Mahan and John Seeley completed the top five. Lee Petty, already twice a series champion, was eighth.

The win was the only victory in hard-top competition for Rollins, who made 43 premier series starts from 1958-60. He ended his career with 12 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes in the series.

Rollins was named NASCAR Rookie of the year in 1958; he finished third in the ’58 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Rollins was the first driver to win a race at Daytona International Speedway, capturing the 40-lap convertible series event there to earn a starting spot in the inaugural Daytona 500.

In addition to his Daytona convertible win, Rollins also placed second at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway and also had top-10 finishes at Columbia and Darlington, S.C. in nine career starts.

The 150-lap event at State Line Speedway was the only premier series event held at the 0.333-mile Busti, N.Y., track, located on the western end of the state.

Rollins was the grand marshal for the 1998 Snowball Derby

The State Line race was the second and final series appearance for Brockway, Pa. driver Squirt Johns, who led 42 laps.

Final pole for Northeast standout

Friday, July 15, 1983 – Ron Bouchard, twice a pole winner on the sprawling 2-mile layout of Michigan International Speedway, scored the first short-track pole of his career when he zoomed to the No. 1 qualifying spot for the Busch Nashville 420 at Nashville (Tenn.) International Raceway. A native of Fitchburg, Mass., Bouchard edged short-track ace Darrell Waltrip for the top spot. “I told the guys to get me close enough to the front so I could see the green flag at the start of the race,” Bouchard told reporters.

The Nashville pole was the last of Bouchard’s career. He went on to finish 27th in the race, falling out after 147 laps when his engine expired.

Bouchard competed in NASCAR’s premier series from 1981 through 1987. The majority of his 160 starts came with team owner Jack Beebe, another New England native, in the No. 47 Race Hill Farm Buick. He also drove for owners Mike Curb and Hoss Ellington.

The 1981 series rookie of the year, Bouchard is best known among NASCAR fans for his lone victory, winning the 1981 Talladega 500 with a last-lap pass of Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte. Bouchard later credited fellow driver Buddy Baker with explaining to him how to wait before making such a pass at Talladega because of the location of the finish line, which is much close to Turn 1.

NASCAR officials announced a rule update at Nashville – eliminating the new rule requiring the area between the hood of the car and windshield be sealed. The rule had been in place at Daytona earlier that month but did not significantly impact the competition as had been hoped.

ISC bumps portfolio with Phoenix purchase

Monday, July 14, 1997 – The battle for track ownership took another step forward as International Speedway Corp. announced the purchase of Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. The facility boasts a 1-mile asphalt layout and has hosted one NASCAR premier series event annually since 1988. According to reports, the purchase price was $46 million. It was announced that track owner and president Buddy Jobe would remain as president of the facility.

The purchase increased ISC’s track ownership to five facilities. In addition to PIR, at that time the Daytona Beach, Fla. group also owned Daytona International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The company also had an 11 percent interest in Penske Motorsports, which owned three facilities, including two that hosted NASCAR premier series events.

In making the announcement, ISC chairman and CEO Bill France Jr., acknowledged interest in possibly building tracks in Chicago, Kansas City and Sacramento, Calif.

The move evened track ownership for Cup facilities. Speedway Motorsports Inc., founded by Bruton Smith, owned Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. In addition, his group held co-ownership of North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.

PIR executives said the sale would allow grandstand seating at the facility to be increased from 65,000 to 90,000. Estimated attendance for the ’96 NASCAR event was 102,000.

It’s Wood again at Bowman Gray

Saturday, July 13, 1963 – Glen Wood, founder of the legendary Stuart, Va.-based Wood Brothers Racing organization, earned his fourth career victory in the NASCAR premier series when he triumphed at Bowman-Gray Stadium, beating Ned Jarrett in the 200-lap event. It was also Wood’s fourth win at Bowman-Gray.

Buck Baker, Lee Petty and Jack Smith completed the top five. All finished a lap or more down to the winner.

After starting on the pole, Wood fell to 14th following a spin on the second lap of the race. Junior Johnson inherited the lead and remained in front until lap 80 when his No. 3 Chevrolet suffered a flat tire.

Wood ended a nearly two-year hiatus with his return to competition at Bowman Gray. Now a NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Wood did not compete in 1962 after running only six races the previous season.

According to records, Wood led every lap in each of his Bowman Gray victories, except for the final one in which he led 95 laps.

Wood made two starts in 1964 before ending his driving career.

The event was the annual Myers Brothers Memorial race named in honor of former racers Bobby and Billy Myers.