LOUDON, N.H. — As NASCAR makes it second trip to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday for the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, many championship hopefuls are dreaming of their own magic moment.
The one-mile Loudon oval is a tough track to master. It’s one of the flattest tracks the Cup series goes to and passing is very hard to do. It’s described as Martinsville on steroids, and with only one true racing groove in the turns, the track demands your utmost concentration and attention to detail.
Master it correctly and sweet victory — and a lobster — could be yours for the taking. Get it wrong, and all hope you have for a championship could be dashed in an instant.
Take 2008 for example. Greg Biffle was a dark horse, seeming to be at best a ninth or 10th place car in points. Not having many opportunities for victories and only having nine top-five finishes in the regular season, many counted Biffle out.
Then, almost in an instant, the Roush-Fenway Racing driver went from hitting foul balls to slamming home runs after he lead 58 of the event’s 300 laps en route to the victory — a victory that ignited a fire from within.
Biffle went on to win again the following week at Dover International Speedway, and while his numbers faded shortly after, he was in contention for a moment and Loudon was his launching point.
The year prior, Clint Bowyer was just trying to make a name for himself in the Sprint Cup Series. Heading into Loudon, the young Richard Childress Racing driver was trying create the type of success he had in the XFINITY series in recent years.
He found it in the Loudon Chase race, qualifying on the pole and dominating the event, leading 222 of the 300 laps for the first victory of his career — holding off championship favorite Jeff Gordon in the process. This win also solidified his place in the Chase, as he ultimately finished third in the final points standings behind Gordon and eventual champion Jimmie Johnson.
Finally, one of the most magical Chase moments ever at Loudon was that of Tony Stewart’s incredible 2011 championship run, a run that was sparked at the Magic Mile.
After opening his Chase with a thrilling fuel milage win at the Chicagoland Speedway the previous week, it seemed like Loudon would be a great place to help Stewart in the right direction.
Stewart was looking for redemption, as in the previous year’s Chase race, he ran out of fuel on the last lap and saw Clint Bowyer sneak by for the win.
This time, he would not be denied.
Starting mid-field, Stewart and his team used race strategy and long green flag runs to make up for the track position he lost in qualifying. In the final stages of the race, an economy run to the finish was in the works and the roles were switched from a year ago, with Stewart being the hunter and Bowyer the hunted.
In a flash of déjà vu, with two circuits remaining, Bowyer ran out of fuel and Stewart passed the limping No. 33 car for the win.
The victory fed Stewart’s 2011 historic championship run, as he won five out of the 10 Chase races en route to his third Cup Series trophy and his final championship-to-date.
It’s only fitting that in Stewart’s final season, the Speedway gave him a giant granite stone with his car engraved on it. Like stone that lasts near-forever, the ever lasting memories of Stewart and his incredible run to the title will not soon be forgotten.
Many drivers this season hope to catch some lightning in a bottle as they try to navigate their way through a very tough and competitive field.
All it takes is one magic moment to completely change someone’s hopes and dreams for a title.
There could be no better place to help with that chance than at the one and only Magic Mile.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Rence Brown is Race Chaser Online’s West Coast-based correspondent, who currently resides in California and carries a deep passion for NASCAR, but is a follower of multiple forms of auto racing across multiple disciplines.
Brown, 23, is going back to school to pursue a journalism degree at Pierce College.
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