NASCAR at Loudon, then it’s on to State Am golf in Goffstown
The engines are roaring up in Loudon and the golf balls flying in Goffstown. That’s right, summer is turning the corner and Granite Staters are hitting the back nine.
NASCAR visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend to kickstart New Hampshire’s version of the Midsummer Classic. It comes in the odd pairing of auto racing and golf.
This summer it’s NASCAR weekend getting things started as it gives way to the New Hampshire Golf Association’s State Amateur at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown.
The week-long golf event tees off Monday with two rounds of stroke play, followed by three days of match play and closes with a one-on-one final Saturday. But first things first, and that would be the circus at NHMS.
OK, it’s not technically a circus, but that’s what NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Gappens is jokingly referring to it as.
The gates opened Thursday with NASCAR K&N Pro Series East qualifying for Friday’s Granite State 100, which has a storyline all it’s own as 17-year-old rookie driver Ben Rhodes has won five of the last six races, including four in a row heading into Friday. Rhodes is chasing history – his four straight wins are tied with Ricky Craven (1991) for the most consecutive wins in the series and he’s one win away from tying Dylan Kwasniewski’s record of six wins in a season set in 2013.
Prior to the Granite State 100 and Sprint Cup qualifying, Friday will feature the debut of a new, all-star shootout event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified National and Southern series – which features up to 24 cars, representing previous winners and champions along with the 2013 Sunoco Rookies of the Year for both tours. This will be a 30-minute segmented race with officials spinning a wheel after the first 20-laps to rearrange the drivers.
Saturday is full of Whelen Modified (Sunoco 100) and Nationwide Tour (Sta-Green 200) action and Sunday is all about Sprint Cup’s Camping World RV Sales 301.
There’s certainly a lot more than racing going on at the track.
“We’ve got a three-ring circus to beat this week,” Gappens said. “Fasten your seat belts, we are ready to take you on a high-speed entertainment adventure this weekend.”
From the Granite State natives in Recycled Percussion, who will be playing a pre-race concert Sunday, to a celebration of the national anthem’s 200th anniversary, as Janine Stange crosses New Hampshire off her list of singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in every state in the United States, there will be some form of entertainment for everybody in the family.
Even New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is getting in on the action. He’ll drive the pace car Sunday.
It’s a state fair atmosphere all weekend with air shows and sky divers – a zip-line for spectators to try and the world’s most famous Dodge Charger, the General Lee from the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” for them to see up close. The Broadway Midway will be a key desination for the kids with balloon artists, raffles, caricatures, face painting, driver appearances, displays and musical entertainment.
And to top it all off, Sunday’s race winner gets a 20-pound lobster.
But if none of that’s the kind of driving you’re into, the week’s just beginning. Golf carts and long-distance tee shots aren’t too far away.
You have a chance to see the state’s best amateur golfers all in one location – Granite State legends like Nashua Country Club’s Phil Pleat, Derryfield Country Club’s Dan Arvanitis and Portsmouth Country Club’s Craig Steckowych; college stars that include Boston College’s Nicholas Pandelena (Atkinson Resort & Country Club), University of Rhode Island’s Joe Leavitt (Atkinson Resort & Country Club) and Nick Fairweather (Windham Country Club), Bowling Green University’s Joe Cooper (Portsmouth Country Club) and Mars Hill University’s Chase Dembisky (Souhegan Woods Golf Club); recent college graduates like NCC’s James Pleat of Dartmouth College; and a good number of high schoolers and recent grads like Portsmouth High School’s Tom Hixon (Wentworth By the Sea Country Club), of Rye, who won the 2013 NHGA Junior Championship.
It’s a 10-day stretch of sports entertainment that no other state can match in July. Whether one prefers the fast lane or the more laid back approach shot, this is the week for either – or both.
It’s all good at the Granite State’s Midsummer Classic.
George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).