Management At NHMS Pleased With Inaugural Full Throttle Fall Weekend

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes the green flag for the inaugural Musket 250 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager David McGrath remembers well the looks of suspect and wonder when track officials announced in September of 2017 that the track would host a 250-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event this year.

“I remember Timmy [Solomito] and Doug [Coby], when we announced this event … last September … I remember they were scratching their heads going ‘250 laps, that’s a long race.’” McGrath said. “I know their heads were spinning.”

For the last 12 months, many around Modified racing questioned whether or not a 250-lap event at NHMS was a good idea for the series.

After Saturday’s inaugural Musket 250 at NHMS, few were left questioning whether the idea was good or not. The event proved to be a winner all around. The fear that equipment wouldn’t hold up and motors would be blowing in bunches never came to light. The worry that it would be a boring runaway didn’t happen.

What fans got was all the same drama they get from a typical 100-lap event at NHMS, only more of it, with new wrinkles of strategy thanks to the extended distance and live pit stops.

“A lot of guys came with cars that had fresh equipment and they were ready to go the distance,” McGrath said. “Green flag pit stops are not something that the Whelen Modifieds deal with on a regular basis and I think that added a challenged. I think the big question in fans’ minds were ‘This is obviously going from a 100-lap to a sprint, to a 250-lap endurance race, how would things last? How would the motors last? How would tire wear be?’ I think they hit all those in perfect stride. If you really look at it, there weren’t a lot of blown motors. There was certainly your standard racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway stuff, two cars in the same spot on the track at one time, but I think overall it added to the element of the unknowns, but I think now maybe there were some teams that held back, not sure what to expect and maybe didn’t even enter, and I hope they reconsider that for 2019.”

Chase Dowling got his first career victory in the Musket 250, going from fourth to the lead through the final two corners after Justin Bonsignore and Ryan Preece wrecked in a battle for the lead.

Saturday’s race card also featured a 125-lap K&N Pro Series East event and a 100-lap Pinty’s Series event. The Pinty’s Series event was the first for the series outside of Canada.

“I thought overall the weekend went great,” McGrath said. “I thought the fans saw three great racing series. The first time they saw the Pinty’s [Series]. First time they saw a 250-lap Mod race. I think quite frankly, even the K&N [Pro Series East], they were all wonderful races and I think the fans had a full day of energy and I think they were wiped out by the time they left the grandstands. I think it was a super day.”

The track offered a full day of practice and qualifying for all three divisions on Friday. Friday and Saturday also feature a Fan Zone area in the infield that offered live music, rides and interactive areas. Before Saturday’s features fans also got a chance to attend an autograph session with drivers from all three divisions.

“I think the biggest difference between the July Monster Energy Cup and the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 and this Full Throttle Fall Weekend was access,” McGrath said. “I think fans really, if you paid $35 in advance or $45 the day of, you got access to all the drivers, autograph sessions along the frontstretch, cars in the background gridded on the track, and you were allowed to come into the infield in what normally is our driver/owner lot during a Monster Energy Cup weekend, which was in fact the Fan Zone. … I thought fans really warmed up to that.”

While the track doesn’t release official attendance numbers, it was a crowd that – judging by long food lines and sold out souvenir merchandise items – was obviously more than track officials were expecting.

Asked if attendance was higher than expected McGrath said: “That’s exactly what it was.”

“The team here … we certainly prepared for a rush,” McGrath said. “We didn’t expect that many campers on the ground on Thursday. It was great. This is a great group of people that I’m blessed to work with at the speedway. They’re all very smart and they take a lot of notes and they think a lot about how we make things better. I think this year may have underestimated on a couple of food choices no question about that. And then even with our merchandise partner, we probably showed up a little light with some t-shirts, and we’ll certainly adjust to make that better for 2019. But we needed to have the first event. I guess in my mind I kind of had a thought to how many folks would be here, but I misjudged on a few things. I take full responsibility of those mishandlings and certainly want the fans to know that we’ll make adjustments and we’ll be sure that doesn’t happen again in 2019.”

Comments

  1. It sounds like they’re already planning for 2019. I sure hope so!

  2. “I think the biggest difference between the July Monster Energy Cup and the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 and this Full Throttle Fall Weekend was access… … I thought fans really warmed up to that.”

    Finally, someone gets what other series have been doing for decades. Here’s hoping it spreads!

  3. I saw the best modified race ever Loudon this is greater then the cup race here with all the passing and lead changes. I hope this is race is every year.

  4. I was afraid they wouldn’t consider the race a success. It sure sounds like they are happy with the turnout and are planning on a 2019 race. Definitely good news. From the drivers owners point of view, how did they like the 250 lap race distance?

  5. Jason Cunningham says:

    Mr. McGrath can count on us for as long as they put this event on. I loved everything about it. With the general admission, we moved around a number of times for different views. The infield activities were a nice touch if you’ve kids. I appreciated the very minimal downtime between races. And the modified 250 seemed to fly by with so much action. I can’t envision a greater value in motorsports for a $35 ticket than that event.

  6. There is clearly a desire for an epic event. Folks have been yearning for the epic event since the Thompson 300 went away.

    This was proof that Modifieds can indeed hold their own as THE headliner. This was a great event. The race had something going on all the time, somewhere, and remarkably very few cautions.

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