LOUDON, N.H. — A busy Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ended in dramatic fashion.
The Magic Mile hosted its inaugural “Full Throttle Weekend,” which was added to the schedule after the track lost its annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fall playoff race. The event was headlined by three races: The Visit New Hampshire 100, the Canadian NASCAR Pinty’s Series’ first race in the United States; The Apple Barrel 125, the first global NASCAR K&N Pro Series race; and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Musket 250, which featured a record haul for its winner.
Here’s what went down Saturday at NHMS:
(6:10 p.m. ET) Musket 250
Chase Dowling had a victory — and an incredible haul — fall in his lap Saturday night.
The 20-year-old Roxbury, Conn., native benefited from some last-lap mayhem to win the Musket 250 at New Hampshire motor speedway. For his efforts, Dowling took home a brand new musket, a tricorn hat, the minuteman trophy and more than $25,000, as well as the distinction of being the driver who won the longest race in Whelen Modified Tour history.
Patrick Emerling, Burt Myers, Andy Seuss and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. Tour points leader Justin Bonsignore finished sixth.
The victory was Dowling’s first on the Modified Tour.
“That was a crazy race,” Dowling said. ” … Over the course of 250 laps, that was a real fight.”
Up until the moment Dowling and his No. 15 Chevy took the checkered flag, the day belonged to Preece (No. 77) and Bonsignore (No 51).
Preece was in command of the race with 33 laps left, holding a 10-second lead over Bonsignore. Everything changed, however, once the caution flag waved on Lap 217.
Bonsignore, as he did so often during the race, had one of the fastest pit stops in the field. The Holtsville, N.Y., native won the race off pit road to reclaim the lead, and maintained his advantage after a restart on Lap 224.
Preece didn’t go down without a fight, though.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver — who reportedly has a full-time Cup seat waiting for him — pushed Bonsignore over the final 25 laps, with the two drivers exchanging the lead multiple times. A red-flag caution on Lap 235 sent the race to a restart on Lap 240, but Bonsignore got a great ride on the green flag and seemed destined to earn the win.
But Preece wrestled back the lead with four laps left before Bonsignore reclaimed the top spot on the second-to-last lap.
Then, with Bonsignore holding a slim final-lap lead entering Turn 3, this happened:
What a finish.
Bonsignore’s Chevy was a mangled mess after the incident.
“New Hampshire, just trying to win,” Preece said when asked what happened on the final lap. “Not the way I wanted to end it, and I’m sure it’s not the way (Bonsignore) wanted to end, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.
While some drivers understandably were disappointed with Saturday’s outcome, the prevailing sentiment was that NHMS hit a home run with the first “Full Throttle Weekend.”
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in a race car,” Myers said after finishing third. ” … This drafting, the way you have to race this track and race the other cars — man, I could do this every weekend.”
Seuss, who hails from Hampstead, N.H., echoed Myers’ views.
“I’m so happy that NASCAR still is living at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the fall,” Seuss said. “I think it was amazing, they did a great job. I hope the word spreads and they pack this place next year, because I’ve had a blast all weekend.
The Modified Tour now has two races remaining — both in Connecticut — on the 2019 schedule. Drivers will compete next Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway before finishing the season the following Sunday at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
(3:20 p.m. ET) Apple Barrel 125
Brandon McReynolds got a second chance Saturday afternoon, and he took advantage of it.
The K&N East driver led much of the Apple Barrel 125, the first points-paying meeting of K&N Pro Series East & West divisions, before being passed by K&N West driver Derek Kraus with five laps remaining. But a caution on the second-to-last lap sent the race to an overtime restart, and McReynolds surged past Kraus to earn his first victory of the season.
Kraus, Spencer Davis, Riley Herbst and Dillon Bassett rounded out the top five.
“It was pretty wild, Derek was hauling ass at the end,” McReynolds, who entered the race 13th in the East Series standings, said in victory lane. ” … Lucky we had that restart at the end, we took advantage of it.”
To say McReynolds was excited about taking his first checkered flag of the season would be a huge understatement.
“That was a lot of fun, can’t thank all the fans enough for coming out,” he said. ” … We’re definitely gonna have a lot of fun tonight.”
After finishing 13th, Tyler Ankrum clinched the K&N East championship with one race remaining. The San Bernadino, Calif. native has four wins this season.
“I don’t really know how to put my head around it, honestly,” Ankrum said after the race. “I’ve had a blast all year … It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
The K&N East season will wrap up next Saturday at Dover International Speedway. The West Series still has three races remaining, the first of which will take place next Saturday at Meridian Speedway in Idaho.
(1:43 p.m. ET) Visit New Hampshire 100
Kevin Lacroix won the Pinty’s series’ first U.S. race in convincing fashion.
The Saint-Eustache, Quebec, native led nearly wire to wire, taking his No. 74 Bumper to Bumper Dodge to victory lane in Loudon. The 100-lap race moved at a brisk pace, with cautions on Lap 1 and 44 representing the only speed bumps for Lacroix.
“Super nice to come here, first time in the United States,” Lacroix said after the race. “It’s really nice to drive here.”
Roxton Pond, Quebec, native Andrew Ranger pushed Lacroix for much of the race. But his No. 27 MOPAR Dodge suffered equipment issues on Lap 71, forcing him to enter the pits.
Lacroix cruised to victory from that point forward.
“When the car is good like this, it’s easy,” he said. “You don’t get good cars like this every race, so you have to enjoy it.”
Pinty’s races typically are held at local short tracks, which prevent drivers from reaching top speeds. Lacroix, however, had no problems adjusting to the size of NHMS.
“This is a short track for the Cup guys, but for us, it’s super nice, and it was a great feeling to drive here,” he said. “We’re not used to getting to high speeds, but after a few laps, I got comfortable in the car, and the Bumper to Bumper car was so good.
“It was an easy way to victory lane. We had a lot of bad luck this year, but we had good luck on our side today.”
The Pinty’s Series will wrap up its 2018 schedule — and crown its champion — next Saturday at Jukasa Motor Speedway in Hamilton, Ontario.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Glanzman/NASCAR