IndyCar hits the track in New Hampshire UPDATE The crowd at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for yesterday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race were treated to a glimpse of what the future holds for the 1.058-mile oval when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti whipped the fans into a frenzy with three hot laps in his sleek red No. 10 Indy car, fielded by Target Ganassi Racing.
Franchitti zipped around the track in 26.6 seconds — more than two seconds faster than the pole-winning lap Juan Pablo Montoya did in his stock car at NHMS — “without even trying,’’ said one IndyCar Series official.
|Dario Franchitti does some laps around New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday|
|CIA Stock Photo|
It was a glimpse into what track officials dubbed “a new breed of speed,’’ after announcing yesterday that NHMS would add an IndyCar Series date July 31, 2011 that will be sandwiched between its lucrative Sprint Cup dates in June and September. It marks a return of open-wheel racing to NHMS after a 12-year absence.
“As an Indiana native and a fan of open-wheel racing,’’ said Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, “I strongly believe the people of New Hampshire will embrace this new breed of speed much like they do NASCAR.’’
Gappens and track owner Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which hosts IndyCar Series events at Texas Motor Speedway, Kentucky Motor Speedway, and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., were joined in the announcement by Franchitti and Randy Bernard, IndyCar Series chief executive officer. Bernard took over March 1 and has expanded IndyCar’s 17-race schedule to include dates at Baltimore and NHMS.
“We will promote this event nationally,’’ vowed Smith. “We’re going to promote the dickens out of this. We already have a big IndyCar event in Kentucky, and we’ve been able to draw large crowds to that.’’
Bernard said he was compelled to bring the IndyCar series back to New Hampshire in an attempt to strike a balance between road course and short-track oval venues while branching out to new markets.
“There’s a great fan base here,’’ he said. “There was a void in the Northeast, and being so close to Boston, the 10th largest market in the United States, we really wanted to try and reach out and bring it to as many fans as we can.’’ Boston Globe06/28/10 Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard toured NHMS yesterday and watched the Sprint Cup’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Before the race, NHMS Chairman Bruton Smith, general manager Jerry Gappens, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti joined Bernard for a press conference announcing the IRL event, which will take place July 30, 2011.
Bernard and Franchitti believe the short track facility is ideal for open-wheel racing. Franchitti drove an IndyCar hybrid around the track prior to the start of the Lenox 301.
“Our fans have asked for it to be here, and it’s a short track like Iowa where we just saw 17 lead changes,” Bernard said. “It fills a void here in the Northeast as well as attracting one of the largest markets in the country in Boston.” Boston Herald