Location: Loudon, NH
Track: 1.058-mile oval
Also Known As: New Hampshire International Speedway
# of ACT Races Held: 1 point-counting event for ACT Late Model Tour/Serié ACT; 9 invitational events
Most Wins: Eddie MacDonald, 5
A Brief History of New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The story of New Hampshire Motor Speedway begins where the story of Bryar Motorsports Park ends. The latter had been a prominent facility on both the national stock car and motorcycle circuits in the 1960s and 1970s with its 1.63-mile road course and 5/8-mile oval. But by the late 1980s, it had fallen into disrepair and largely been reduced to motorcycle racing. Enter Bob Bahre. With NASCAR looking to expand into the Northeast market, the already-legendary Maine businessman and track promoter saw the potential for the property, which was located just an hour north of Boston. So he bought the facility in 1989 and bulldozed the old tracks, paving the way for a new modern racing facility.
Nine months and nearly $25 million later, New Hampshire International Speedway (as it was then known) opened its doors. The first event at the 1.058-mile speedway was the newly relocated Laconia Classic motorcycle race on June 17, 1990. Four weeks later on July 15, the track hosted a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series (now Xfinity Series) event won by short track legend Tommy Ellis. The event was a companion race with the Busch North Series (now K&N Pro Series East); NHIS would host two of these companion events each of the next three years, along with additional Busch North Series events and multiple stops for the NASCAR Modified Tour. A 1.6-mile road course – its length a tribute to the previous Bryar course – was also added, which became the new home for AMA Superbike events along with SCCA races.
The success of these events quickly attracted larger series. The CART Champ Car Series and Indy Lights added NHIS to their schedule in 1992; one year later, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series came calling. The first event for the country’s top stock car series was held July 11, 1993 and was an instant hit. In 1996, Bahre purchased half of North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina and moved one of the track’s Cup dates to New Hampshire, giving the track two Cup events beginning in 1997.
Through various changes – and the tragic deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin in 2000 from practice crashes – the track has continued to flourish. The banking of the track was reconfigured in 2002 and 2003 to promote more passing. Then in early 2008, Bahre completed the sale of the track to O. Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated, who renamed it to New Hamphire Motor Speedway.
Big changes came following the 2017 season as one of the track’s Cup Series dates was moved to Las Vegas. However, the track continues to play a prominent role in national racing. This past year, the track hosted an Xfinity Series event plus two events for both the K&N Pro Series East and Whelen Modified Tour (along with the latter’s annual all-star event). They also also welcomed the NASCAR Pinty’s Series for the first time. Unfortunately, the NASCAR Truck Series, Indy Cars, and AMA Superbikes no longer race at NHMS. But in their place has come events such as the New England Short Track Showdown, U.S. Legend Cars, Championship Cup Series motorcycles, the 24 Hours of LeMons, and other ways to experience the thrill of superspeedway racing.
Random Track Fact: NHMS was designed and constructed by the Bahre family without consulting a single engineer. They also only used one surveyor, whose primary job was to plant stakes. Whether this is the reason the track ending up measuring slightly more than the originally intended 1-mile oval will forever be a mystery.
ACT at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
After years of speculation and behind-the-scenes talks, the American-Canadian Tour made its NHMS debut in 2009 with the 50-lap ACT Invitational. More than 100 drivers from throughout the Northeast and Canada tested at the track, with 36 receiving an invite to compete in an event won by Eddie MacDonald. Right away, the track proved perfect for ACT cars, with three- and four-wide racing being the norm – often without a single tire mark. The following year, the race expanded to 43 cars and 60 laps; while the lap count dropped back to 50 the following year, the 43-car field – matching that of NASCAR – remained the standard.
2011 was also the year of the only point-counting ACT event at NHMS. The ACT All-Star Challenge, an August companion event for the ACT Late Model Tour and Serié ACT, attracted a huge field and featured two segments (of 25 and 50 laps). Appropriately, Brian Hoar, the winningest driver in ACT history, swept both segments for the overall win. The following month in the Invitational, MacDonald and Nick Sweet put on one of the most memorable battles in ACT Late Model history, with MacDonald emerging as the victor in an event that had the crowd on its feet for the final 10 laps.
The Invitational continued on through the 2017 season, with both touring and weekly racers looking forward to receiving their invites every year. However, the event was increasingly dominated by MacDonald. In fact, “The Outlaw” would eventually win five of the nine Invitationals contested. Modified standout Woody Pitkat was the winner of the final Invitational to date in 2017, a rough affair that included two lengthy red flags and was ended after 18 laps due to darkness. Thanks in part to the rough 2017 race and in part to the track’s changing racing schedule – including the loss of the September Cup Series event weekend that ACT competed on – the Invitational was put on hiatus following 2017.
Random ACT Fact: Both Ray Parent and Woody Pitkat earned victories in the ACT Invitational without having an ACT Late Model Tour win to their name. Parent (2012 winner) eventually broke into the Tour winner’s circle at Airborne Speedway in 2014; Pitkat (2017 winner) is still searching for his first Tour win.
ACT’s Future at NHMS
While discussions have been had about ACT’s potential return to NHMS, it remains absent from the schedule going into the 2019 season. However, the possibility will continue to be explored. ACT would certainly be interested in returning, as the event provided a showcase for the top Late Model drivers in front of a national audience. Should an agreement be reached, you might well see the ACT haulers rolling through the infield gates of NHMS once again.