Underneath the Pavement at Loudon
History and an Idea for the Future
We serious (and older) fans revere the history of Daytona before it was the current speedway, keeping records and memories of the old beach road course, but – at least outside of New England – we NASCAR fans don’t nod as much to the history of New Hampshire Speedway before it was NHS.
We should. From 1964-89, the NHS site was home to Bryar Motorsports Park, a 1.6-mile road course that hosted major SCCA road racing (like the Trans-Am series) and major AMA motorcycle races. In 1968, a 5/8-mile oval was added.
Here’s a 1967 SCCA Trans-Am race at Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon, site of today’s New Hampshire Speedway.
A good crowd watches the bikes at Bryar/Loudon.
(The full history goes back even farther: Keith Bryar operated a small dirt track called 106 Midway Raceway for a couple of years before building the road course, and he had a small amusement park that included a go-kart track on the site even before that.)
By 1989, the facilities had deteriorated significantly, and Bryar sold out to Bob Bahre, who then built NHS, which eventually became part of the Speedway Motorsports family.
NASCAR was not a major part of the Bryar Motorsports Park story, but it had a role. On July 19, 1970, Buck Baker won a 160-lap Grand American race on the oval, finishing ahead of Max Berrier, Wayne Andrews, Tiny Lund and Jimmy Vaughn. Lund and Jim Paschal (like Berrier, Paschal was racing an AMC Javelin) led the most laps, but Baker held on for the win. The race was part of a four- or five-event “Northern Tour” for the GA series.
Fourteen years later, the NASCAR North Series visited the road course, its first-ever road-racing event, and Chuck Bown took the win. The next year the series returned, running a three-stage race that Robbie Crouch won without winning any of the stages.
That’s Robbie Crouch in #48 at left with Langis Caron in #17 and Bob Ailes in #60 in the 1984 Seeber Computer 150 on the Bryar Motorsports Park road course.
(For absolute fun, check out this video of that 1985 race, called by Ken Squier and Dave Moody (he’s that old?), with pit reporting from the late Richie Panch and driver appearances by Randy LaJoie, Kevin Lepage and others. It’s also a good look at the old road course.)
By the next year, the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) had taken over the event. ACT folks and quite a few others consider that series the successor to NASCAR North, while NASCAR carries it through Busch Grand National North and to today’s K&N East Series.
Transition? This program from 1986 clearly says the Loudon 100 is a “Grand National North” race but it also clearly shows the sanctioning body as the American-Canadian Tour (ACT), not NASCAR. Hmmm…
Regardless, a lot of great names passed through Loudon in those days. In fact, it was one of the few places other than Daytona that hosted major events for road racing cars, motorcycles and oval racing. It’s a shame most of us have forgotten it.
While I was looking at those old results on “The Third Turn” (thethirdturn.com), an alternative to Racing-Reference.info for past event results, I noticed something else. The ’65 race was all GM cars, while in ’64, Lepage represented Ford with a Thunderbird. But here’s the thing: between the two years, there were 14 different car models – Monte Carlo, Malibu, Nova and Celebrity for Chevy; LeMans, Grand Prix, Grand Am and Ventura for Pontiac; Cutlass, Cierra and Omega for Olds, and Regal and Century for Buick.
Don’t you think that made watching the race and cheering for your favorite more interesting than following 36+ cars that the wind tunnel dictates look all but identical except for their decals?
If we could convince the NASCAR brain trust that stock car racing needs STOCK CARS and get “aero” out of our lexicon, maybe we could have other models again. Until then, go to YouTube to look at that race from 1985 again and lament the day when NASCAR lost its way.
Buck Baker #87 and Max Berrier #16 doing battle at Loudon in 1970. I include this photo because this probably will be the only thing you read today that includes a photo of an AMC race car.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
The word that Hyundai has been conducting discussions with NASCAR certainly caught this Hyundai owner’s attention. My Elantra evidently is considered sexy by some – one friend called it a “James Bond car” – but under the hood it’s less James Bond than James Beard, who could really cook but probably didn’t move that fast.
Hyundai does some racing today, but if NASCAR is in its future, the car in competition probably won’t be the Veloster, which is a tad small.
The three manufacturers currently involved in NASCAR are the three largest in U.S. sales, and each sells twice the vehicles that Hyundai does, but the latter is definitely in that second tier, along with Honda and Nissan. Fiat-Chrysler is nearly as big as the “Big Three,” but that doesn’t make much of a case for getting Dodge back on the track, since the company sells twice as many Jeeps as Dodges, and even the RAM trucks outsell Dodge cars.
The Jeep statistic brings another opportunity to push my idea of converting Xfinity to an SUV series, because that might get Jeep and Dodge back on the track . . . maybe. Hyundai no doubt would like to beef up its SUV sales, too.
A Hyundai Santa Fe SUV in racing trim. I guess they’re ready to go.
(NOTE about this week’s sources. Much of the Bryar Motorsports Park history comes from an article on the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) website, and the details about the races at Bryar are from The Third Turn (thethirdturn.com), which, like RacingReference.info, preserves records of motorsports history, but which has more about lesser or more obscure series. You should have both bookmarked. The photos are from lots of sources, all via Google Images.)