Monday November 5, 2007

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By Brian Danko
When the first word of a possible impending sale of the New Hampshire International Speedway began on Halloween Day, many connected with the modifieds wondered if this was a cruel trick or a possible treat for the beloved open wheeled modifieds.

When word was '99%' on Thursday that indeed Bob Bahre was selling his 18 year old speedway to O. Bruton Smith, many wondered, would the track lose it modified tour dates. Would the 2 Nextel Cup races that thousands of New Englanders enjoy each summer and early fall be a thing of the past?

While Smith wasn't about to comment on anything at the press conference announcing the sale of the 1.058-mile oval located just north of Concord, NH, one thing that you can count on is that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which it will be called now, won't look like the New Hampshire International Speedway that we have all known and loved for 18 years. Smith will make dramatic changes to the speedway and most of all of them will be good for the track, NASCAR and the fans.

But whether that means one or two Cups races and what people in southern New England care about, will the modifieds be apart of the new track in the 2008 and beyond. I think the answer will be yes, that they will be. IF Smith moves one of his dates, to Las Vegas as is rumored, what happens to the two support series that join the Cup cars notably the Nationwide Series (Busch) and the Craftsman Truck Series.

He COULD have a triple header with all three and toss out the modifieds and god forbid, the Busch East series but I don't think that any drastic changes will be on the way at least for now. It will be hard for Smith to take away a date from a speedway that has sold out 26 straight Cup races while his other speedways, Lowes Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway have had many, many empty seats during the 'Chase for the Championship'.

How could that be, wasn't the Chase suppose to challenge the NFL in the fall for supremacy on Sunday afternoons?

According to Smith, he has already had engineers at New Hampshire looking over the speedway for possible changes and even the addition of seats that now has permanent seating for 91,000 fans. Just remember what Bristol Motor Speedway, Atlanta, Infineon looked like before Smith put his finger print on the speedways and look at his 'newest' gem, the Texas Motor Speedway.

Yes sir, changes are in the air at New Hampshire and one can only hope that the modifieds and Busch East will be apart of the 'new' New Hampshire Speedway. What the modified tour and the Busch East lost in the sale was that Bob
Bahre, a crusty old Connecticut born, New England breed self made millionaire was a fan of the two New England series and loved watching them compete at his speedway.

Before anyone begins loathing Smith or Bahre, just hope for the best, and buy your tickets for the Cup dates at NHIS and for the modified and Busch East races. Smith bought the track to make money and its hard to move dates or take
away races if the speedway continues to sell out and the other NASCAR series are drawing at record paces.

SAXTON COMMENTS
Ernie Saxton is one of the best public relations people in the area and you all can read his column weekly in Area Auto Racing News. But it struck me funny that Saxton was saying how he hears that NASCAR won't be apart of Modified Tout following the 2008 season; I wondered how Ernie could know this. I know that Ernie has many high powered friends in Daytona, is it possible that someone slipped and let the cat out of the bag? Hopefully, Saxton is just hearing rumors and while I still say the modifieds are better off without NASCAR, it will be interesting to see what changes are or are not going to take place in the future.

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.
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