Column By: Terril Covey
Photo By: Matthew Wiernasz
LOUDON – The 36-race NASCAR Cup Series schedule is a grind, but once or twice a year the drivers get to visit their home tracks, and those moments can make the grind seem just a little less cumbersome.
Last weekend NASCAR Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Preece were back in their home territory, and both are looking for some home cooking at the Magic Mile.
“This place has more memories for me than any other race track I go to,” Logano said. “Coming here as a kid, watching the races. I watched my first Cup race here and we camped out here behind the midway. I met Jeff Gordon and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
In addition to his childhood memories, Logano has to make great memories at the track, even though now it is young aspiring drivers who get wide-eyed when they meet him.
“I got my first win here – have a couple wins here – it’s a very special place to me,” he said. “And it is close to home. I have so many family, friends and everything here, so it’s always been a special one.”
Preece, like Logano, has many childhood memories at the track. Preece has also had success at the track in a modified, but he hopes this weekend to join Logano as a first-time Cup winner at his home track.
“It’s a place I grew up as a kid,’ Preece said. “I really love the passion for racing up here. I’m excited for Sunday. We’ve definitely put a lot of emphasis into this weekend and I think we could be really fast.”
Logano will roll off in the fourth position on Monday after the race was postponed due to rain, while Preece will have a tougher hill to climb, starting from the 21st position on the grid.
Preece said that part of what makes coming home to New England so special for him is the fans, who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the sport.
“Obviously, being from New England, you’re a big sports fan,” he said. “So, when you love racing, you love your short track racing like Stafford or Thompson or any of the other great race tracks in the Northeast, when New Hampshire comes to town with the Cup Series and NASCAR it’s a big thing. Being up here, seeing a lot of familiar faces is nice.”
Although he grew up in North Carolina, another driver with New England Roots is Spire Motorsports wheelman Corey Lajoie, whose father went from Norwalk, Connecticut to multiple NASCAR Xfinity championships. Lajoie said he enjoys coming back to New England where his name still resonates, despite his Southern upbringing.
“Charlotte is obviously the home race, but this is legitimately a second home race,” he said. “My grandfather and aunts and uncles and cousins all come up. It seems like the fans remember my grandfather’s and dad’s roots here.”
In addition to the fan reception, Lajoie said he looks forward to actually racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as well.
“I’ve always just taken to the Magic Mile since the first time I came here. It’s cool to tap into the New England roots that the Lajoie’s have. I’m a southern boy, man, but if they want to claim me as their own for a weekend, I’m cool with it.”