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Loudon Classic crowns its king

  • From left: Litchfield’s Alex Guilbeault (fifth place), Scott Greenwood (third place) of Dunbarton, Tyngsboro, Mass., native Shane Narbonne (first), Loudon’s Christian Cronin (second), and Dunbarton’s Sam Greenwood (fourth) stand with New Hampshire Motor Speedway VP/GM David McGrath in Victory Lane following the 94th Loudon Classic on Saturday. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Loudon’s Christian Cronin (center) is congratulated by NHMS VP/GM David McGrath (in red) following the 94th Loudon Classic on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Christian Cronin of Loudon leans through Turn 11 at the 94th Loudon Classic on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton’s Scott Greenwood (left) sits next to his son, Sam, as they wait to restart the race with three laps left at the 94th Loudon Classic on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Loudon’s Christian Cronin (lead) pulls away during a restart with three laps to go at the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Timothy Barber approaches Turn 12 at the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. Shane Narbonne of Tyngsboro, Mass., won the event for the third straight year. BELOW: Loudon’s Christian Cronin gets low as he makes a turn during Saturday’s Loudon Classic. Cronin finished second behind Narbonne. NICK STOICO photos / Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton’s Scott Greenwood accelerates out of Turn 12 and down the straightaway at the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Douglas Ouellette heads into Turn 12 at the 94th Loudon Classic amateur race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Dunbarton’s ​Scott Greenwood leads the pack through the last turn of the first lap in the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Loudon’s Christian Cronin comes around the final turn of the first lap of the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Norman Pomerleau comes through Turn 11 into 12 at the 94th Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Shane Nardone’s first-place bike (left) and Christian Cronin’s second-place bike sit side by side in Victory lane following the 94th Loudon Classic on Saturday, June 17, 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, June 17, 2017

LOUDON – As David McGrath handed Shane Narbonne the trophy for winning the Loudon Classic motorcycle race on Saturday, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager leaned in and said, “Next time you’re up here, I think I should give you a crown.”

A crown would be fitting for Narbonne. It was his third straight win in the middleweight grand prix at the Classic. And it was the 94th running of the speedway’s annual race, touted as the oldest motorcycle race in the nation.

Narbonne, a Tyngsboro, Mass., native has been riding motorcycles in Loudon since he was 11 years old. Now 27, Narbonne is a six-time winner of the Loudon Classic, including four in the last five years. His first win came in 2009 at the age of 18.

“It’s a good, tough track,” Narbonne said of the 1.6-mile road course in Loudon. “It’s really physical. I’ve just done so many laps where these guys (fellow racers) used to train me and I’d chase them all the time. It feels good to come here and be the king this weekend.”

Narbonne is the first rider to win back-to-back-to-back Classics since Scott Russell in 1991-93. He won his first three races on Suzuki bikes in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Scott Greenwood of Dunbarton won the 2014 race, his third, but Narbonne stormed back in 2015 to begin his three-year run on a Yamaha.

The Classic hasn’t seen a reign like this since Jeff Wood, another Massachusetts native, won four races in five years from 2004 to 2008.

“Hats off to Shane, he’s just incredible right now,” said Christian Cronin, a Loudon native who placed second on Saturday.

The starting grid is based on points in the Loudon Road Racing Series, which holds races at the track each month through October. Saturday was Narbonne’s first race in the series this season due to conflicts on previous dates. With no points this year, he had to start the 20-lap race from the sixth row, behind 20 other riders.

Narbonne showed up to Loudon with the fastest bike and led the pack with more than two seconds of space and three laps to go. But Kip Peterson brought out the red flag when he lost control coming out of Turn 12 onto the front straightaway toward the finish line.

Typically red flags with 11 laps or less remaining end the race in LRRS. But after some deliberation, race officials decided to restart with three laps to go.

“Before the red flag, I worked really hard to get to where I was,” Narbonne said. “It was a little frustrating, but I didn’t think we were going back out.”

Cronin fired hard off the start line and took the lead after the restart, followed by Greenwood. Narbonne was third.

The course incorporates portions of the 1.058-mile oval but cuts right coming down the back straightaway and into an up-and-down section of hills and turns. The bowl through Turn 6 is a popular segment of the track for spectators as racers lean through at high speeds. That was where Narbonne, on a fresh tire, overcame Greenwood for the second spot. With two laps left, he still had to catch Cronin.

“I’m not the greatest on starts,” Narbonne said. “Christian got a good launch and I just put my head down and I knew I had to get around him before the white flag (one lap). I did and I just laid down a heater, opening that gap to where I was comfortable.”

Cronin had taken full advantage of the restart after trailing in second at the red flag.

“All my confidence came back,” Cronin said. “It was all about that restart that really I made out in the end. If it wasn’t for that restart I probably would have ended up in third behind Scott.”

Narbonne and Cronin, both on a fresh tire, traded places near Turn 10 with a lap to go, putting Narbonne back in front with nothing but track between him and his sixth Classic cup. It was just the third time the lead changed in the race.

Cronin’s average speed was 80.27 mph, behind Narbonne at 80.84 mph. Greenwood clocked a best average speed of 79.85 mph.

The jabs between drivers were friendly in Victory Lane. All three race across New England and beyond. Narbonne and Cronin both competed in the Daytona 200 back in March at Daytona Beach, Fla. For these riders, Loudon is home.

“It’s a complete family here,” said Cronin, whose family has owned the Eggshell Restaurant in Loudon for nearly 30 years. “You go to other tracks around the country and everyone is kind of more enemies than they are family. Here it’s a completely different story, and it makes the environment so much better.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339,
nstoico@cmonitor.com
or on Twitter @NickStoico.)