NHMS notebook: N.H. native Seuss happy with Cup series showing

  • Hampstead’s Andy Seuss speaks with reporters on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • The start of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • A look at the pits during the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 7/21/2019 10:39:14 PM

Hampstead native Andy Seuss started racing go-karts some 20 years ago at the former Sugar Hill Speedway in Weare. On Sunday, Seuss realized a lifelong dream, sharing a racetrack with the top stock car racers in the world in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series.

Having his debut on his home track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway made it a perfect weekend for Seuss, who steered the No. 51 Ford for Rick Ware Racing. 

“It’s amazing and it’s emotional,” he said. “I get criticized for being emotional at times, but it’s just because it’s important to me.”

He placed 28th in a car that has an average finish of 32.7 this season. He was 10 laps behind when Kevin Harvick outran Denny Hamlin in a tight race to the checkered flag, but finishing with the car in one piece while respecting the race leaders was the main goal.

“To me, this is a win,” he said. “It’s exciting to do it at home at a track where I was a fan on the other side of the stands, half an hour from where I raced go-karts and 45 minutes from where I grew up, and to have all of my friends and family here is just incredible.”

Seuss tried to be a responsible pilot on Sunday. He drove for one of the smallest teams in NASCAR, and his car was about 10 mph slower than the fastest Cup regulars in practice. He still managed to give Rick Ware the best finish the owner has had in four Cup races at Loudon.

“I think you’re first time is going to be a learning curve, and I think I’m twice the driver for a Cup car as I was at the beginning of the race,” he said. “I learned a ton and was able to do a better job at the end of the race for them.

“You’re out there trying to stay out of the leaders way and when you have people you’ve looked up to for so long and idolized and envied and you’re there with them. It’s pretty cool.”

He’s hoping for another opportunity to hop into a Cup car, but he’s soaking up this experience for now.

“I’m treating this as my debut and my retirement because you never know if there’s another one,” he said. “A long time ago, somebody said that out of all the people in the world, only 40 get to do this on the weekend. It’s pretty cool to be on of those 40.”

Fort Kent, Maine, native Austin Theriault also made his Cup debut driving for Rick Ware, but his race ended after 185 laps with a rear gear issue. His official finishing position was 35th.

Heartbreaking news for Kaulig Racing

The NASCAR community is mourning after news broke early Sunday that longtime crew chief Nick Harrison has died. He was 37.

Harrison was on the pit box Saturday for Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley, who registered a 13th place finish in the ROXOR 200. 

Information was limited Sunday to a statement from the team announcing Harrison’s passing.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Nick Harrison, our beloved crew chief of the No. 11 car at Kaulig Racing. Please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.”

The team did not share Harrison’s cause of death but said more information would be coming.

NASCAR issued its own statement as drivers and others from across the racing community offered condolences on social media.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of longtime crew chief Nick Harrison, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to his family, friends and Kaulig Racing colleagues.”

Harrison started as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series in 2006. He’s a five-time winner in the series. His most recent victory was last year guiding Austin Dillon to the checkered flag at Michigan for Richard Childress Racing. His first win was with Kurt Busch at Phoenix Racing in 2012.

Harrison had also served as pit boss in 120 Cup races, and he won one race out of three in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

“Not just a crew chief, but a friend to everyone who knew him,” Haley tweeted Sunday. “I, and everyone at Kaulig Racing are devastated. He will be greatly missed.”

Betting coming to NHMS? ‘Stay tuned’

Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company of NHMS, and Foxwoods Resort & Casino appear to be enjoying their partnership since the resort signed on in 2018 as the headlining sponsor of Loudon’s summer NASCAR race.

Before the race on Sunday, the two companies unveiled a new racing-themed social casino where fans can play mobile casino games and win points for prizes, including discounted tickets to all of SMI’s eight speedways. The program is called “Pit Stop Casino” and can be played online or through Foxwood’s mobile app.

Since Gov. Chris Sununu recently signed sports betting into law in New Hampshire, the big question was whether this program would also facilitate sports wagers. 

It doesn’t, for now.

“Not yet,” said Foxwoods interim CEO Rodney Butler. “This is phase one of many. Stay tuned.”

Lug nuts

After a part failure in his first car in qualifying and wrecking his back-up in practice, Alex Bowman strapped into Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson’s back-up car and finished 14th after starting in the back. Denny Hamlin (2nd), Ryan Newman (7th) and William Byron (12th) were also in backup cars. … Connecticut native Ryan Preece, a Cup series rookie with JTG Daugherty Racing, finished 1-lap down for 21st. … It appeared that the two-car team at Roush-Fenway Racing was in for a tough day after Ricky Stenhouse wrecked his car on lap 135, ending his day, and Ryan Newman had a part failure in his car. Newman’s crew made the repair on the No. 6 car while the field was under caution and he held on for a seventh-place finish. … Chip Ganassi driver Kyle Larson had a frustrating weekend. He exited the race with 36 laps to go after his No. 42 car went spinning into the wall near turns 1 and 2. It was his second spin-out of the day, and the impact caused enough damage to the back of his racecar that he couldn’t return to the track. He was in a backup car after wrecking in practice.

 

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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