Full Throttle Fall Weekend got off to a vigorous start on Friday with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East all completing their practice and qualifying ahead of Saturday’s racing only program.
The pressure is on, especially for the Modified drivers as they get ready for the much anticipated Musket 250, which will serve as the weekend’s marquee event.
Dowling Waits Out Rivals for Pole Position
Chase Dowling put together a whale of a lap on his time trial run to claim the pole, but he had to wait for some of the fastest drivers in practice, including Justin Bonsignore who topped both practice sessions.
"Yeah, I knew Justin was going to be pretty good, they were pretty fast all day in practice. I knew that we had a really good car, I know we weren't fastest in practice but we didn't really try a ton to make a ton of speed in practice. We worked on our long-run car and were obviously pretty good, so we'll see what tomorrow will bring with 250 laps."
It is just the start that Dowling and the No. 15 LFR team were looking for to start the weekend, as they look to get one position further after July’s photo finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with Bobby Santos.
"It’s good for this team as a whole. We missed a lot of wins this year by barely anything, some by just a bumper width, so obviously this is a good start to the weekend."
While not the fastest in practice, Dowling is happy with the hotrod he has heading into Saturday.
“We had a good practice run. We ran twenty laps in practice and the car never changed really much at all, so obviously pretty pumped up for this team and I think we'll be pretty good tomorrow.”
Outside Polesitter Bonsignore Feeling Very Confident for 250 Laps
Despite some disappointment in just missing the pole position by 0.062 seconds, Justin Bonsignore is still plenty pleased with how his Friday went, after setting quick times in both practice sessions and dialing in what he believes is a very strong racecar.
"We're extremely happy with how the day went. We had two really good practices, the car drove well by itself and in traffic throughout the day in practice. We were able to get the number one pit box, which I think will be crucial for tomorrow with all the pit stops we're going to have. We just missed it by a little bit to get the pole. We were too snug, we just really probably needed one more lap for our car to come in, but all in all a good start to the weekend and we'll have the track position to start the race. Hopefully we can start up front and Chase and I can set our own pace like we did back in July and lead some laps, make some money, and have a shot at the end."
Along with a good car and the number one pit box, Bonsignore also goes in with one of the strongest pit crews in 2018. With live green flag pitstops a high possibility on Saturday, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader believes his crew could be the ultimate ace in the hole.
"Oh without a doubt, if we have a green flag pit stop tomorrow, that could be huge to get us a bigger gap, if we have to make time up or pull away a bit more. And even on the yellows, if we need to get some spots, they'll be the guys that hold the lead for us or get us some spots. Can't do it without them, hopefully they get a good night's sleep and are ready to go. It's going to be a busy day for them too tomorrow."
Emerling Shows Speed With Old School Setup
For Patrick Emerling, handling has been his strong suit at Loudon rather than speed, but Friday in qualifying, the former RoC Asphalt Modified champion was able to squeeze a lot of speed out his Jan Leaty prepared No. 07, clocking in third on the charts, and going into a good position for the Musket 250.
“We have a conventional setup in this car, so we're up against the coil binders, and those guys are just going to be faster. To be in the top three against what we're up against, with an old-school setup like this, it's kinda cool."
Putnam Ready to Turn the Keys Over to Preece
With Ryan Preece competing at Richmond Raceway (VA) in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Friday, it came down to the car owner of the No. 77 Gary Putnam to dial the car in for Preece. At the end of the day, Putnam felt that the car had a solid baseline to start off with on Saturday.
"It should be pretty good, I haven't changed a whole lot since I got here, just running through a couple things to see how to change the balance and see what works the best for him. I got a couple different things I can do during the race and pretty much know what it's going to do."
With 250 laps set for Saturday afternoon, Putnam plans to use early pitstops to make those finite adjustments that Preece will need to compete for the win.
"Yeah, multiple pit stops, I'm sure the race track will change a bunch and the race will change a bunch from start to finish, so you gotta be able to adjust on it and make it better."
Engine Woes a Concern for Some
After the final practice session Jeff Rocco was excited about his chances with his Eddie Harvey Racing No. 1 car, having run fast laps in the draft. While he knew qualifying would not be a strong point, he was a little further behind than anticipated, timing 16th of 31 cars.
Rocco pinned the troubles on a miss in the engine during qualifying, but was confident that the crew could hunt down the issue.
"Yeah, we actually should have qualified better there. We had a miss in the motor, so the guys are working on that right now to try and figure out what it is. I didn't intend to qualify that far back, but as long as we get the motor straightened out we'll be good for tomorrow."
For other drivers, there is a greater concern.
In the TBR camp, Tommy Baldwin and the 7NY crew were trying to find the issue that has Jon McKennedy down 1,000 rpm’s during practice and qualifying. Despite concerns of an engine problem, TBR does not want to have to resort to changing motors.
As for Eric Goodale and the 58 team, they did not hesitate to change engines after a miss popped up late in practice and qualifying. The Long Island squad has a long night ahead to get ready for Saturday’s Musket 250.
Familiar Face Takes Pinty’s Series Pole Position
This weekend marks the first appearance of the NASCAR Pinty’s Series both at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and in the United States in general. But the driver who claimed the pole position for the Visit New Hampshire 100 is very familiar to the American audience, particularly at NHMS.
Sporting a pedigree of five starts on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at “The Magic Mile”, Ontario native Cole Powell made the best of his experience early on to claim his first career Pinty’s Series pole on Friday, putting him in a position to not only chase a possible win Saturday, but also close the points chase on LP Dumoulin and Alex Tagliani.
“This is super cool, I’m not much of a qualifier in any series that I’ve ever run in. To get a pole for EHR at New Hampshire for the first time is pretty cool for me. We got a hundred laps tomorrow to try and get it done, the pole is one thing, but winning the race is a different deal. I just got to take it one lap at a time, save my stuff, and hopefully be there at the end.”
Kraus Looks to Finish Where He Starts on Saturday
Derek Kraus impressed many in his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East appearance at New Hampshire back in July, opening the weekend with a polesitting run. But when race time came around, Kraus was unable to retain the lead, eventually finishing fifth.
Once again, Kraus has started off strong, claiming the pole position for the Apple Barrel 125 in his first start for the DGR-Crosley team. While it’s been a busy week for the Wisconsin driver, he is eager to finish what he couldn’t accomplish back in the summer.
“It’s been a really eventful week so far, just trying to learn everyone that is new to me. It’s been a lot of fun though, we have a really good car, so that helps a lot too. We just got to make sure that it doesn’t get tight, which we practiced a lot on long runs during practice today. Hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow and win this race.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor & Ian Pettigrew, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com