Gov. Hassan goes for a smoky spin with NASCAR star Clint Bowyer
By ALLEN LESSELS New Hampshire Union Leader
CONCORD -- NASCAR Sprint Cup star Clint Bowyer hit the gas hard and took a helmeted Gov. Maggie Hassan on a quick and wild ride, tires squealing and smoking, in the empty parking lot of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center on Thursday morning.
As the race car he was driving filled with smoke, Bowyer got a little nervous.
"I've done burnouts, but never with a governor in the car," Bowyer said later. "I was a little bit nerved up. You meet people and you read people, and I was reading her and she didn't seem to be scared whatsoever. And I kept doing the burnout, and the car kept filling up with more smoke and more smoke, and then I couldn't see where I was going anymore. And I was looking over, and she's not nervous at all, and she was still having a blast."
That she was.
"Clint's a great driver, so I was pretty comfortable, and it's a lot of fun," Hassan said after she climbed out of the No. 90 New Hampshire Motor Speedway Toyota. "And I'm very impressed with how much skill it obviously takes, and it was just really fun."
Over the course of several hours in the Capital City Thursday, Bowyer — in town to promote the Sylvania 300, the next Sprint Cup race, set for NHMS in Loudon on Sept. 22 — hit the gas, hit the rocks and hit the wall.
The Sylvania 300 is the second race of 10 in NASCAR's playoff-style Chase to the Sprint Cup championship. Hassan took in her first NASCAR event in July and plans to be back at the speedway in a couple of weeks.
Only 12 drivers qualify for the Chase, and only this Saturday night's race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway remains to set the final field.
Bowyer and six other drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne — have locked down their spots in the Chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in pretty good shape, too.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been good to Bowyer, who said he can't wait to get back to the racetrack.
He's won two of the last six Sylvania 300s, which played into his tour of Concord on Thursday.
After the burnouts with the governor, his next stop was at the Swenson Granite Works quarry on North State Street.
In 2010, NHMS General Manager Jerry Gappens commissioned a bit of granite work from Swenson Granite Works. The company made him a granite stripe that marks the start/finish line at the racetrack.
Bowyer won the first race at the track with the granite stripe in place that fall, and after the race knelt and kissed the granite, just as drivers have long kissed the bricks at the finish line of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On Thursday, speedway officials presented Kurt Swenson of Swenson Granite a photograph of Bowyer kneeling at the granite stripe.
Swenson and the track folks had a surprise for Bowyer, too.
Hanging from a giant crane, over the 220-foot deep quarry, was a 7,500-pound piece of gray granite that had been inscribed, complete with an etching of his No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, to commemorate Bowyer's two wins at NHMS.
"That's awesome," Bowyer said. "It's neat. It's got my race car on it. It's just crazy to think of the capabilities they have and what they can do with technology today."
Gappens planned to raffle off the rock for charity, but Bowyer was having none of it. He said he'd make a donation and keep it.
"I want it really bad," he said. "We donated a community center in my hometown (Emporia, Kans.) and that would be cool to have out front."
Soon it was off to the last stop of a rock tour on what Hassan had proclaimed "Rockin' with Clint Day." For the tour finale, Bowyer hit Evolution Rock & Fitness for a little indoor rock climbing with race fans.