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Allen Lessels' Motor Sports: Third Loudon Classic win in five years for Narbonne

June 15. 2013 10:21PM
A group of cycles come through a curve at NH Motor Speedway. (JAY REITER/Union Leader)

LOUDON -- Scott Greenwood and Christian Cronin gave chase.

But there was no catching Shane Narbonne on Saturday in the 90th running of the Loudon Classic Motorcycle Race on the road course at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Greenwood was on fire and Shane just checked out," said Cronin, 23, of Loudon. "Shane was dialed in and he hit traffic just right."

Cronin finished third for the second time in the Classic. He also has a runner-up finish.

He wants more from his hometown race.

"I still haven't won it," Cronin said. "I would love to win this race. But third's not bad at all."

Greenwood, 40 of Dunbarton, won the Classic in 2003 and 2010. He finshed second Saturday.

He, too, wants more.

"Especially the local guys, they know the history," he said. "Everyone wants to put their name on it if they haven't won it. If they have, they want to do it again."

He thought he had a shot at a third title early after passing Narbonne and leading for a few laps. But Narbonne got him back on Lap 7 of the 20-lap event and began to pull away.

In the end, Greenwood closed the gap again a bit, but was unable to catch up.

"Once I got in front, I put my head down for two, three, four laps and was able to open up a big lead," Narbonne said. At the end, I knew where he was and how close he was."

Narbonne, 23, lives in Tyngsborough, Mass., and won his third Classic in eight tries, his third in the last five years.

"It feels pretty good," he said.

Defending champion Eric Wood finished fourth and Steve Giacomaro was fifth.

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The National Hot Rod Association New England Nationals, touching down at New England Dragway in Epping this week, have been a long time coming.

"The Board of Directors and shareholders have wanted to have the NHRA Nationals for many, many years," said Dragway general manager Joe Lombardo. "But it wasn't until the past eight or 10 years that we thought we could really make it happen."

Things picked up speed a few years ago when the track switched to the NHRA as its governing body.

"They came in and looked at the facility and said there was plenty of room," Lombardo said. "Then it was a matter of getting our financing together. The First Colebrook Bank understood what we were trying to do and so did the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority. Everyone's been looking at it as really working for the community and working for the state and bringing a lot of tourist money and dollars to the state."

A concrete racing surface, new lights, a paved pit area and safety improvements are among the changes made to the facility in the last few years.

Seating capacity has been doubled from 7,500 to 15,000 by adding grandstands down the right side of the track and seating along the hill on the left side increases capacity even further.

Lombardo expects crowds of between 17,000 to 20,000 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The New England Nationals will be around for a while.

New England Dragway and the NHRA have a 10-year deal for the event and there are also a pair of five-year renewals.

The NHRA finished up its Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., today and competitors will start arriving in Epping on Wednesday, Lombardo said.

After Epping, the series moves on to Chicago and then Norwalk, Ohio.

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Brian Hoar led the American Canadian Tour standings heading into the fifth race on the schedule on Saturday night at Canaan Fair Speedway.Jimmy Hebert of Vermont was second and defending series champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. of Dover was third in points. Joey Polewarczyk Jr. of Hudson was sixth.

The next ACT event is at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock on Saturday, and on Sunday the final 121 laps of a makeup from June 2 will be raced at Riverside Speedway in Groveton.

The ACT stops at Star Speedway in Epping on July 6.

Sports columns Allen Lessels on Motor Sports Loudon Photo Feature