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June 16. 2013 12:07AM

Motorcycle racing

NHMS events cap Bike Week '13


Tailgating with a view - from left are Andre Rainville, Nashua, Carlos Quinones, Portsmouth and Dennis Rainville, Nashua. (JAY REITER/Union Leader)

LOUDON - Glenn and Julie Mathews and their children leaned up against their black sport-utility vehicle and took in all the action at their first-ever motorcycle races at the 90th annual Loudon Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

Mathews has been coming to the Speedway for years for auto races, but never had he motored up Route 106 from his home in Concord to watch the folks on two wheels race.

"We were lying in bed this morning, and Julie talked about checking out the motorcycle races," Glenn said. "We decided to give it a shot."

He's glad they did - and figures they'll likely make a return visit.

The motorcycle races - among the events that traditionally cap Motorcycle Week in Laconia - draw sparse crowds compared with the New Hampshire 300 Sprint Cup weekend, expected to pack the aluminum stands with some 100,000 racing enthusiasts on July 14.

Most of the fans, including the Mathews family, on Saturday watched the race from the infield and were looking out at the track.Pickup trucks with Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire license plates backed up to the fence in the infield, and folks sat in lawn chairs in the pickup beds and checked out an assortment of races.Call it tailgating with a view.

"It's pretty entertaining and kind of neat," Mathews said. "I like the educational part of it. You can walk around in the pits and watch how they take care of their bikes. Who knew they had the races that are out there now? The sidecar races, that's pretty neat, too?"

Down a few vehicles from the Mathews, Eric and Sherry Trahan and their son, Branden, of Uxbridge, Mass., kept an eye on the races.

Eric Trahan races motorcycles three or four weekends a year at the track, but opted to sit out this weekend.

"I like to watch it for a change," he said. "I like watching all of them. The lightweights, the heavyweights. I have friends in all of them. I get to watch the sidecars. All the good stuff."

Mathews, who grew up in Concord and played a couple of years of football at the University of New Hampshire, gets a kick out of watching the people who are watching the races, too.

"I'm a people watcher, and it's fascinating here," he said. "How many people come to New Hampshire to watch cars go around in circles? It's pretty amazing. You come for the Sprint Cup races, and you could walk across the top of the motor homes there are so many of them. You can't see anything but motor homes."As one speed event wraps up with another round of motorcycle races at NHMS today and Motorcycle Week comes to a close, another speed event ramps up in what is turning into a Speed Month in the state.While the motorcycles ride the road course at NHMS and Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart and the stars of NASCAR compete on the 1-mile oval when they're here, a bunch of other heavy hitters will compete side by side in straight lines this week in Epping.John Force and the racers of the National Hot Road Association will bring the NHRA New England Nationals to New England Dragway for the first time from Thursday to Sunday.

"It's the biggest event we've ever had, and we expect it to just continue growing," said Joe Lombardo, general manager at New England Dragway. "We're pretty excited about it.

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

By the time the drag racers depart, NASCAR's Sprint Cup stars will be right along for their July race, the first of two Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this season. The second is in September.

alessels@unionleader.com


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