Friday, June 24, 2011

Union Leader article

We were featured on the front page of the Sports section of the Union Leader on Monday!  Read the full article here.  (note the photo was captioned incorrectly - that is Matt with his #8 Legends car, not a motorcycle driver posing with it).

Allen Lessels' Motor Sports: Greenwood finishes winning weekend

by Allen Lessels, New Hampshire Union Leader
Published Jun 20, 2011 at 3:00 am

LOUDON -- SCOTT GREENWOOD, a 20-year veteran motorcycle racer from Dunbarton, capped off a productive weekend with a Father’s Day victory and Matt Chagnot lent a timely bit of Black & Gold championship flavor to the finale of the Loudon Classic weekend of races on Sunday.

Legend cars took their turn for a 15-lap race on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway road course in between an afternoon full of motorcycle races and Chagnot, a 40-year-old Legends rookie from Derry, captured 12th place in the race.

His car featured a Boston Bruins color scheme complete with a No. 8 in honor of Hall of Famer and team president Cam Neely.

He’s no Matt-come-lately.

The Bruin theme made it onto his car by early May.

“I had planned it since early December, but it took a little time to get the wrap done,” Chagnot said. “Once we put it on, they started to play great and everything came together.”

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind few days for Chagnot, an electrical engineer, and his girlfriend crew chief, Nichole Burke.

After staying up late to watch the last post-game show following Wednesday night’s 4-0 Cup-clinching win over the Vancouver Canucks, they raced at Beech Ridge in Maine on Thursday night, took the train to Boston for Saturday’s rolling rally and came to Loudon for Sunday’s race.

Greenwood had a winning weekend in Loudon.

His Sunday triumph was his fifth in six tries for the weekend. He had four wins and a third-place finish on Saturday.

“Six for six would have been better,” the 38-year-old teacher/racer said with a smile. “Especially since the third was in the Loudon Classic.”

Greenwood finished behind Shane Narbonne and Eric Wood in the 88th running of the Classic on Saturday afternoon.

Narbonne also won the Classic in 2009 when he passed Greenwood on the last lap.

“That one was a heartbreaker,” Greenwood said.

He got his revenge last year with his second Classic triumph — he won his first in 2003.

Track officials moved the Classic from its usual spot on Sunday to Saturday anticipating that some fans might be leaving the area early because of Father’s Day. The races overall were back on Father’s Day weekend after a few years of being held a week earlier to give the track a little more separation from its first Sprint Cup weekend.

NASCAR adjusted the Sprint Cup schedule and the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 has been moved from late June to its current date of July 17.

Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at NHMS, did not have final figures on Sunday afternoon, but estimated 7,000 to 10,000 fans came to the racetrack during the weekend.

It’s a far cry from the early ’90s when 35,000, he said, filled the stands in a single day for the Loudon Classic.

Gappens had grand plans for bringing back some of the good old times when he got here three years ago, but has found motorcycle racing a tough sell to spectators.

“It’s been a pretty successful weekend as far as logistics internally and entertaining people and I think everyone’s having a good time,” Gappens said. “But we’re still trying to find the chemistry and the combination to make it work and draw a crowd.”

Gappens reached out to the American Motorcycle Association, the organization that sanctioned the races during the successful days here, with the idea of bringing the series back but nothing appears imminent on that front.

The AMA left over safety concerns at the track. Greenwood said he doubts the series would return because of similar concerns, which, he said, are pretty much inherent when running the higher-powered bikes of the AMA’s top divisions on a circuit that combines a road course with an oval.

The Loudon Road Racing Series competes monthly at NHMS and Greenwood said he thinks safety is less of an issue here than at other places he has raced and he appreciates what management has done to improve things at the track.

“It’s been a nice weekend,” said Greenwood, who stayed with his family in an RV in the garage area from Tuesday through the weekend. “But I do miss the glory days when the AMA came in and it was a full paddock with the big semi trailers and crews. They’d come to town and it was a big show. But in the end, we put on a good show and motorcycle racing enthusiasts get their money’s worth.”

As for Gappens, he’ll continue to tweak the motorcycle weekend and try to build the crowds back. The Loudon Classic, despite some struggles, is here to stay, he said.

“I wouldn’t want to be the guy who ends the longest running motorcycle race,” he said.

Allen Lessels covers motor sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at