Column By: STEPHEN DURHAM / RPW – LOUDON, NH – New Hampshire Motor Speedway has always been known to be magical for many drivers in the past, whether it is at the top tier of stock car racing for NASCAR or the roots of racing for super late model tours.
It was just that for the young Austin MacDonald, a magic day at the Magic Mile.
Racing was delayed a day this weekend due to the forecast for rain on Saturday, so things had to wait till Sunday for racing to be underway for the Northeast Classic.
Three heat races would set the lineup for the PASS 50 lap main event. Brandon Barker of Windham, Maine would grab heat race one for the win. That would put him on row 1 for the feature event.
Heat two would go to Austin MacDonald after battling the entire eight laps with another young hot shoe of Jake Matheson, and Eddie Macdonald who is the second winningest driver the Magic Mile with 10 wins, behind Kyle Busch by only one race.
The third and final qualifying race would bring carnage for multiple drivers, including a strong favorite in any super late model race, Derek Griffith. Tyler Tomassi and Isaac Bevin were trying to avoid a slowing Griffith but would come together, and a spinning Tomassi would send Griffiths car hard into the turn 1 wall. The wreck would end the day for Griffith and Tomassi. Other wrecks in that heat race would end the day for Gabe Brown, another driver who has shown speed on New England tracks.
Front row of the PASS 50 lap event would have Barker and MacDonald bringing the field to the green. MacDonald would show the way the first segment of the race, as a 5 minute competition caution would come out at lap 30 for drivers to make adjustments or change tires on their cars.
Eddie Macdonal started eighth and was up to second when the caution came out as the first segment went the distance without any cautions. Rounding out the top five at the break was Joe Pastore, Brandon Barker, and Jake Matheson.
Once the green came back, the battle was on between Austin and Eddie Mac. Eddie Mac would lead and start to pull away at times the first 11 laps of segment two. Austin was able to reel Eddie back in and battle for the lead again. A final restart with 10 to go would regroup everyone one last time, giving the chance for another showdown for the top spot.
It would be Austin Macdonald though who would find the edge and be able to hold off Eddie Mac and challengers, who would fall a few spots to fifth.
For Austin, he was really thankful for his team in getting him to this point after a mechanical issue sent his car into the wall at Thompson two weeks.
“Just really glad to be back here with a new car, those guys grinded and were able to put this car together in like jeez, 10 days, just from a bare roller chassis,” an ecstatic MacDonald explains.
MacDonald is no stranger to the Magic Mile, as he has raced in the bandoleros from 2015 to 2019, and captured a top 5 in a late model appearance in 2019 at New Hampshire. For MacDonald it was special for him to battle with some of the best in New England.
“They all are really great drivers, that’s what makes this feel even greater, we’re racing against the best of the best up front, especially Eddie, he just runs so strong here, and Barker, Matheson,” MacDonald says, “ all of them are clean drivers, which is great, you aren’t going to get shoved out of the way or anything like that.”
Coming home second was Brandon Barker, he said the car was strong early on in the first segment, but handling seemed to fade late in the run, but found his way back near the top of the board late when it counted.
“I was trying to save the tires early on in the first 10 laps of the run in the second segment, better than I did in the first thirty, all those yellows kind of helped us out there at the end,” explains Barker on getting the runner up spot.
Rounding off the podium was Joe Pastore, the first time to race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, says it was special and awesome to experience it all.
“Feeling those speeds and being in a group like that, and all the movement of the cars jumping around once you get all clumped up like that,” Pastore esactically explains “running with Eddie Mac, trying to follow him, learn some stuff the whole race, he’s one of the best here to learn from, we had something there at the end with the rest of them, but come up a little short.”
Pastore says he was a regular at Beech Ridge, but with the unfortunate sale of the property and change of plans for the property, Pastore plans to follow the PASS North tour for the 2022 season.
Coming home in fourth was another name that battled his way through the field after starting 20th, that was Justin Larson, who won in the mini stocks at New Hampshire in 2021.
“The car just kept getting better, better, and better through the race, working through the traffic, I mean, a few more laps, if you watched the lap times, I think we could have had more. Proud of my crew though, we’re only like a four man crew,” Larson explains.
Larson had some additional help with Dave Farrington helping on his crew for the weekend.
“His knowledge and my knowledge together, Dave is an expert in these super late models, and he’s helped me tremendously,” Larson says.
Rounding out the top five was the only other leader besides Austin MacDonald, and that was Eddie MacDonald. Eddie felt he had a great car, just not enough at the end of the day.
“We blistered a couple of tires there at the end, so handling kind of faded away, but congratulations to those guys on the 13, they did a great job, wish we could have been up there a little more, but the car is in one piece, “ Macdonald says.
Eddie Mac has seen many laps at the famed Magic Mile, but this year, he seemed to be surrounded by many young and new faces.
“It’s great to see, there was a bunch of guys there at the end that was surprised to see, good to see everyone getting comfortable and fast here,” Eddie Mac says.
Other notes from the Northeast Classic weekend was on some of regulars on the PASS tour. DJ Shaw would earn Hard Charger of the race award. Shaw lost a motor on Friday during practice, changed motors on Saturday, but battled with fuel issues on Sunday.
“Kept chasing issues and ended up being the fuel filter, it has a lot of new parts on it and now it runs good, just kind of put us in a hole and almost got a top 10 out of it, just couldn’t quite recover from no practice,” Shaw says after finishing 11th on the day.
Ben Rowe and teammate on the Richard Moody Racing team of Joey Pole had handling issues and would finish 20th and 21st on Sunday. Johnny Clark, 2021 PASS North champion decided to stay home on Sunday with family Easter.
PASS North tour heads to Stafford Speedway this Saturday as it will be an action packed weekend at the 50th Annual Spring Sizzler, as they will run 75 laps, racing action kicks off at 230PM.