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Sep 23, 2016 10:19 PM

Race weekend kicks off with qualifying at NHMS


LOUDON - It's officially race weekend in New Hampshire, with the Bad Boy Off Road 300 coming to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday.

Fans were already out in full force at the speedway on Friday for qualifying.

"It's fun to see the competition," said Aaron Pratt of Standish, ME. "Everybody's trying to get that little good edge, so it makes the race a bit better."

Many predict Sunday's race to be much more competitive than when NASCAR came to New Hampshire back in July, because the NASCAR Spring Cup Series Chase for the Sprint Cup is underway. At the end of ten races, the driver who racks up the most points claims the championship for the sport's most elite league.

Sunday's race is the second in the series, which Martin Truex, Jr. currently leads.

After qualifying on Friday, Carl Edwards won the pole and will lead the pack at the start of the race Sunday. He currently is in ninth place in the Chase for the Cup standings.

Fans expect this race to be a bit more competitive, considering the stakes.

"It's going to be a good race," said Jeannie Orr of St. Stephen in New Brunswick, Canada. "Qualifying just got done and one of our fellas has the pole, so it's good."

This weekend's race is expected to be significantly colder than when NASCAR was at the speedway back in July, with temps barely hitting 60 degrees. Fans said they much prefer the fall-like weather than the heat.

"We've got our hoodies, our mitts, we'll make it through the whole race," Orr said. "We'd much rather be cold than hot."

Campers at the speedway were well-prepared for the weather, with camp fires and warm clothing.

Pratt said the camaraderie and enjoying the company of other racing fans is more important to him than the competition.

"It's about the race community," he said. "You come here, you meet people from other states, you meet people from your own state and make relationships with them that continue for years. That's what it's all about."

Pratt said he still has his favorite to win, naming Tony Stewart as his favorite driver. Sunday will likely be Stewart's last race in New Hampshire. During his career, he won five times in Loudon but is preparing to retire at the end of this season.

Another attraction for race fans this weekend is the inaugural chase race for the Camping World Truck Series. Qualifying is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, with the race scheduled for later that afternoon at 1 p.m.

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