New Hampshire Motor Speedway coverage presented by RPM Racing Engines
LOUDON, N.H. -- Stacy Cahoon never thought it was possible. Not 23 years ago, maybe not even 23 hours ago. The St. Johnsbury racer said that when he began racing in 1986, it would have been absurd to think he would ever race on a superspeedway like the 1.058-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, much less in his own car.
"I'm still kind of in awe that I'm here," he said Saturday morning as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars roared in the background. Not 12 hours ago, Cahoon had just clinched the 2009 track championship at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, N.H., about an hour up the road from Loudon. As nice as it was to have the championship -- his third at the track, a come-from-behind victory as point leader Quinny Welch suffered mechanical woes -- it also carried with it another prize: the 36th and final starting berth at the inaugural ACT Invitational at NHMS on Saturday.
Cahoon said the reality of the situation finally hit him at about 1:00 a.m. as he was working on his race car. "It wasn't until last night after we got done at Donnie Avery's race shop, I was laying underneath the car changing gears that it sunk in -- I'm going to Loudon," said Cahoon. "And here I am today. It's almost undescribable, it really is."
Cahoon admitted that the championship and the invite to NHMS were Welch's to lose, and it was only Welch's broken suspension in Friday night's feature race at White Mountain that gave Cahoon the opportunity to capitalize and take his second-straight title. "I'm sorry for his misfortune, but I think back to when something has been on the line for me and another competitor or an accident took my chances away," said Cahoon. "Quinny is quite a bit younger than me and I hope somewhere down the road he gets another chance to come back down here."
Cahoon and his team worked long into the night on Friday to prepare their car for the ACT Invitational, changing gears, body bracing, front and rear chassis geometry, and exhaust. The crew went to bed at about 1:30 on Saturday morning, was up at 4:30, and was at the NHMS as the gates opened at 6:30. "And," Cahoon adds, "I probably laid awake for at least an hour thinking about coming down here. I probably dozed off for about an hour.
"Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful to be here," Cahoon continued, "but (working through the night) kind of took away from the back-to-back championships. No real celebration, no champagne all over the car or anything."
But the reward of racing on a superspeedway -- in his own car, with his family and friends beside him, is cause for celebration, too. "I'd like to win this race if I have shot, but even if I finish 36th ten laps down I'll be able to say I came here and raced, Cahoon said. "We plan to celebrate tonight."
And what better place to do it than at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.