LOUDON — Eric Wood got his. Finally.
Wood, a veteran and accomplished motorcycle racer out of Massachusetts, dominated the field to win his first Loudon Classic on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I’ve been watching this race since I was old enough to walk,” Wood said in Victory Lane. “After 20-some-odd years racing, I finally got one under my belt. I’m only 40. I’ll see if I can get a couple more before I’m done.”
Wood beat Tyler Sweeney, 19, of Lynn, Mass., by a couple of seconds for his win.
Two-time winner Scott Greenwood, 39, of Dunbarton passed Cory Hildebrand of Derry late to take third place. Hildebrand finished fourth.
Wood and the rest of the contenders for the title in the 89th running of the race caught a break early when defending champion Shane Narbonne took a nasty fall from his bike, ending his Classic.
Wood was second to Narbonne, 22, in last year’s race. Narbonne also won in 2009 and was considered a favorite on Saturday, along with Wood.
Narbonne went down as the leaders headed up the hill on the backside of the track on Lap 3 of the 20-lap race.
“He tumbled and his bike tumbled,” Greenwood said. “It was gruesome-looking from my point of view.”
Greenwood was right behind Narbonne at the time.
Narbonne had slipped and managed to stay upright in the turn before his fall.
“I got it straight once and then it took me the other way,” Narbonne said. “All of a sudden it shot me to the moon. They said I flew like 15 feet.”
He got up and went to his bike, intending to continue.
“I was planning to get back on it,” Narbonne said. “But I picked it up and saw the throttle was completely destroyed.”
He walked rom the crash and returned to race – and win the next event – later in the day.
The loss of Narbonne cost the fans, Greenwood said.
“He and Eric were going to put on a show,” he said.
Greenwood blew his engine on Friday, then blew the rebuilt engine earlier Saturday and raced on a borrowed bike.
“I’m super happy with third place,” he said. “For me, that’s a win with the package we had and the weekend we had.”
Sweeney was thrilled with second, his best finish in three Classics, in his first race of the season.
He led the race for a couple of laps, too, after a crash near the midpoint of the race caused a restart with 12 laps to go.
Sweeney had worked his way through the field and was second to Wood and jumped in front of him on the restart.
“I focused on the green flag and right when he swung it I let the clutch out,” Sweeney said. “I got a good launch.”
Wood slipped several spots and the chase was on.
“I got a terrible restart,” Wood said. “My clutch was misbehaving. I tried to be calm and cool and pick them off one by one.”
That he did.
And before long he was celebrating his first Classic triumph.
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Peter Essaff of Gilford, with his wife, Adrienne Greenlaw alongside, finished fourth in the Side Car Racers Association eight-lap event. . . . “I’m really pleased with how today’s gone,” said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at NHMS. “I’ve done everything from sell tickets at the front gate when we got a little backed up, to walking through the paddock and talking to Miss New Hampshire. Everyone seems to be having a great time. The great weather’s been a big contributor,” he said. . . . The Classic, once a stop on the American Motorcycle Association’s national circuit, has become a regional race and a featured event of the Loudon Road Race Series in the last decade. Gappens said he and his team have had preliminary discussions about how they can spice up next year’s 90th running of the Classic. “We want to see what we can do to make it special and work with the Bike Week people,” he said. . . .The Loudon Classic weekend wraps up with races this afternoon starting at 12:35.
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Allen Lessels may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.