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Race named for late radio personality Andy Blacksmith

Union Leader Correspondent

July 14. 2015 7:38PM
A 2012 photo from New Hampshire Motor Speedway featuring, from left, Andy Blacksmith, NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon, and Morning Buzz host Greg Kretschmar. (Courtesy Greg Kretschmar)
Race Week at NHMS
&bull ; NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour All-Star Shootout, 2:10 p.m.
&bull ; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 qualifying, 4:45 p.m.;
&bull ; NASCAR K&N Pro Series East United Site Services 70, 6 p.m.

&bull ; NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Andy Blacksmith 100, 2 p.m.
&bull ; NASCAR XFINITY Lakes Region 200, 4 p.m.

&bull ; NASCAR Sprint Cup Five-Hour Energy 301, 1:30 p.m.

LOUDON — Andy Blacksmith would have been proud to see a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway named after him.

So said the host of Greg and the Morning Buzz, the morning-drive radio show that is heard in New Hampshire on WHEB-FM on the Seacoast, and WGIR-FM in Manchester. Blacksmith was one of the Morning Buzz’s stars before his death on June 20.

Greg Kretschmar, the host of the show, had Blacksmith at his side for 17 years, and spent many of those years at the speedway at this time each year, when the first of two summer NASCAR races come to Loudon.

But Blacksmith — born Stephen B. Celata in Massachusetts — won’t be with Kretschmar, Laura, Roadkill and the other on-air personalities and staff at this year’s race, having just lost his five-year battle with heart disease.

“When the speedway contacted us with this honor, we loved the idea — Andy would love it,” said Kretschmar, talking about his lifelong friend on Tuesday, less than a month after his death.

“Andy was a huge car guy — he was always excited to go to the track, he was an absolute Jeff Gordon fan,” Kretschmar said. “This is an excellent way to honor his legacy and to help raise awareness of the need for organ donation awareness through Donate Life New England,” he said, speaking of a joint project of multiple, federally designed organ procurement organizations that serve New Englanders in need of organ transplants.

NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Gappens said the track honored Blacksmith because he was such a well-known and loved presence on “The Buzz,” and such a big fan of the sport and the speedway.

“Andy was a big fan of NASCAR racing, especially here at his home track,” Gappens said. “From making his weekly NASCAR fantasy racing picks to broadcasting live from the speedway each NASCAR weekend, his unique style and lovability resonated with listeners and NASCAR fans across New England.”

“Our goal is honor his lasting legacy and help save lives through the organ and tissue transplant programs. I encourage NASCAR Nation to embrace this special cause and make Andy proud by becoming a donor now.”

The Andy Blacksmith 100 will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It will be featured on NBC Sports Network on July 23 at 3 p.m. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race’s official name is the Andy Blacksmith 100 presented by Donate Life New England.

The track has invited Blacksmith’s family, including his mother Barbara, and “his radio family” to serve as grand marshals and in other honorary race capacities.

“Andy was a big fan of NASCAR racing, especially here at his home track,” said Gappens.

Kretschmar, whose show will be broadcasting live from the track for the first time without Blacksmith this weekend, agreed.

“Andy would love it. He loved everything about the sport,” he said. “We’ve been broadcasting live from there for years. Some of the best times we ever had were at the speedway.”

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