Bob Bahre, one of the visionary pioneers of auto racing in New England, has passed away at age 93.
The Suffield, Connecticut, native built New Hampshire Motor Speedway and elevated it into the premier racing venue in the region. Under Bahre’s stewardship, the "Magic Mile" became a staple of the NASCAR’s regional series in the northeast.
"Bob Bahre’s passion and belief in NASCAR helped bring our sport to millions of New England fans over the last three decades," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France. "As founder of what is now New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bahre’s bold vision helped set a tone for the sport’s national growth. Throughout his career, he was a trusted and valued voice in the industry, and will be greatly missed. My family and all of NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to Sandy, Gary and the entire Bahre Family."
NHMS is set to host the Cup Series with the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday, Aug. 2. The track is scheduled to hold the third annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend Sept. 11-12, which will include the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well as the ARCA Menards Series East. The latter has raced over the years at NHMS from its formative days as the NASCAR Busch North Series to its current iteration.
Then known as New Hampshire International Speedway, the track was built on the old Bryar Motorsports Park and opened in June 1990.
The first NASCAR race was a combination event of what was then the NASCAR Busch Series (now NASCAR Xfinity Series) and NASCAR Busch North Series (now ARCA Menards Series East), won by Tommy Ellis on July 15, 1990.
Mike McLaughlin won the first NASCAR Whelen Modified race at the 1.058-mile track in Sept. of 1990.
RACING REFERENCE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway Track History
New Hampshire has held 71 Whelen Modified Tour races and 75 East events. NASCAR Hall of Famer Mike Stefanik won a record eight Whelen Modified races at NHMS, while Brad Leighton has eight East wins. The late Ted Christopher has 10 wins overall – five Whelen Modified and five East.
New Hampshire held its first Cup Series race in July of 1993. From 1997 to 2017, NHMS hosted two Cup events per season. Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick have four Cup wins apiece. Prior to the 2008 season, Bahre sold the track to Speedway Motorsports.
"He wanted to grow our sport and build things that people will remember," said Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman. "He was a smart businessman and I have a lot of respect for that, but I have even more respect for the positive impact he had on people. I’ll pray for Sandy and Gary during this tough time, and I know they are proud of the legacy Bob leaves behind."
Said Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO: "He went about things in a quiet, dignified manner and often times that simple approach is the most impactful. It’s truly an honor to have known Bob. He lived a meaningful life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. "
Prior to NHMS, Bahre bought Oxford Plains Speedway in 1964 and revitalized the track. Under Bahre, the prestigious Oxford 250 began in 1974 at the .375-mile track in Maine. New England stock car notables such as Dave Dion, Jamie Aube, Ben Row and Eddie MacDonald have won the race, which was also a combination race between the then NASCAR Busch Series and Busch North Series in the early 1990s. Kevin Harvick won the race in 2008 and Kyle Busch in 2011.
Bahre sold Oxford Plains in 1987.
In addition to being a successful businessman and developer, Bahre was an avid car enthusiast and was said to own one of the finest car collections in the world.