The State of Nascar according to ESPN analyst Ricky Craven

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Ricky Craven at his signature Speedway Children’s Charity golf tournament on Thursday.  (Alan MacRae for the Laconia Daily Sun)

The State of Nascar

According to ESPN analyst Ricky Craven

LOUDON — Ricky Craven, a retired driver with wins in all of NASCAR’s top three series and now ESPN’s NASCAR analyst, is back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, the scene of much his early success as a driver.
Born and raised in Newburgh, Maine, Craven was always a fan favorite at the speedway as the local guy who made it to the big time. During his driving career, Craven won the rookie of the year titles in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1992 and NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1995. He won races in both series, as well as in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He also won the 1991 championship of the NASCAR Busch Grand National North Series.
In 1996, Craven had a horrific crash at Talledaga when his car was launched into the catch fence right above the wall. Not even two seconds after, he was thrown back onto the track and hit by another car. It was the only crash in NASCAR history that ended a race. They never threw a red flag, but they did end the race.
After that horrific year, Craven was given the chance of a lifetime. He was asked to drive the No. 25 Monte Carlo for the ever-famous Rick Hendrick. He did well for the first year, finishing third at the Daytona 500. While practicing for the Interstate Batteries 500, Craven crashed into the wall. He had to miss two races due to a concussion.
In the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Craven won in what is tied for the closest recorded finish in NASCAR history when he edged Kurt Busch at the finish line by .002 seconds to win at Darlington in 2003.
He made his NASCAR debut in 1986 at the age of 20 at Oxford Plains Speedway, which was owned by Bob Bahre, who would in a few years buy the Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon and turn it into a world class NASCAR venue.
“Bob Bahre was a mentor of mine. I always respected what he did in bringing NASCAR to New Hampshire and I still get to see him and talk about racing with him,” says Craven, who planned on stopping by to see Bahre's auto collection next week.
Carven's optimistic about the future of the S]speedway, even though it will lose its September NASCAR race next year to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“There will be a NASCAR race here as long as I'm around. This track has earned and deserves to host a race every year. It's an important place for the sport and I wouldn't be surprised to some day see a second NASCAR race come to the track.”
He says that he's also optimistic that the sport is recovering after having bottomed out in the great recession.
“The momentum is in the the opposite direction these days. There was declining attendance and the sport's popularity had dropped. But it's overcoming that. Big stars like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon have retired in recent years and this is the last year for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But there's a whole new crop of young drivers who are making names for themselves and are the future of the sport.” says Craven.
He says that for years NASCAR seemed to lose its focus on what it does best, which is to provide entertainment. And he maintains that is the result of strong personalities, creating the bond between fans and drivers which is is still at the heart of the sport.
He says that Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott and Erik Jones, all of whom will be racing in Sunday's Monster Energy Cup Series race, will all soon be household names.
He summed up his thoughts in a recent column for ESPN:
“Larson is a bit of an enigma. While I'm not ready to anoint him as the next Jimmie Johnson, his driving style and personality are strikingly similar. He gets everything out of a race car and he wins, and he still does it without it coming at the expense of other drivers. He doesn't rough up a driver to reach victory lane.
“That's been a trademark of seven-time champ JJ for years.
“Blaney is the quiet one, speaks softly but carries a big stick. His demonstration of closing the deal against Kevin Harvick at Pocono was the greatest endorsement a driver can get. He refused to lose. Do you 'member that expression?
“The 24 car no longer belongs to Gordon, it's now in the hands of Elliott, who's been tortured by second-place finishes, much the same as Harry Gant was before he broke through and won, and won, and won.
“Elliott will contribute to the popularity of our sport. Everything about him will be right when he wins, and he will win often.
“Perhaps the greatest talent in our sport comes in the form of Jones.
“I like how he manages a race, how he drives the hell out of a race car, how humble he is when the helmet is off. Jones is a franchise player, a franchise player for Joe Gibbs Racing and not his current Furniture Row team.”
Jones recently announced that he will be racing for the Joe Gibbs team in 2018.

NASCAR CravenBusch

From 2001 through 2004 New England’s Rick Craven drove the No. 32 Tide-sponsored car for PPI Motorsports in NASCAR’s premier racing series — then called the Winston Cup. During that period he won two races and recorded 10 top fives and 24 top10s. In 2001, Craven won his first Winston Cup race at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Two years later, he bested Kurt Bush by a few inches (above photo) to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. It remains the closest finish in NASCAR history — two one-thousandths of a second. Today that car sits in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in in Charlotte, N.C.  (Photos courtesy Alchetron and Fox Sports)

  • Written by Roger Amsden
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Outstanding in their ... forest

07 07 Therriens tree farmers 07 12 Therriens3

Ned and Jean Therrien have done an exemplary job over the last 36 years managing their forestland for the multiple use concepts that the Tree Farm program promotes. Since the 119-acre property was purchased back in 1980, the Ames Road Forest has been managed carefully and thoughtfully. Ned maintains meticulous records showing management activities, financial return, and dollars spent on improvements. They have spent well over 13,000 hours improving the Ames Road Forest. (Courtesy photo)

Gilford couple named Northeast Region Outstanding Tree Farmers


GILFORD — The biggest obstacle to overcome in Ned and Jean Therriens’ journey to being named Northeast Region Outstanding Tree Farmers was the initial land purchase.

Local resident Ned Therrien, a retired forester who had worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years, said there has been plenty of hard work along the way, but buying their 118-acre property off Ames Road in Canterbury in the first place was the most difficult step.

“When we bought it in 1980, we were both working and not making a lot of money,” Therrien said, “but, like any investment, the hope is that, over the long run, we’d get a good return on the investment.”

There have been four timber harvests since that time, with a timber sale currently under way, but apart from the economic benefits, Ned and Jean Therrien gained recognition in 2013 as New Hampshire’s Outstanding Tree Farmers and, this month, as Northeast Region Outstanding Tree Farmers.

The recognition by the American Tree Farm System means the Therriens are in the running for the title of U.S. Outstanding Tree Farmers.

To qualify for the competitive designation, tree farmers have to show that, over the years, they have managed their property to grow healthy trees while protecting wetlands and soils and, in most cases, worked to increase wildlife habitat. They must must “exhibit the most exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve our forest resources, and must promote forest stewardship within their communities,” according to the American Tree Farm System.

A committee of tree farmers and foresters goes over the property and the tree farm’s management plan to determine who is doing the best job among those considered for the honor. It begins at the state level, which then puts the winners into a regional competition and, finally, into competition for the national honor.

There are 73,000 tree farmers in the country, with four regional winners. Others named Regional Outstanding Tree Farmers on July 6 were Glenn and Scarlett Riley of Abbeville, Alabama; Jim Ball of Parkville, Missouri; and the Chrisman Family of Kalispell, Montana.

“Tree farmers represent some of the most passionate and dedicated forest owners in the U.S.,” said Tom Martin, president and chief executive officer of the American Forest Foundation, the organization that oversees the American Tree Farm System. “These individuals actively care for their land, create needed wildlife habitat, protect clean water, stimulate local economies and more. Our Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year take this duty above and beyond, and we are proud to honor them and share their stories and accomplishments.”

The Therriens’ Canterbury tree farm includes the 12-acre Otter Pond and 4-acre Merganser Pond, both of them with active beaver colonies, as well as a small brook. The property is bounded by stonewalls and is forested with white pine, red oak, red maple, hemlock, red pine, ash, black birch, sugar maple, and beech trees.

The U.S. Forest Service had transferred Therrien to its Laconia headquarters, which at the time had oversight of the White Mountain National Forest, in the 1970s, and they purchased a home in Gilford.

“We looked for four years to find a property with some water in a reasonable distance from Gilford,” Ned Therrien said, “and with decent timber that we could manage over the long term to give us some economic return.”

While many tree farmers are not foresters, Therrien had an advantage as a graduate forester. Still, he said, “There is certainly a lot of help for a person without a forestry background, and we’ve used consulting foresters and biologists to help us.”

After purchasing the land, Therrien did an inventory of the forest. “You’ve got to know what you’ve got,” he said.

The survey determined the type of trees on the property and how many of each, and he set up 58 permanent plots that he would return to every 10 years to update the inventory, with additional plots to refine the numbers. Therrien uses a computerized inventory system to calculate the volume by species.

“Once you get enough volume, then you start thinning the trees,” Therrien said. He began by taking out the poor-quality timber to allow the better-quality trees to grow. “I’ve done a tremendous amount of work thinning them out,” he said, noting he has put in 14,000 hours of work to care for the property since purchasing it.

He clears the small timber lots himself, but for larger harvests, he hires professional loggers with heavy machinery. Oak saw timber that is 14 inches and above gets shipped to China, while the pine goes to Diprizio Pine Sales of Middleton, which ships lumber throughout the United States.

Timber harvesting is only one part of tree farm management, Therrien said. It also involves creating and sustaining wildlife habitat. The Ames Road Forest includes managed habitats for more than 100 species of birds, as well as five vernal pools that fill with water during the spring but dry up during the summer, making them unsuitable for fish, but they are ideal for amphibians.

“Because of changes in the climate, amphibians are having a very difficult time,” Therrien said. “Maintaining vernal pools is important.”

The landings, created to process the timber, get cleaned up and converted to wildlife habitat. “We turn the soil over and seed and fertilize it and turn it into grassland,” Therrien said. He also maintains the roads through the property, mowing them to create high-quality habitat for both mammals and birds.

The property is home to whitetail deer, moose and black bear, as well as beaver, otters, mink and pine marten.

“If you work hard and do it right, you’re protecting wildlife and you hope to have enough good timber to get a good return,” Therrien said. “But there are no guarantees.”

One threat to the forest is the arrival of the emerald ash borer. Therrien said a couple of the trees already have ash borers. “In time, all of the ash trees will die,” he said.

Then there is the danger from wind storms or lightning strikes.

“The other big thing to overcome is that it’s a hell of a lot of work,” Therrien said. “To me, it’s enjoyable, but there’s still a lot of hard, physical work if you do it yourself. There’s a lot of help out there, but the onus is on the owner to do it right and leave the property in better shape than when you bought it.”

The Therriens granted a conservation easement to Five Rivers Conservation Trust in Concord, setting terms for protection of the land and its public use.

“I could have sold it for house lots, but I didn’t work on this property to just sell it and destroy all the work I’ve done,” Therrien said.

While the state taxes property on its optimum and best use — which means development — Therrien said, “The optimum and best use, in my opinion, is not house lots but clean water, clean air, and wildlife habitat. A conservation easement is a good thing, and makes it open to the public.”

Putting land in a conservation easement lowers taxes but also means a greatly reduced value when it comes time to sell.

But economics is not all that’s involved. Therrien said, “Forming a close relationship with the land is like a marriage. You become very aware of what goes on, and familiar with the wildlife and trees, and the changes, and the effect of management. It’s a personal and emotional thing that’s extremely satisfying.”


  • Written by Tom Caldwell
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Medical Examiner: Fentanyl plays role in most overdose deaths across state


LACONIA — Dangers posed by the powerful synthetic opioids fentanyl and carfentanil were on full display Thursday with new statistics released by state and local authorities.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said his office is reviewing 39 cases involving carfentanil, 18 people have been indicted in connection with the drug in the last month and 10 people have had fatal overdoses on it.

“As the chief law enforcement officer, it is my continuing priority to stop the distribution of this deadly drug,” he said in a news release. “Those responsible for carfentanil-related crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, based on the facts of each case.”

As of June 29, there were 143 drug deaths in the state this year, with fentanyl playing a role in more than 100 of them, according to the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Overdose deaths are confirmed through toxicological examinations that take weeks, so the true death toll is likely much higher. Last year, there were at least 486 drug deaths in the state, with fentanyl playing a role in most of those cases.

The drug has helped drive an increase in yearly drug deaths, which totaled less than 200 in 2012.

Carfentanil is related to fentanyl, but 100 times more potent. It is especially dangerous because it can be absorbed through the skin, so anyone who comes into contact with it can overdose by touching, inhaling or ingesting it.

Meanwhile, Laconia overdoses have increased sharply this year. Statistics on fatal overdoses in the city were not available.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said his department handled 79 overdoses in 2014, 127 in 2015 and 161 in 2016. This year, there have already been 182 overdoses.

Also, a particularly potent batch of heroin is believed responsible for an increase in overdoses in Laconia this summer.

  • Written by Rick Green
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