By Michael Vega
“Our two dates are directly a result of the incredible fan support we have in New England,’’ said Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager.
The Lenox Industrial Tools 301, normally held in late June, moves to July 17 and the Sylvania 300, which had been the first event in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, shifts to the second Chase race Sept. 25.
NHMS received strong endorsements from state and civic leaders who pledged their continued support of the track in hopes of persuading track owner Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., not to transfer one of his dates to one of his SMI tracks in Las Vegas or Kentucky. Smith had been rumored to be considering moving a date in response to a dispute with Loudon Police chief Robert Fiske over the cost of the track’s fire and police protection.
“I think all of us have a tendency, after a period of time, to take things for granted,’’ Gappens said. “With these talks about realignment, and the possibility of losing something, I think that message got out there and there was great response from government and civic leaders who realized, hey, we don’t want to see one of these go out of town, because once they go, they don’t normally come back.’’
In June, NHMS announced it was expanding its schedule with an Izod IndyCar Series date. It was originally scheduled for July 31, 2011, but NHMS received permission from IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard to move the date to Aug. 14, giving the track a comfortable buffer between the IndyCar event and its two Cup dates.“It’s spread out in a workable fashion,’’ Gappens said. “It gives us a major racing event in the months of July, August, and September.’’
According to New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, who was in attendance at yesterday’s announcement at NHMS, the track’s economic impact is considerable. Lynch said the weekends are expected to generate $100 million per race in revenue and draw a combined 400,000 visitors.
“Though next year’s schedule realignment involved moving some dates from speedways that have hosted two NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends,’’ Gappens said. “I think it is fitting that the largest sports and entertainment venue in New England continues to host two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.’’