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April 14. 2013 1:03AM

Allen Lessels' Motor Sports: NHMS is gearing up for Sprint Cup race

THREE MONTHS from today.

Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick and the rest of NASCAR's finest hit New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14 for the as yet-to-be-named Sprint Cup race at the track.

They're calling it the New Hampshire 300 for the moment at least.

It could stay that way and the race previously known as the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 would be fine, but NHMS executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens thinks the Speedway Motorsports Inc. team that owns the track will come up with something.

"We're working diligently on that in corporate sales and in the national sales department in Charlotte and we've got some prospects," Gappens said last week. "We're trying to put something together with the right partner and I'm still optimistic we well. It's pretty important in helping with the branding of the event and giving you someone to partner with in regards to tickets and having their employees in and things like that."

The track announced in January that it had extended its deal with Sylvania as the title sponsor for the Sylvania 300 at the track in September - its second race each year - for another five years.

Naming deals generally run in the $1 to $1.5 million range in the Sprint Cup series.

Name or no name, all systems are go for the July race.

Gappens is excited about a Toyota Wheel & Deal Pre-Race Show that was announced in February.

No Three Dog Night pre-race concert this year.

The traditional pre-race concert slot will be replaced by a pre-race show styled after Let's Make A Deal and other game shows and featuring a total of $250,000 worth of prizes, including a giveaway of 10 Toyota Camrys.

"It's a one-hour show and we're building huge props for what will probably be the biggest game show set ever, taking up most of the front straightaway," Gappens said. "The challenge will be to biggie size everything. In some cases, we're trying to hide cars. And some of them will be out in the open. It will be fast moving with a game-show feel."

Fan participation is encouraged and everyone in the stands will be eligible to win prizes.

But grand prizes, including cars, will go to fans that have already purchased tickets to the race or do so by this Monday's cutoff date to be eligible.
 
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The Toyota Pre-Race Show grew out of a challenge from O. Bruton Smith, who runs Speedway Motorsports Inc., to do something for the fans.

Last week, Smith was named one of 25 nominees for the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

"I can't think of a more appropriate nomination than Bruton," Gappens said of his boss in an NHMS release. "Through his vision of providing world-class facilities for our fans, competitors and corporate partners, he has invested more than $4 billion in the sport's infrastructure. His innovations include taking the sport to Wall Street; lighting a superspeedway for night-time racing; building trackside condominiums; the first to provide VIP suites to attract corporate partners; building lavish, country club-style speedway clubs at several of his facilities; elaborate pre-race shows; and, several fans-first amenities, such as luxury seating and first-class restroom/shower facilities."

Smith, 86, has been in racing since 1949 and built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959.

"Even today, he still brings a passion, sense of urgency and a drive to succeed that serves as a wonderful example for all of his managers and employees," Gappens said.





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The American Canadian Tour kicks off its Late Model season this afternoon with the Governor's Cup 150 at Lee USA Speedway.

Lee regular Wayne Helliwell of Dover has never won the Governor's Cup, but is the defending champion of the ACT. He unseated Vermont's Brian Hoar, who finished second. Hoar had won the previous three championships and owns eight titles overall.

Allen Lessels Motor Sports column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at alessels@unionleader.com.


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