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They're getting ready to race and ready for the race

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 18. 2013 11:18PM
Sean Efthimoir, an electrician at the track works on one of the new "Pit Box Hospitality" pods which will house TV's, cooling fans, and gas grills, as the track and NASCAR fans get ready for race week at NH Motor Speedway, on Wednesday in Loudon. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

It's race week at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and it means sleepless nights for Jerry Gappens.

"The last two nights I literally woke up at four o'clock in the morning," said the executive vice president and general manager of NHMS. "My wife kept asking what's wrong and I kept telling her my brain is working, just thinking if I forgot anything. This week I took two or three tours of the entire property making sure the lawn was mowed, the paint was fresh and the weeds were pulled out. You can definitely tell I'm excited right now."

Gappens will probably not get any sleep until after a winner is declared in Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race which begins at 2 p.m.

"Every day I'm anxious to get to the speedway and meet with my team," said Gappens. "There's still lots of work to do. Getting everything done is like wrestling an alligator. Just when you think you have it in a good headlock, the tail comes around and hits you hard from behind. Your work is never really done and my job is to make sure our fans leave here with smiles on their faces."

Gappens said there's a good chance the race will be sold out.

"We're ahead of last year's pace by three or four percent," said Gappens. "Today (Wednesday) we had just under 4,000 tickets left. I can tell you we're confident we're going to sell out, especially by Sunday when we tend to sell at least 900 tickets on race morning."

One thing Gappens doesn't lose any sleep on is the weather, where showers are in the forecast early Sunday.

"We've got a plan in place for whatever happens Sunday," said Gappens. "We have seven enormous jet dryers in case it does rain. Whether it's the heat in July or rain in September, we're ready to handle the elements. We've had rain before on the morning of a race and we were still able to start the main race on time."

Rain was plentiful in June and July, leaving many campers ankle deep in water during the Camping World RV Sales 301 in July.

"We took it to heart and we installed new drainage," said Gappens, noting the five-lane road leading to the campgrounds and parking lots have been sealed and re-painted to solve the problems.

"Campers are the foundation of our sport," said Gappens. "Many come in a week ahead of time and they drop a lot of money into our local economy. Whenever we get feedback from them, good or bad, we take note of it. If they have a complaint, we make sure its addressed before the next race."

Earlier this month in Richmond, Va., Jeff Gordon was about to close in on the 10th Chase spot. But a controversial spin from fellow driver Clint Bowyer caused Ryan Newman to lose the race to Martin Truex Jr. As a result of the spin. Gordon lost his 10th position to Joey Logano.

NASCAR later ruled Gordon was not at fault and increased the Chase field from 12 to 13 for Sunday's race.

Earlier this week Gappens told the New Hampshire Union Leader that "If I were the King of NASCAR, the only thing I would have done differently, since the race did have manipulation at the end with the last laps, I probably would have added Jeff Gordon.

On Wednesday Gappens echoed those comments saying, "NASCAR got it right. They determined Gordon was a victim as result of the spin. I don't see having 13 drivers as a problem, I'm happy Gordon is here. He's one of the most popular drivers in the area."

Bowyer and Logano will attend the WOKQ FanFest today at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively.

Gappens said t-shirts will be on sale this week to raise funds for the Speedway Children's Charities and survivors of the Boston Marathon.

"We sold-out the 'Boston Strong' t-shirts in July," said Gappens. "We're planning to sell them again this week and proceeds from both races will go to the One Fund. NASCAR fans are very generous when it comes to making donations for charity. It's been great."

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