LOUDON — People who live near New Hampshire Motor Speedway are not too happy about the speedway’s announcement over the weekend that it is submitting a request to NASCAR officials to hold a race under lights at the speedway in 2014.
NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Gappens told NASCAR.com that he’d like to see next July’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race under lights. Speedway officials confirmed Monday that a bid for such a race has been submitted to NASCAR.
Local residents and town officials said they had not heard of the plans. They were surprised because the speedway is legally bound by its original agreement with the town to a resident-facilitated stipulation that disallows night racing.
In announcing the bid to NASCAR for a night race, Gappens said he was responding to fans who have requested night races because it is too hot in July for daytime racing.
Arnie Alpert of Canterbury said track officials will find strong opposition to a proposal for lights at the track.
“There are a lot of local people who don’t appreciate what the track has become, who don’t care much about what those NASCAR fans are thinking,” Alpert said. “There are some people who are pinned in during the races; they can’t go anywhere because of the traffic.”
Besides the noise issues for nearby homes during night racing, “we would lose the night sky,” said Canterbury resident Judy Elliot.
Alpert, whose home is near the track, was one of the people who filed suit against the town for alleged improper conduct by a town board during the track’s permitting process. He and another complainant settled out of court after being awarded the stipulation in the track’s agreement with the town that no new races would begin after 7 p.m.
As part of the agreement, the complainants agreed not to oppose further expansion by the track, Alpert said.
Gappens, who could not be reached for comment Monday night, told NASCAR.com that he understood that he would have to get local approval to erect lights at the track, but said things have changed since the track was built in 1989-1990.
“If you think about it, back in 1989-90, night racing wasn’t as popular as it is today, so Bob (Bahre, the track’s founder) probably didn’t feel like he was making a big concession when he agreed to that,” Gappens told NASCAR.com.
“Now, some 25 years later, I think the speedway has been a great community partner. ... I’m in the process of trying to navigate through that restriction. The town is supportive of the speedway in Loudon but it’s in our deed that we can’t do that. And the town obviously doesn’t want to re-open the lawsuit and have to defend itself. So we just have to navigate our way through ... we have a couple of approaches that we are working on.”
Gappens said before pursuing the matter further with local officials and residents, he wanted to put the idea in front of NASCAR officials.
“They’re working on sanctioning agreements and scheduling (for 2014),” he said, adding that a lighted race in Loudon would probably not take place until 2015.
Alpert said he wasn’t sure how to react to Gappens’ statements.
“I don’t know what Mr. Gappens has in mind, I guess we’re about to find out,” he said.